Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.
As a pet parent, you want to give your furbaby the best care possible. In addition to meeting your pet’s primary care needs, such as supplying food, water and a safe place to live, it’s essential to keep your pet healthy with regular veterinarian visits.
Vet Visit Costs
The average cost for a vet visit is about $61. But other vet costs can add up quickly if your pet has additional health care needs, such as medical treatment and medication. Pet insurance can be an effective way to help offset vet visit costs.
Featured Partner Offers
Maximum annual coverage
$5,000, $8,000, $10,000, $15,000, $30,000
70%, 80%, 90%
$200, $300, $500, $750, $1,000
Maximum annual coverage
$5,000 or Unlimited
70%, 80%, 90%
$50, $100, $200, $250, $500, $1,000
Maximum annual coverage
$5,000, $10,000, Unlimited
70%, 80%, 90%, 100%
Varies by pet age
Average cost for a veterinary visit for dogs and cats
What Can I Expect at a Veterinary Visit?
Whether you are bringing your kitten to the vet or an adult dog you adopted from the shelter, vet visits tend to follow a similar process. Here’s what you can expect at a veterinary visit.
You’ll check your pet in and wait in the waiting room. Once you’re brought into the examination room, you can expect your vet to perform a physical exam, which may consist of:
- Taking your pet’s weight
- Looking in the whites of the eyes for redness
- Checking the nose for discharge
- Examining teeth
- Looking in ears with an otoscope
- Checking lymph nodes and throat
- Taking your pet’s temperature
- Assessing the condition of the body
- Palpating the abdomen to check the structures of the belly, such as the kidneys, abdominal masses or pain
- Listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope
- Taking your pet’s pulse
If this is your first visit to the vet with your pet, you will typically discuss your pet’s past medical history and address any questions or concerns you have about caring for your new friend. In addition, your vet may cover concerns such as flea, tick and heartworm medication recommendations, best practices for feeding and information about neutering or spaying.
Vaccinations for dogs
At your vet visit, your dog may be due for core vaccinations, which can include:
- canine hepatitis
- canine parvovirus
Your dog may receive additional non-core vaccines, depending on your dog’s risk exposure, such as:
- Bordetella bronchiseptica
- Borrelia burgdorferi
- Leptospira bacteria
Vaccination costs for dogs
Vaccinations for cats
At your vet visit, your cat may be due for core vaccinations, which can include:
- Feline Calicivirus
- Feline herpesvirus type I (rhinotracheitis)
- Panleukopenia (feline distemper)
Your cat may receive additional non-core vaccines, depending on your cat’s risk exposure, such as:
- Chlamydophila felis
- Feline immunodeficiency virus
- Feline leukemia virus
Vaccination costs for cats
How Pet Type Can Affect the Cost of a Vet Care
Veterinarian costs can vary depending on the characteristics of the pet. For example, vet care for dogs is typically more than vet costs for cats. And medical costs for large breed dogs are usually more than smaller breeds.
Here are some factors that can influence the cost of vet care:
- Health history
- Your location
Your pet’s disposition can also affect your vet visit cost. For example, if your pet demonstrates aggressive behavior, your vet may need to give your pet medication to calm them, which can increase your bill.
Expected Veterinary Costs
During a pet’s lifespan, you can expect certain veterinary costs. Here’s a look at some common vet expenses for dogs and cats.
Average vet care costs for dogs
Average vet care costs for cats
Unexpected Veterinary Costs
An unexpected accident or illness such as a torn knee ligament or cancer can range from millions to thousands of dollars. Here’s a look at the cost of treating common accidents and illnesses for dogs and cats.
Average medical treatment costs for pets
What Questions Should I Ask at a Veterinary Visit?
Visiting the vet is often a stressful experience for the humans, especially if you’re a first-time pet parent. From transporting your furry friend safely to managing a fearsome feline that won’t sit still, visiting the vet can be unnerving.
Here are some questions worth asking during your next visit:
- What vaccinations should my pet get and how often?
- Is my pet at a healthy weight? If not, what changes can I make?
- What is the best way to care for my pet’s dental hygiene?
- When does my pet need to start getting bloodwork?
- Is my pet predisposed to certain illnesses or conditions?
- Are there any preventive medications I should give my pet?
- What should I do if I find a lump on my pet’s skin?
How Pet Insurance Can Help with Veterinary Costs
Pet insurance can be a good way to offset your pet’s medical expenses for unexpected problems such as accidents (like torn knee ligaments and lacerations) and illnesses (like allergies, ear infections and cancer), depending on the type of plan you buy.
Here are common types of pet insurance plans.
Accident and illness plans
This type of pet insurance plan covers the widest range of medical and health issues, including congenital and hereditary issues. This is the most common type of plan sold. It covers problems such as:
- broken bones
- Chronic conditions like allergies and ear infections
- Diagnostics such as CT scans, lab tests and X-rays
- Digestive issues
- Emergency care
- Hereditary conditions like hip dysplasia or eye disorders
- Ingesting foreign objects
- Prescription medications
- Severe illness such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes
This type of plan covers accidents but not illnesses. For example, if your puppy has lacerations after rough play with an older dog, an accident-only plan would cover the cost of your pet’s medical expenses.
Since accident-only plans are designed for emergencies and exclude illnesses and other conditions, they are less expensive than an accident and illness plan.
Wellness plans are not standalone plans, but many pet insurance companies offer the option to add routine or wellness care coverage to an accident and illness plan. A wellness plan covers medical expenses such as:
- dental cleaning
- Flea and tick prevention
- heartworm prevention
- Wellness routine exams
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
Most pet insurance plans are reimbursement-based, meaning you will pay up front for your pet’s vet bills and submit a claim for reimbursement. Here’s how a claim might work.
- Your pet suffers an injury and you take them to the vet for medical treatment.
- You pay your vet bill.
- You submit a claim alongside an itemized invoice to your insurer via an app, over the phone or online.
- Your insurer reviews the claim. If the problem is covered, your insurer will send reimbursement.
How much reimbursement you get depends on your coverage levels.
Maximum annual limit options
Pet insurance plans typically have a limit to how much they will reimburse you for claims during the policy period. Limit options can range between $5,000 per year to unlimited coverage.
Before you get reimbursed for a problem covered by your policy, you will need to meet your policy deductible. Pet insurance deductibles commonly range between $100 and $500 per year. You can save on your pet insurance premium by going with a higher deductible.
A reimbursement percentage is the amount your insurer will pay once your deductible is met. The lower your reimbursement percentage, the higher portion of your medical expenses you’re responsible for. Common reimbursement percentage choices are 70%, 80% or 90%.
Find The Best Pet Insurance Companies Of 2022
Is Pet Insurance Worth It?
If your pet suffers an accident or illness, medical expenses could set you back thousands of dollars. And that’s if you can afford to pay for treatment. More than a quarter (28%) of pet owners say a vet bill of $499 or less would cause them to go into debt and 42% say a vet bill of $999 or less would cause them to go into debt, according to a Forbes Advisor survey on surprise vet bills amid inflation.
Pet insurance can be a good way to offset major vet bills and help you avoid a tough decision between a big financial hit or foregoing necessary medical treatment for your furry friend.
And pet insurance may be more affordable than you think. The average cost of pet insurance is $35 per month for dogs and $28 a month for cats for $5,000 in annual coverage, a $250 deductible and 90% reimbursement level.
Consider this scenario.
- You pay $28 per month for a cat for three years. That’s $1,008 in pet insurance premiums.
- Your cat ingests a foreign object and needs surgery, which costs $3,400.
- If you have a $250 deductible and 90% reimbursement level, your out-of-pocket cost for the incident would be $590 ($250 deductible + 10% of $3,400 = $590).
- Adding up premiums for three years and the surgery, you’ve paid $1,598.
- Without pet insurance, you would have paid $3,400 for the vet. With pet insurance, you saved $1,802.
If you do not have thousands of dollars in your savings account to cover unexpected veterinary expenses, pet insurance can help you avoid taking a big credit card hit and going into debt. You can find a good policy at a fair cost by comparing pet insurance quotes among multiple insurance companies.
Related: Is pet insurance worth it?