Nobody wants a surprise cost at a vet visit. Here are insights into what’s covered at various vet visits, and how much each vet visit will cost.

By Stacey Freed
August 28, 2020
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Sarah Kaufman, a schoolteacher, and Sam Schreibman, a financial trader, living in Jersey City, N.J. recently purchased their miniature schnauzer puppy, Sophie, from a breeder in Rochester, N.Y. The couple saved money to be able to afford the dog and her accoutrements — food, crate, playpen, toys, shampoo, probiotics, leash, harness, and, of course, veterinary bills. But when they discovered the costs of the puppy’s first vet visit they were surprised. “The first round of shots was buried in the breeder’s costs,” Kaufman says. But she and Schreibman paid $245 out of pocket for the second round. “I wasn’t expecting it to cost that much, and we still have a third round to go.”

These costs are typical, says Sharon Albright, DVM, manager of communications and veterinary outreach for the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, but they “will vary across the United States based on regional and economic factors, and like everything else these costs will likely increase every year.”

Costs of Vet Visit

According to Pet Finder, an online service that helps people find pets to adopt, the average vet cost for the first year of dog ownership, which includes vaccines and routine care, heartworm tests, heartworm prevention, and flea/tick prevention ranges from $165–$700. The same health maintenance over time will run $150–$615 a year. The fees for cats fall within the same ranges.

However, this’s assuming your pet remains healthy. All bets are off when it comes to an emergency vet visit. Here are some average costs for different types of vet visits:

Costs For a First-Time Vet Visit For Puppies and Kittens

At a first-time vet visit, the vet will do a general physical — checking weight and  temperature, listening to your pet’s heart and lungs, checking the skin, fur, eyes, ears, teeth, etc. and examining feces (you may be asked to bring in a sample). Puppies will receive a slew of vaccines, including those for distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus (DAPP), and rabies. Kittens will receive vaccines for feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), feline calicivirus (FCV), and feline panleukopenia (FPLV), and may also get tested for feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus. Each vaccine costs $10–$20.

Total costs for that initial vet visit range from $100–$300, depending on where you live. San Francisco; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and Aurora, Colo. are the three most expensive cities for vet bills, according to RedFin.com.

Costs For a Yearly Wellness Vet Visit

A regular annual physical for a dog or cat averages $50. This visit usually includes vaccine booster shots, each one costing $18–$25, a heartworm test ($45–$50), and a fecal exam ($25–$45).

As your pet ages, your vet will likely suggest geriatric screening, which includes blood work and urinalysis ($85–$110), dental work (a cleaning alone can cost anywhere from $150–$500), and possibly allergy testing ($200–$300).

Costs For Emergency Vet Services

Visiting the emergency animal hospital might cost you $500–$1,000 or more, depending on whether you have a cat or a small or large dog and what needs to be done. According to online emergency vet finder Emergency Vets USA, an exam and consultation costs $100–$150; bloodwork, $80–$200; X-rays, $150–$250; wound treatment and repair, $800–$2,500; and surgery, $1,500–$5,000. 

While there’s no way to be fully prepared for vet costs, it’s good to be armed with the knowledge of approximately how much services will cost. “My best piece of advice,” Albright says is “do some research. Compare vet prices in your area before you add any pets to your family.”