It’s harder to get a good medical plan than most might admit. It isn’t that there aren’t plenty of great doctors out there, but rather that going to see one can be prohibitively expensive even if you do have good insurance coverage. The same is even more true for our four-legged friends, who seem to have just as many health problems as humans but who rarely receive the same kind of health coverage that humans have. In fact, one of the biggest things you’ll need to learn about as a dog owner is how much it’s really going to cost to take your pet to the vet.
One of the toughest parts about calculating those expenses is the fact that vet visits really vary in terms of what you’re going to end up paying. There are some basic things that you can expect, of course, as well as some guidelines for expenses but you’ll really have to take things on a case by case basis. In fact, it’s fair to say that you can set some general expectations for what you could spend in a given year on your new pet when you adopt him or her, but reality may not conform to the numbers that you’ve used to make your budget.
With all of that said, it is worthwhile to start with the basics. Knowing a little bit about vet costs will help you to better determine what it will really cost you to adopt a pet and whether or not you should consider products like pet insurance moving forward.
How Much Does Basic Vet Visit Cost on Average?
General estimates are always a good place to start. After all, they’ll give you a baseline by which you can figure out how much your dog will cost you as well as a tool to use to figure out if a given vet costs too much. The numbers here do vary a bit based on the size of the dog, of course, but you should generally expect to see your dog’s costs wind up somewhere between the two price points.
A basic puppy vaccination is a must if you adopt a puppy and it’s going to run you somewhere between seventy-five and one hundred dollars. Your flea and tick medicine will run between forty and two hundred dollars, while heartworm medication can run between twenty-four and one-hundred and twenty dollars. You’ll likely finish off your puppy’s first round of medical visits by getting him or her spayed or neutered, which can run between two hundred and eight hundred dollars at a reputable vet.
These are just the first costs, though. Getting your dog his or her annual exam will run you somewhere between two and six hundred dollars. Want to get his or her teeth cleaned? Expect to pay between two and five hundred dollars. All of these are just routine visit costs, of course – you can expect to pay more if your dog has an actual emergency.
What Do Emergency Vet Visits Cost?
Just as humans have medical emergencies, so too do our pets. Dogs can have all kinds of health problems and some of them will require seeing a vet as soon as possible. The costs here are even more variable than those of routine procedures, but knowing them can help you to save for a worst-case scenario.
Just getting through the door for a general exam is going to cost you somewhere between one hundred and one hundred and fifty dollars, with fees varying greatly between vets. The type of blood work that your dog needs to be done is also going to vary significantly, with some tests costing as little as twenty dollars and others costing as much as two hundred dollars. Other diagnostic procedures are more expensive, with x-rays running between one hundred fifty and two hundred fifty dollars while ultrasounds tend to cost between three and five hundred dollars.
All of these diagnostics are costly, but none are nearly as costly as the actual procedures that your dog might need if he or she has a real health emergency. You should expect an emergency surgery to cost anywhere between eight hundred and twenty-five hundred dollars, not including oxygen (which tends to run about five hundred dollars). If your dog needs a wound repaired, on the other hand, you should expect to pay between eight hundred and fifteen hundred dollars. Recovery can be expensive, as well – hospitalization for one to two days will run between six and seventeen hundred dollars, while longer stays can run as high as thirty-five hundred dollars.
What does this really mean for you as a pet owner? It means that the actual costs of taking care of your pet are not only much higher than you might expect but that the costs can vary significantly more than you might expect. Going to the vet can certainly end up costing you less than a hundred dollars if you’re just going in for a very simple issue, but it’s not unreasonable to expect that a true emergency could end up costing you into the five-figure range. As such, the real costs of a pet emergency can constitute a true financial emergency for pet parents.
What Impacts the Average Cost of a Vet Visit?
Given all the price variables, it’s natural to wonder exactly what goes into the cost of caring for your pet. There are so many different variables at play here, some of which are much easier to understand than others. As a dog owner, you almost certainly expect that true emergency situations are going to wind up costing you more than simple, preventative visits, but there’s actually a fantastic amount of variability that comes into play any time you take your dog to the vet.
One great place to look at how and why prices may vary is with simple puppy vaccines. Puppies get vaccinated for a lot of different conditions, ranging from those typically required by law (rabies and distemper) to those that aren’t necessarily required but that are nonetheless recommended by vets (Lyme, bordetella, etc). The former vaccines are given to virtually all puppies when they are taken to the vet, while the latter vaccines are typically only given at the discretion of the dog owner.
So, why is there variance in cost here? A lot of it, of course, has to do with whether or not the dog owner actually has to give the vaccine to the dog. Rabies vaccinations tend to be on the cheaper end of things because vets can reliably expect to give the vaccine to almost any puppy who comes in for his or her shots. The other vaccines, however, might be significantly more expensive because the vet cant’ be sure that they will be used. Even then, though, the actual cost of the vaccine has to be weighed against the value of preventing the disease over the life of the dog, which does end up saving the dog owner quite a bit of money.
It’s the variation in the needs of the dog and the dog owner, then, that makes it so difficult to determine exactly how much a given vet visit will end up costing the owner at the end of the day. There are a few simple factors that cause some of these variations, though, and understanding why they might raise – or even lower – the price of veterinary care for your dog is a good way to figure out what you might end up paying.
The Pet Itself: Size, Breed, Age
As you’ve doubtlessly noticed, health care prices aren’t the same from person to person. Individuals all have their own medical needs, after all, and what you need will change over the course of your lifetime. The same doubtlessly holds true for dogs, and these differences can mean very different veterinary costs.
Where dogs differ from humans, though, is often in how they are categorized. We know, for example, that certain breeds have certain very specific health conditions. You aren’t going to need the same kind of preventative care for a Saint Bernard as you’d need for a Beagle, for example, nor are you going to have to deal with the same kind of dosages or even necessarily the same kind of expected reactions from medication.
Age also plays a role because of how often older dogs get ill and the amount of veterinary care that most dog owners believe that older dogs need. It’s common to see more vet visits for old dogs and puppies because pet owners tend to worry more about health at the extreme ends of the age range; dogs in the prime of their lives often only go to the vet when they are truly sick, which means that their vet bills tend to be higher for each individual visit.
It shouldn’t be too surprising that the location of your vet is going to play a huge role in how much you pay. The cost of living has an impact even on medicine, so those who live in expensive cities are probably going to end up paying more for even the simplest types of treatments. Your vet has bills to pay, after all, and those bills get paid by your visits. With that said, there’s not often a huge amount of overhead in the veterinary world, and most vets do work to keep prices as reasonable as they can no matter where they happen to be located.
The Type of Practice
Dog owners are probably already aware that specialization costs more. You know that your organic dog food costs more than the store or budget brand, for example, so you should expect that going to a specialty practice is going to end up costing you more than one that has a more generalized approach. If you are going to a practice that sees a limited number of patients, that specializes only in certain procedures, or that has special equipment, you’re going to end up paying more money for the benefits that your pet gets from that kind of veterinary care.
Ensuring That You Get A Good Price
With all of that said, it’s always a good idea to make sure that you’re in a position that will allow you to get a better price from your vet. Doing so does require asking some specific questions, but it’s almost always going to be worth your while.
The best place to start is with an estimate. Before you take your dog to the vet, try to get an estimate for what his or her care is going to cost. This will allow you to decide whether or not your vet is charging significantly more than the local average and it will give you a chance to determine if you can realistically afford the care.
Note that your estimate may not reflect the real cost of care. What it will do, though, is give you a starting point. Once the vet examines your dog, he or she can let you know what actually needs to be done and what your final price is likely to be. From there, you can talk with the vet about all of the different options for your dog’s care and you can figure out what you can afford as well as what will actually be best for your dog.
What About Online Vets?
One of the big new things in the world of pet care is telemedicine. While it hasn’t quite reached the level of popularity that it has found among human patients, there are absolutely no vets who can and will see your pet online. The great news is that this is usually a much cheaper way to see a vet and to do so in a way that will allow you to take care of many health problems at home; the downside, of course, is that you might still need to take your vet into a clinic if he or she has a serious problem, which does mean that you’ll end up paying for a vet visit twice.
Getting the Care You Need
At the end of the day, only you know what you can afford in terms of a vet visit. It’s not a bad idea to start putting together an emergency fund for your dog so that you have money set aside for a worst-case scenario. It’s also not a bad idea to look into pet insurance, especially if you know that your pet is going to be prone to certain health problems. With a little planning, your dog can get the care he or she needs.