Those looking to add a new furry family member to their household usually look forward to all the fun and friendship they’ll get from their cat or dog.

Usually, the first thought they have isn’t the cost of going to the vet. But between the cost of yearly routine vet visits and emergency trips, vet visits can be a large expense running up hundreds of dollars every year. 

Many new pet owners may be unprepared for a high vet bill, especially for an unexpected medical emergency. Pet owners already have to deal with the emotional toll that comes with having a sick pet, and big vet bills only make the situation feel worse. That’s why so many pet parents are turning to pet insurance

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How much does a vet visit cost?

Regardless of whether a family has brought home a new dog or cat, routine vet visits can add up just like emergency vet bills. The cost of these appointments can range anywhere from $40 to $800 out of pocket. 

Routine visits are usually yearly physical examinations that determine a pet’s overall health. These annual checkups aren’t for when a pet is sick or injured, but vets use them to determine any general health problems. These problems include weight issues, allergies, dental health, and general well-being.

Many veterinarians recommend certain procedures during routine vet visits, all of which may be an additional cost. Yearly vaccinations can cost $50 per shot, parasite prevention can cost up to $200, routine tests can cost up to $600, dental cleanings can cost as much as $500, and spay or neuter surgeries can easily cost up to $800 for dogs and $500 for cats—without pet insurance. While pet parents may opt out of these procedures due to financial constraints, it might not be in their pet’s best interest.

Most owners expect to take their furry friends to the vet but don’t foresee an unexpectedly high bill. That’s why so many owners have started looking into pet insurance to help pay for veterinary care. Pet insurance is similar to human health insurance and can pay for up to 90 percent of qualifying vet bills

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How much does a routine appointment for dogs cost?

Dog owners can expect to pay anywhere between $100 and $300 for a yearly checkup with the vet. The cost usually depends on the breed, age, and location. Older, large dog breeds typically cost more than smaller, younger dogs. Veterinarians are usually more expensive for dogs in cities with a higher cost of living, like New York City or Los Angeles.

Although younger dogs usually cost less on average, puppies are also very expensive during their first year. All puppies have to receive nine core vaccines within the first 16 weeks of their life. These shots, like the distemper vaccine, are usually $20 each. It’s also recommended that puppies are spayed or neutered at around six to nine months old, which can cost up to $800. 

As dogs age, they also start getting more expensive. Dental cleanings, ear and eye testing, and allergy testing can all end up costing hundreds out of pocket for sweet senior dogs. Diet also becomes more important to monitor, which may lead to prescription pet food

How much does a routine appointment cost for cats?

Vet appointments for cats are usually cheaper than dogs, with an average cost between $50 and $200. The cost heavily depends on the cat’s breed and the location of the vet. Certain breeds like Persian or Sphynx cats may cost more to treat, and appointments in areas with a higher cost of living are also more expensive. 

Like puppies, kittens also cost a lot during the first year of their life. While physical exams may seem cheap, kittens require nine core vaccines, which can cost up to $20 each. Spaying or neutering your cat is also a relatively large expense without access to a low-cost clinic. Some cat parents find themselves paying up to $500 to sterilize their cat. 

Adult cats are also prone to attracting high-cost routine treatments like dental cleanings. Many cat parents don’t realize the importance of maintaining dental health in their feline friends, especially since brushing a cat’s teeth might seem more like a fight to the death. Professional dental cleanings can end up costing hundreds out of pocket because they require anesthesia. 

Luckily, many pet insurance companies include wellness plan add-ons, covering routine appointment fees from heartworm medications to neutering. Routine and preventive treatments can really add up over time but are necessary to maintain a pet’s health. Companies like Pets Best, Embrace, and 24PetWatch all include wellness plan add-ons to round out coverage. 

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How Much Emergency Vet Visits Cost

Pet parents may prepare to pay for a pre-planned routine visit. But it can be hard to be prepared for an unexpected medical emergency. Whether they’re performing blood work or prepping to do emergency surgery, on-call vets can cost anywhere from $100 to $20,000, depending on the treatment. Regardless of the reason for the visit, you can be sure it’s going to be expensive.

Emergency vet visits are among the most stressful experiences of pet ownership, and high vet bills only make it worse. Statistically, most instances of euthanasia occur because pet owners can no longer afford expensive treatment. Emergency care is usually more expensive at a base rate compared to standard vet care because the veterinarians charge more.

Whether your cat is dealing with a urinary tract infection or your dog needs an emergency extraction surgery, pet owners shouldn’t have to go into debt to save their furry friend’s life. Pet insurance is an alternative to taking out personal loans, starting GoFundMe’s, and using CareCredit. Insurance policies can cover up to 90 percent of emergency vet bills

How Pet Insurance Can Make Vet Visits Cheaper

All pet owners want to provide the best possible healthcare for their cats and dogs, but it can get very expensive, very quickly. Not every pet family qualifies for low-cost or non-profit clinics. Rather than rack up steep credit card debt or pray that a pet’s GoFundMe goes viral, pet parents can now turn to pet insurance to help keep costs low when it comes to vet bills

Every family wants what’s best for their furry friends, but some pet owners cannot afford substantial vet bills. That can lead to improper treatments and even economic euthanasia in the worst scenarios. Buying a pet insurance policy can mean saving up to 100 percent on qualifying vet bills for emergency care, surgery, rehabilitation, wellness care, and even kennel fees. 

Pet insurance policies help keep veterinary costs down by covering large portions of qualifying vet fees. The cost of a standard policy is usually between $27 and $40 per month for cats. It’s between $55 and $85 per month for dogs. These policies usually only cover accidents and illnesses, but many companies offer a variety of coverage add-ons. Check out all the pet insurance options available to you today on Insurify

Pet Insurance Offers Reimbursements

Most pet insurance companies work through reimbursements. That means if your cat needed testing to check for hepatitis, you would pay for the treatment up front. After you file a claim, the insurance company would pay you for up to 100 percent of the bill. Many providers also offer an emergency vet-direct payment option, which can be sent the same day as the treatment. 

How Payout Limits Work

Pet insurance companies usually have a maximum amount they are willing to pay in reimbursements every year. These limits usually range between $2,500 and $20,000 each year, but many companies also offer an unlimited maximum amount. Typically, the higher the payout limit, the more the policy costs each month.

That means if you were to purchase a plan with a low payout limit, like $2,500, but your new puppy had parvovirus, you could end up spending hundreds out of pocket. Once a pet has hit its payout limit, the insurance company will no longer cover any vet treatments. 

Why Deductibles Matter

Just like human health insurance, most pet insurers require deductibles to be met before any reimbursements are sent. Pet owners are usually required to meet an annual deductible between $100 and $1,000. Unfortunately, it’s the amount of money that must be spent out of pocket on qualifying vet fees before insurance can get involved.

Frequently Asked Questions: Cost of Vet Visits

How much does a vet visit cost?

The total cost of a routine vet visit can range anywhere from $40 to $400 depending on the visit. Routine and preventive vet visits are necessary to prevent future health issues, which is why maintaining consistent pet care is so vital. The cost heavily depends on a pet’s age, breed, treatment plan, and location.

How much does an emergency vet visit cost?

Emergency vet visits can be one of the most expensive consequences of owning a pet. While a simple ear infection might only cost $100, a diagnosis of feline leukemia can end up costing up to $20,000. Emergency care costs depend heavily on the diagnosis and the veterinarian but can range anywhere from $50 to $20,000.

Does pet insurance cover vet visits?

Depending on the policy, pet insurance can help cover the cost of preventive care and emergency medical care. Most standard policies only cover accidents and injuries, but many companies include the option to purchase a wellness plan add-on. Buying a policy can help pay for expensive things like X-rays, blood tests, hospitalizations, prescriptions, and even surgery.

Updated May 11, 2021

Samantha Vargas is a freelance writer for Insurify. She has a background in comparative English literature and film and has produced a variety of journalistic content for the University at Buffalo's independent student newspaper, The Spectrum. She currently works in Buffalo, NY while finishing her master's degree. She spends her free time baking and working with animal welfare groups.