golden retriever puppy smiling during a veterinary exam

Cost of Vet Care on the Rise

The cost of veterinary care has been steadily increasing nearly every year. If you are a new pet parent or if you are the parent of a healthy pet that rarely visits their veterinarian, then there’s a good chance that you are not up to date with current veterinary costs.

Overall Costs

Unexpected costs are not something anyone wants to be surprised with. However, many pet parents may feel that when it comes time to choose between their pet’s well-being and spending thousands of dollars, they are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Before adopting a pet and welcoming them into your home, chances are you saved up a fund for the various initial costs. After settling in, the cost of having a pet oftentimes lowers and then plateaus off. Expenses become regular, expected ones.

With lower expenses, many pet parents may put their ‘pet savings account’ on the back burner, but what happens when high medical costs arise? For the average cat and dog, their biggest expenses over the course of their life will be medical procedures and medications.

What’s essential for all pet parents to consider is that your pet’s medical expenses continue to add up over their entire life, not just when you first adopt them or when they are of an older age.

Common cost-related questions a majority of pet parents ask include:

How much does it cost to see a vet?

This number has a massive range, mainly because many factors can affect the cost. Some breeds are more expensive than others, pets with medical conditions can cost more, and the geographic location and specific veterinarian you choose can also skew the price. On average, a routine visit with your vet can range anywhere from around $50 up to a couple of hundred dollars.*

What are the average vet costs for cats?

Cats typically are less expensive than dogs, but this isn’t a guarantee. If you take your cat in just for their yearly check-up and all is well, your bill could easily be south of $100. Keep in mind, if you take your cat to the vet, and they are due for a vaccine shot or flea and heartworm medication, then the cost can quickly increase.

What are the average dog vet costs?

The same rules as cats apply to dogs—at least in this instance. If your dog is healthy and is just at the vet’s for preventive care, then costs shouldn’t be too high. But keep in mind that if you visit your vet because of a medical concern, they may need to run a few tests, which could add on a few hundred dollars.

How much do vet X-rays cost?

As with most medical procedures, there is a range in cost for X-rays. The total can depend on how many different views are needed, the type of X-rays taken, the facility that takes them, the size of the pet, if a specialist is needed to review the X-rays, and whether your best pal will need sedation or anesthesia for the pictures. When all of this is considered, the average cost for X-rays can be anywhere between $40-400.^

How much does a blood test cost at the vet’s?

You may have already guessed this answer, but the cost of blood tests for cats and dogs varies in price. A routine blood test is typically not a large expense, but based on averages, you should still be ready to pay up to a couple hundred dollars.+

gray and white cat at a veterinary check-up look at the veterinarian

Preventive Care

Preventive care, for both cats and dogs, should be a key part of any pet parent’s routine—skipping preventive care can often lead to higher veterinarian bills.

Even if your pet seems extremely healthy, it is important not to skip their yearly check-ups. Regular examinations will help your veterinarian better monitor your pet’s overall health, and they can keep an eye on any issues your pet may have. It also gives your veterinarian the opportunity to inform you about new diseases, so you can better safeguard your pet’s health.

Preventive care will help you stay a step ahead of your canine and feline’s health. This additionally means that as a pet parent, you should never ignore any irregularities that pop up with your pet’s health or behavior—this could be the early warning signs of a more serious problem.

Not only is preventive care a necessity for taking care of your pet, but preventive care is also a coverage option that is offered by some pet insurance companies. While the exact services covered can vary per company, many preventive plans cover vaccines, spaying and neutering, dental cleanings, flea and heartworm prevention, bloodwork, and yearly exams.

Preventive care is a great solution to help keep your pets healthy and your bank account happy.

Why Are Vet Costs So High?

Unfortunately, there is no one quick answer to this question. Instead, there are many reasons why pet parents now have higher medical bills for their cats and dogs.

Our pets are our family

In the past 50 years or so, the care-taking practices for our pets have transformed radically. Our dogs and cats are now members of our family, they are our best friends, and for many individuals, their pets are their children. In fact, most of us treat our four-legged companions like they are royalty, and there’s nothing we wouldn’t do to make them happy.

Some medical prices for veterinary procedures have increased over the years due to inflation and the ever-increasing costs of running a business. However, one of the major reasons people now face higher costs is simply because they are wanting better care for their pets.

Levels of treatment

Just as people often have different treatment options, multiple choices now exist for our four-legged friends as well. These can range from an extremely affordable home remedy to top-of-the-line, expensive treatments.

Depending on the type of treatment and the money you are comfortable spending, it is worth discussing your options with your veterinarian. Although some pet parents may be anxious that a cheaper treatment option won’t be quite as thorough, it’s worth noting that nearly any level of treatment is typically better than doing nothing at all.

The evolution of specialized medicine

One of the main reasons for the hike in vet prices is that medicine has evolved—it has become more sophisticated and specialized.

Our pets are our family, and because we love them, we are willing to try whatever it takes to give them a happy and healthy life. Although most veterinarians practice in general medicine, pet healthcare has become more specialized, and many more such practices now exist.

Some of these specialized items now include doggy glasses and sunglasses, dog braces, and wheelchair-like devices for cats and dogs with mobility issues.

It is amazing what health issues can now be resolved thanks to the advancements that have been made in diagnostics and treatments. Although it is a positive to have more specialized treatment options available, there is still a catch:

Specialized Treatment + Advanced Diagnostics + Modern Medicine = Higher Veterinary Bills

Pets are living longer

Just as there have been advancements in human medicine that now allow us to live longer, healthier lives, the same has occurred for our pets. There is now better education and more hands-on experiences in veterinary medicine that have led to many significant discoveries.

Learning how to better take care of our cats and dogs means that many of our pals now have a longer life expectancy, but when speaking in finances, this means more years of taking care of our felines and canines. Not to mention, in many instances, the older a pet gets, the more expensive they can become. Even though our pets living longer lives is wonderful, the added costs that come with this are something all pet parents should keep in mind.


Every single dog and cat has their own unique, independent personality and needs. You could even have two dogs of the same breed that require completely different medical attention. In other words, when it comes to why veterinary costs are rising, the smallest of details could make a big difference.

As mentioned before, age can play a large role in expenses, typically because older pets require more medications or treatments. However, it’s quite possible for senior cats and dogs to remain healthy until their very last days—so don’t let age deter you from adopting older pets.

One of the main factors that can skew costs is your location. For instance, there’s a greater chance that the veterinary bills for a person living in New York City will be higher than that of an individual who lives in a suburb of Ohio. Unfortunately, there is not much leeway in cutting costs based on where you live, but don’t be shy about shopping around for veterinarians and comparing prices.

Where you choose to have your pet treated can also have a major effect on the price—specialists and emergency clinics are often more expensive than general medicine veterinary offices, just like in human health.

To better anticipate your pet’s costs, it’s recommended to research breeds before adopting one, including common medical conditions they may face.

happy brown and white dog looking at human during veterinary exam


Some medicines, especially ones that your pet may need to take for an extended amount of time or even for their entire life, can quickly add up in costs. To help alleviate some of the financial stress, don’t hesitate to talk with your veterinarian if there’s an alternative, less expensive medication that could also do the job.

Some human medications (which can be cheaper) have been found to help dogs and cats with various health issues. Before considering this option, it cannot be stressed enough how crucial it is to first talk with your veterinarian. Using human medications as a substitute is not always an option, and the consequences of giving ill-prescribed meds to your pet can be deadly—literally.

Another option that can help with the rising cost of pet medications is to consider where you are getting the meds. In some cases, you can save a good chunk of change by ordering medications through an online store, commercial pharmacies (yes, big stores often fill pet prescriptions!) or other reputable purveyors.

How to Manage Vet Care Costs

Price increases have been necessary to give pet parents what they expect and demand: having the best and latest veterinary care options available to improve and extend their pets’ lives. But, providing these care options come at a cost for practices.

Be that as it may, just because you want what’s best for your pet, you shouldn’t have to also stress about your finances. Knowing your options for covering your vet visit costs and other medical-related expenses can help alleviate some of these anxieties.


There are many options for your consideration when it comes to paying for your pet’s medical bills. Perhaps the most straightforward choice is to set up a rainy day fund for your pet. With this option, you can choose to put money aside every week, every paycheck, or once a month.

For some pet parents, this pet fund will be sufficient in covering their pet’s annual check-ups, but what if there’s an emergency and the procedure your pet needs will cost more than what you have saved?

Payment plans and credit cards

Although we all hope it will never happen to us, there’s always a chance that our pet will require an expensive procedure one day. In this instance, don’t be bashful about talking money—after all, it is your hard-earned cash being spent. If something is above your budget, some veterinarian’s offices may be able to offer you a payment plan, which can stomp the worry of having to pay in full, upfront.

For clinics that do not offer payment plans, they may suggest you open a medical credit card that includes veterinary payments. This option allows you to charge more to your card upfront, then make payments over an extended amount of time. While this may be a much more feasible option for some pet owners, it’s essential to read over all terms and conditions and interest rates.

Pet insurance

Pet insurance is perhaps the most recommended option when it comes to managing vet costs. To better prepare for veterinary expenses and give yourself peace of mind, pet insurance may be the perfect option for you and your pet.

Pet insurance can offer up to 90% reimbursement on covered vet bills, which means that paying for vet care can instantly become less stressful, and you won’t have to make the difficult choice of choosing between better treatment options and saving money.

Being aware of your pet insurance options can help you be better prepared for future vet costs. And as a bonus, with most insurance plans, you can tailor the plan to you and your pet’s needs. Unlike the savings method, you will automatically have more money available to cover medical costs with pet insurance. And, unlike payment plans or credit cards, you don’t have to worry about accrued interest with pet insurance.

When it comes to insuring your dog or cat, there may be no better time than the present. Not only can pet insurance help you cover expensive veterinary bills, but it can also help relieve a great weight off your shoulders.

Learn more about the latest and most advanced care in veterinary medicine that the Hartville Pet Insurance program covers.

*Dulabs, Kylee. “Pet Ownership Costs Guide for 2021”. The Simple Dollar.
^Brooks, James. “Dog Xrays: How Much Do Veterinary X Rays Cost?”. Ultimate Home Life.
+Lichtenberg, Dr. Debora. “Everything You Need to Know About Blood Work From a Veterinarian”. Petful.