Personal Finance

Average cost of a vet visit for dogs: Must-know facts and figures

The average national cost for a dog’s routine check-up is $50 to $250. Overall vet costs including wellness check-ups, dental care, lab tests and vaccines can total between $700 and $1,500 per year.

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Nearly 40% of American households own a dog. If you’re among them, you know there’s a lot of time and money that goes into owning a dog — from food and toys to training and boarding. All of these costs, plus the addition of vet visits, can quickly add up. 

So, when budgeting your personal finances, it’s important to consider your dog’s vet fees. Your dog’s age, overall health and where you live will heavily influence your annual vet costs.

Our guide below will help you with the following:

  • Making sure you’re getting a fair deal at the veterinarian
  • Determining if your dog is sick
  • Finding ways to increase your dog’s lifespan
  • Reducing and paying off your vet bills if they exceed your budget

Read on to discover the expected costs for various treatments and tests. You can also jump to our infographic below for a quick overview of veterinary costs for dogs and budgeting tips.

How much is a vet visit?

The cost of your furry friend’s trip to the veterinarian will vary greatly. If you’re going in for a routine visit, expect to pay $50 to $250, though even that can vary depending on your location and which veterinarian you visit. Emergency veterinary visits for your dog can add up even more.

The chart below displays the average cost for common veterinary services.

Average vet costs for dog proceedures

Proceedure

Average cost


Routine check-up

$50-$250

Microchipping

$20

Vaccines (per shot)

$15-$30

Heartworm test

$45-$50

Fecal exam

$45-$50

IV fluids

$50-$75

IV catheter

$60-75

Bloodwork

$80-$200

Dental cleaning

$70-$400

X-rays

$150-$200

Allergy test

$195-$300

Spaying or neutering

$300

Ultrasounds

$300-$600

Wound treatment

$800-$2,500

Pancreatitis treatment

$1,000-$5,000

Emergency surgery

$1,500-$5,000

Stomach torsion or bloat treatment

$3,000-$8,000

Source: ASPCA 2021, Pawlicy Advisor 2020, Preventive Vet 2022

Vet prices based on location

Veterinary costs vary based on where you live. Residents of denser and high-cost-of-living cities often pay more for vet visits. These higher charges help to cover these veterinarians’ higher rent, property taxes, insurance and other expenses.

To get the best veterinary cost estimates for your dog, search online for practices in your area and request rates over the phone.

Banfield Pet Hospitals has an online price estimator based on ZIP codes. Using their generator, we created the below chart. These cities range in size and geographic location, which give a general overview of how much the average price for a  routine check-up or dental cleaning is in different areas of the U.S.

Note: According to Banfield’s estimator, prices within cities are the same even if the ZIP code differs.

Nationwide veterinary costs for dogs

City, State

Average price for routine check-up

Average price for dental cleaning

San Francisco, CA

$80.95

$394.95

Los Angeles, CA

$67.95

$394.95

New York, NY

$67.95

$394.95

Seattle, WA

$64.95

$380.95

Chicago, IL

$63.95

$373.95

Milwaukee, WI

$61.95

$366.95

Denver, CO

$58.95

$352.95

Atlanta, GA

$57.95

$346.95

Houston, TX

$57.95

$346.95

Baton Rouge, LA

$54.95

$334.95

Des Moines, IA

$54.95

$334.95

Omaha, NE

$54.95

$334.95

Source: Banfield Pet Hospital, Jan. 2022

 

Signs your dog needs a vet visit

The longer you own a dog the more you understand his or her habits and needs. You can still have difficulty deciphering changes in behavior or what they may signify. 

Below are some common behavioral changes that might require calling or visiting the vet.  

 behavioral-changes-and-what-they-mean

1. Changes in eating habits

It’s pretty unusual for dogs to skip a meal unless it’s hot outside or he or she is in a new environment. If your dog goes two days without eating, you should contact your veterinarian.

On the other hand, if your dog is begging for food excessively or is unusually hungry, this could be a medical issue. Consider scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian.

Pet owner tip: When changing dog foods or brands, slowly introduce the new food by offering your pup a mix of 25% new food and 75% old food the first two days, then a 50/50 mix the next two days.

2. Vomiting 

Like humans, dogs vomit to rid their digestive system of whatever is causing the issue. Normally, dogs will vomit one to three times in 10 minutes. However, if your dog is vomiting multiple times throughout the day it can cause dehydration and you should contact your veterinarian.

Pet owner tip: Chocolate, coffee, grapes and garlic are toxic to dogs. View our list of safe and unsafe foods for dogs.

3. Changes in stool 

A dog’s stool should be firm and moist. If the stool is hard and dry or your dog has difficulty defecating, a dietary issue or illness could be to blame. If you notice worms, mucus, blood or diarrhea for more than 24 hours it’s worth contacting your veterinarian.

Pet owner tip: If your dog is constipated or has diarrhea, pumpkin is a safe and healthy dietary fix. You can use pure canned pumpkin or put pumpkin powder in their food.

4. Poor balance 

If you notice changes in your dog’s movement, gait or balance you should make an appointment with a veterinarian right away. A limp can indicate a strained tendon, but balance issues or awkward motions can point to neurological concerns.

Pet owner tip: Before calling your veterinarian, write down how your dog’s movement has changed and approximately for how long it’s occurred. 

5. Fur changes or itchiness

Dry skin or a dull coat can result from food or outdoor allergies. However, excessive scratching or hair loss can mean that thyroid issues or fleas are present. It’s best to call your vet just in case. 

Pet owner tip: You can supplement your dog’s food with a teaspoon of coconut oil or Omega-3 and Omega-6 acids once or twice a day to improve your dog’s skin and coat. 

6. Weepy or red eyes

If your dog develops eye boogers it’s likely just seasonal allergies. However, red and cloudy eyes or unusual eye discharge can indicate infection or injury. Note that if only one eye seems to be bothersome it’s more likely an injury or infection. If both eyes are problematic, it could be a systemic issue. Either way, contact your veterinarian.

Pet owner tip: If your dog is prone to allergies, avoid walking them early in the morning or late in the afternoon when pollen levels are usually highest. 

7. Lethargic behavior 

If your dog is unusually disinterested in going on walks or playing or less responsive to commands, he or she might be ill. If symptoms persist for more than two days, schedule an appointment with your vet.

Pet owner tip: Dogs older than 10 months sleep an average of 10-12 hours per day due to being in rapid eye movement (REM) or deep sleep only 10% of the time. Puppies typically need 18-20 hours each day.

8. Wincing, crying or whining

Whining or wincing is a sign that your dog is in distress. If there’s no apparent environmental or medical reason for this behavior, your dog could be experiencing some sort of internal pain and discomfort. It’s best to schedule a visit to the vet and to expect a diagnostic tool such as an ultrasound, MRI or X-ray to be used.

Pet owner tip: Some dogs will whine as an appeasement or greeting behavior when interacting with people or other dogs. If the whining seems involuntary, it could be due to stress and anxiety.

Four tips to reduce vet costs

Veterinary bills can quickly add up. One of the best ways to reduce the cost of vet bills is to have pet insurance. Wellness plans or payment installments with your vet are other options. Sometimes your home or car insurance will cover your dog’s injuries. For instance, if your dog is injured in a car accident that is your fault, your car insurance policy might cover some of the costs. It’s worth reviewing your policy to confirm. 

 first-year-dog-ownership-expenses

Continue reading for more details about these options.

1. Pet insurance

As mentioned above, pet insurance is a great way to cut down on vet expenses. Pet insurance is similar to your car or home insurance policy. You pay monthly or quarterly in exchange for a preset amount of coverage. One major way that pet insurance differs from car or home insurance policies is that they reimburse you for vet bills versus directly paying your vet. However, some of your pet’s pre-existing conditions like cancer, diabetes or previous injuries won’t always be covered under insurance plans.

Typically, insurance plans cover unexpected costs such as

  • Injuries
  • Skin or stomach issues
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Hospitalization
  • Annual check-ups

Pet insurance can drastically reduce your veterinary costs, especially if your dog is prone to accidents or illnesses. There are several types of pet insurance policies to choose from. Here’s a simple breakdown of the different types:

Comprehensive: Comprehensive coverage has the widest range of benefits and often covers emergency care, accidents and injuries. Depending on the policy, they might cover hereditary conditions and serious illnesses such as cancer.  

Emergency or accident only: Normally, preventative care such as chronic conditions and routine check-ups aren’t covered. Your dog is often covered if he or she is injured in an accident.

Accident and illness: This coverage is similar to emergency-only plans but will also cover illness-related costs.

2. Wellness plans

Think of wellness plans as preventative care to manage your pet’s health. In general, they don’t cover unexpected events or emergencies and have a maximum annual benefit. Similar to pet insurance plans, pet wellness plans are often a reimbursement model, where you pay for vet services as needed and invoice your wellness plan provider for money back. 

Wellness plans often cover preventative or veterinary costs and routine care. For instance, the wellness plans typically cover the below procedures:

  • Vaccinations
  • Dental cleanings
  • Spaying or neutering
  • Microchipping
  • Annual check-ups
  • Exam fees

Pet wellness plans and pet insurance are not mutually exclusive; many dog owners have both to cover preventative and unexpected veterinary bills.

3. Payment plan

Some veterinary clinics offer payment plans over a designated period of time to help you cover your vet bill. Even if your veterinarian doesn’t advertise a pet plan option, it’s worth asking — especially if you’re in good standing with your veterinarian. 

4. Financial assistance programs

There are lots of general and breed-specific nonprofit organizations dedicated to providing medical care for pets if their owners are undergoing financial hardships. Each program is independent and has its own guidelines. Click the links below to see if you qualify.

General nationwide programs:

Breed-specific organizations: 

Now you know the general veterinary costs for dogs and ways to help pay your vet bills if you’re experiencing financial hardship. 

If you’re renting, read our pet rental guide and list of best apartment pets for helpful information and tips. And for more figures related to veterinary costs and ways to budget, check out our infographic below.

 guide-to-your-dog’s-first-year-medical-costs_IG
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