The costs of veterinary care vary by state, and pet owners can find lower-cost options in some areas. However, the cost of vet visits can be a big concern for many pet parents, especially in times of need.
Sick vet visits usually consist of a physical examination, diagnostics, and treatment. They may also include blood work and possibly imaging tests.
Costs of a Veterinarian Visit
Whether you’re visiting the vet for a routine wellness checkup, a visit to an emergency clinic, or something in between, it’s always a good idea to have an idea of how much the visit will cost. You’ll need to factor in the examination fee, diagnostics, and any treatment needed.
Routine visits for dogs and cats are usually quite inexpensive, although they can get more expensive if you have an older pet or have to take your dog in for surgery. Your vet can help you develop a plan for the regular care of your pet to keep them healthy and prevent veterinary expenses from becoming a burden on your wallet.
A standard veterinary visit starts with a physical exam, where your vet will check your pet’s weight, eyes, ears, teeth, fur, and other body parts for signs of health issues or disease. They’ll also give your pet a slew of vaccinations, including those for distemper, rabies, parvovirus, and adenovirus.
If your pet is sick or injured, it will most likely need to undergo diagnostic testing, which can be fairly expensive. This can include x-rays, CT scans, ultrasound imaging, and other tests that are required to determine the extent of your pet’s problem.
This can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand depending on your pet’s needs and the type of testing involved. Once your vet determines what the problem is, they will develop a treatment plan for you to follow.
Many high-level veterinary clinics and hospitals have an emergency department that can be used for pets that need immediate care, often at no charge to the pet owner. This service is a critical part of most veterinary practices, as it allows veterinarians to treat pets with serious or life-threatening injuries and illnesses immediately.
Animal emergencies are very common and require the attention of an emergency veterinarian as soon as possible to provide the best care for your pet. Some of the most common injuries a pet can sustain include falling out of a window or a car accident, but even things like getting stuck in a drain, being attacked by another animal, or eating poisonous substances can all require urgent veterinary attention and can be very costly.
Most pet owners tend to think that there is no reason to visit the vet unless they are experiencing a serious problem. However, routine visits are actually important for your pet’s overall health and well-being.
During these visits, your veterinarian will typically ask you about any concerns you have with your pet’s diet, exercise, general lifestyle, and behavior. You will also be asked to provide them with a fresh stool sample (feces or bowel movement) so that they can conduct a fecal exam.
The physical examination for a routine checkup is often a “nose-to-tail” assessment, moving across your pet’s body to examine its mouth, paws, skin, coat, eyes, teeth, and tail. If any issues are identified, your veterinarian will likely explain what they have found and recommend the next steps and potential treatments.
In some cases, the vet may need to do additional testing, such as bloodwork or X-rays. This can increase the cost of a routine visit, but it’s important to note that the more comprehensive the tests, the better your veterinarian will be able to determine your pet’s condition and provide you with a diagnosis.
As a rule of thumb, most adult dogs and cats should be seen at least once a year for a routine veterinary exam. This includes vaccinations, spay/neuter, and dental cleanings.
A regular visit to the vet can help your pet have a long and healthy life, ensuring that they don’t develop serious conditions and problems later on. Routine visits are also essential for keeping track of chronic diseases that can be spotted and treated early on.
Many veterinarians are trained to detect issues that are otherwise difficult to spot on their own, and they may be able to diagnose and correct them before they become worse. It’s also easier and less expensive to treat the disease if you catch it at an early stage than if it develops after you have already started treatment.
According to the AVMA, about 8% of pet owners don’t visit their veterinarian regularly at all. Most pet owners bring their pets in for a yearly checkup, although older animals may need more frequent visits to monitor chronic health conditions.
Emergency vet visits are common in the veterinary field. In addition to treating dogs and cats that become injured or sick, emergency veterinarians also work on special situations such as animal attacks, poisoning, heart failure, heat stroke, and other life-threatening illnesses and injuries.
The staff at an ER vet clinic works hard to keep their patients safe and healthy. They don’t have time to take in every pet that arrives, so they rely on triage to determine which pets need urgent care.
They’ll take in your pet and perform a comprehensive physical exam. Typically, the first thing they will do is listen to your pet’s heart and lungs. Then, they will look at their mucous membranes to check the color and assess the severity of your pet’s symptoms.
If your pet has been hit by a car or has other major injuries, it may need to stay overnight at the hospital for observation and treatment. The hospital staff will work around the clock to make sure that your pet gets the attention they need when it matters most.
In many cases, emergency veterinarians do accept pet insurance. However, these policies typically require a deductible, so you might have to cover the costs out of pocket before your policy covers the cost of the visit.
Another option is to use a credit card to pay for emergency veterinary care. Some hospitals will accept Care Credit, which is a type of credit card that allows you to borrow interest-free for 6 to 12 months.
Regardless of your payment method, remember that emergency vet care can be very expensive. This is why it’s a good idea to make a list of emergency vets in your area before your pet has an accident or illness.
A quick Google search will turn up several options, but you might want to consider distance, name recognition, and scan the reviews to find the best place for your pet. It’s also a good idea to know the hours that emergency vets operate so you can make a plan in advance.
You can also talk to your family veterinarian and see if they recommend an emergency clinic. Some are open 24 hours a day, while others are only open during specific times of the day or night.
You may need to visit a specialist if you develop an illness that doesn’t respond to your primary care physician’s medications, or if your condition requires specialized expertise. You might want to see a urologist, for example, or an orthopedic surgeon. Many plans charge a slightly higher fee for these specialty visits, and some require a referral from your primary care doctor before you can visit a specialist.
Veterinary specialists perform a wide variety of different tasks, from treating sick animals to researching new ways to prevent diseases and treat them. They work in a variety of different settings, including zoos, livestock farms, and diagnostic laboratories, as well as in traditional clinics.
They also travel extensively, often inspecting meat packing plants and checking for disease in livestock, and conducting autopsies on dead animals to discover what caused an animal’s death and how to prevent it from happening to other species.
These visits are expensive, especially when you consider the time and resources that vets spend on them. This cost is reflected in the Bureau of Labor Statistics veterinarian page, which shows that in 2016, veterinarians earned an average annual salary of $109,390.
In addition to the expense of a visit, there can be additional out-of-pocket expenses for medications and laboratory tests. This can add up quickly, and you might need to pay for them out of pocket if your insurance plan doesn’t cover them.
One solution that some health insurers are experimenting with is electronic consultations (eConsults), which link primary care providers with specialists from different specialties. They can be used to reduce the number of face-to-face visits to specialists and the associated costs. In a study of eConsults deployed across a statewide safety-net health center, they were associated with significantly lower specialty-related episode-of-care costs than face-to-face consults for four common high-demand specialties.
In addition to reducing the number of specialist referrals, eConsults can also help providers manage care more efficiently, by eliminating some face-to-face visits that would have otherwise been needed. This can save Medicaid money, and potentially more for patients, by reducing the need to travel or obtain child care, as well as by limiting the number of lost wages.