How Much is a Vet Visit & How to Make the Most of It

Taking a trip to the veterinarian's office is probably not your pet's favorite way to spend his or her time, but it's a crucial part of life for many reasons. It's advised that you take your pet to the vet once a year, just as you visit the doctor once a year, for a physical. In addition to keeping your furry friend's vaccinations up to-date, regular vet visits allow any minor problems to be found early and addressed before they become a serious illness. It's too often that pet owners are devastated to find out that their dog's condition or cat's illness or disease could have been treated had he or she seen a vet sooner. 

Many people put off taking their pet to the vet because of the cost. Prices aren't always low and not all pet owners have insurance to cover their pup. However, knowing what to expect at a vet visit will make it easier to budget and allow your pet to receive the quality care he or she deserves.

Your puppy's first few visits will probably be the most expensive.Your puppy's first few visits will probably be the most expensive.

Prices Vary

Not all veterinary offices charge the same for visits. The location of the clinic and type of care needed play a large role in how much the visit will cost. In many cases, veterinary offices in large cities are more expensive than those in the suburbs or more rural locations. Most vets will charge an average of $50 for a routine exam, though specialists may charge more. Consultations or second opinions may be pricier as well. In some cases, though, the cost may be lower if you're visiting just for a vaccine booster or follow up appointment. Typical costs for specific treatments include:

  • Booster shots cost between $18 and $25, and most pets require a few boosters per year.
  • Heartworm tests are usually given annually and cost about $50.
  • Fecal exams are usually given annually and cost between $25 and $45.
  • Geriatric screenings recommended for pets ages 7 years and older are more comprehensive than the typical annual exam and usually cost between $85 and $110.
  • Dental cleanings can be very simple or very comprehensive, depending on whether or not your pet needs special treatment. Dental cleanings for dogs and cats can cost as little at $70 or as much as $400.
  • There are two ways that your pet can be tested for allergies. An intradermal skin test usually costs between $195 and $250, while a blood test can cost between $200 and $300. Talk to your pet's vet about which option is best for your animal's allergy symptoms.

"There are many ways to pay for your beloved pet's treatment."

How to Pay

Many people pay for their veterinary expenses out of pocket, but if your animal is diagnosed with a serious condition, needs an emergency surgery or you have financial woes, this may not always be possible. Luckily, there are many ways to pay for your beloved pet's treatment. 

If you visit with your regular vet for an emergency treatment, you may be able to go on a payment plan. However, if you're working with an emergency vet clinic, it may not offer that option, as it's rare that people establish relationships with their local emergency clinic. Talk to the vet about your financial situation. He or she may be able to recommend a more affordable course of treatment. 

Pet insurance is always a viable option. Usually costing about $600 per year, it covers both injury and illness - both of which tend to pop up by surprise. Pet insurance also tends to include any medications your dog or cat may be prescribed, depending on your insurance company and package. Some insurance companies also offer pet coverage. However, there are pet-only options available on the market as well, including Healthy Paws, Pet Plan, Trupanion and Embrace. 

Specialized credit lines, like CareCredit, are also popular ways to pay for unforeseen pet medical costs. Most veterinary clinics accept these credit lines and they usually cover health needs for both you and your furry friend. With this type of payment plan, you may also cover annual checkups and routine procedures like spaying and neutering, and medications. 

For a New Pet

The first couple of vet visits for a new puppy or kitten will probably be the most expensive. This is when your pet will receive all of the vaccinations to keep him or her healthy, and get spayed or neutered. If you're worried about your pet getting loose and running away, ask the vet to install a microchip during these first visits. While many breeders and shelters have had their animals examined, it's in your best interest to take your new pet to the vet anyway. This way, you can ask the vet questions and learn about properly taking care of your animal. Some questions you should ask your vet, especially if this is your first pet, include:

  • Are there any parasites that are common in the area and is there anything I can do to prevent them?
  • What should I feed my animal and how much?
  • What advice do you have for a new animal owner?
  • Which vaccines are necessary for my pet?

"Ask about emergency care."

If you're visiting a new veterinarian for the first time, voice all concerns in order to make sure you're picking the right care provider for you, your pet and your family. It's not uncommon for pet-related emergencies to occur after office hours. Ask the vet how you should get in contact with him or her, and whether the office is willing to see your pet after hours in the case of an emergency. As a new pet owner, there is a chance that you'll have questions regarding whether or not something your animal is doing is normal, or how to take care of a certain situation. Ask the vet if there is any way to contact them with questions like this and the best method to do so.

What to Expect

When you bring your animal to the veterinarian's office, he or she will most likely give your pet a full examination. However, if it's a follow-up visit and the vet is familiar your animal's condition or you're visiting for a single issue, it may just be a quick exam. It's handy to know what to expect when you bring your beloved dog or cat to the vet. The vet will ask you many questions about your pet's health status. If this is a new vet, consider having your animal's medical files transferred from your old vet so the doctor fully understands your pet's medical history. A typical physical examination of your pet will look like this:

  • The vet will check the animal's weight, temperature, pulse and respiratory rate.
  • Starting at the head, the vet will look at the ears, eyes, nose, mouth and teeth, and check for anything abnormal in the mucous membranes.
  • The vet will work his or her way down your pet to check the skin and coat. This exam will allow the vet to find any fleas, ticks or abnormal lumps. An abdominal exam consists of checking the organs for abnormal masses. The vet will also check the animal's lymph nodes in the neck, shoulders and behind the knees to see if they're enlarged.
  • Depending on the age of your dog or cat, the orthopedic portion of the physical exam may be quick or more thorough. During this exam, the vet will assess how your pet moves and check his or her joints for anything out of the ordinary.
  • Scent, breath and anything else that may signal a medical problem will also be checked throughout the physical exam.

Know your pet's habits.

Know Your Pet

It's important to pay attention to your pet and get to know his or her habits. This way, you'll be able to determine if there are changes that warrant a trip to the vet. Get to know your pet's energy levels, appetite, water intake and bowel habits, and how he or she likes to play. When you bring your pet to the vet, the doctor will ask if there have been any changes to the animal's daily routine and if there has been any vomiting or diarrhea. When visiting for an annual exam, consider bringing a list of all of your pet's foods, treats and medications, and let the vet know how much food you give your pet or if he or she is on any special diet.

Don't hesitate to ask for an estimate.

Questions to Ask

Having a pet is a continuous learning experience, and there is no expert better than the vet who treats your dog or cat. Be sure to talk to the vet and learn about what you need to do to keep your furry friend healthy and well. If you're bringing your pet to the vet for an annual check-up, bring a list of questions to ensure you won't get sidetracked during your conversations. Keep an ongoing list on the refrigerator so you don't miss anything. Even if the question seems silly or mundane, it's still worth asking a professional. Some important questions include:

  • What should I do to keep my pet's teeth and mouth healthy?
  • Is my pet at a healthy weight? If not, what can I do to get my pet down or up to a healthy weight?
  • How can I solve my pet's behavioral issues?
  • How often should I bathe my cat or dog? Should I clean other areas more regularly?

If you're bringing your pet in because he or she is ill, ask the vet for specific signs to look for that indicate the condition is getting better or worse. Make sure you let the vet know about how you'd prefer to administer medication. For instance, if you have a hard time giving your furry friend a shot, a pill placed in his or her food may be an option instead. If your animal requires surgery or more intensive care, don't hesitate to ask your vet for an estimate of the treatment costs. You don't want to end up alarmed that the cost is significantly higher than you anticipated.