The Rising Cost Of Veterinary Care: Do You Need Pet Insurance?

dog with a piggy bankHealthcare — whether it’s for humans or animals — has become outrageously expensive, thus making pet insurance an attractive alternative for owners to avoid high veterinary bills. Pet insurance helps protect your pet and wallet from the rising cost of care.

Article Overview

Why Are Veterinary Costs Rising?

Increased vet costs can be attributed to a number of different things.

Vet School Is Expensive

Veterinarians graduate with sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans. They need to get paid enough to pay off their debts in addition to the typical costs (food, housing, etc.).

Dogs & Cats Used To Be Outdoor Animals

Dogs and cats have become part of our families, which means many of them have been placed inside our homes instead of outside. In the past, when animals got sick, the common solution was to euthanize them.

Today, pet parents will spend thousands of dollars to cure their sick pet’s ailments or heal their wounds. This means vet care is becoming more common because people take their pets to the vet for more treatment.

Expensive Operating Costs For Vets

The veterinarian, or person, who owns the clinic has many expenses to keep the practice running, including:

  • Clinic staff such as vet techs, receptionists, kennel attendants, and other veterinarians
  • To keep the staff, owners must offer competitive salaries and benefit packages
  • The building must be up to government rules and local ordinances
  • The cost for equipment and supplies (syringes, gauze sponges, surgical equipment, etc.) for pets is identical to the costs for humans
  • Many clinics have in-house pharmacies, which means their money is spent paying drug manufacturers and distributors

Specialist Care

Just as we humans sometimes have issues that can no longer be properly managed by a general practitioner, so do our animals. Our pets can now be referred to board-certified oncologists, ophthalmologists, dermatologists, and neurologists. With advanced care comes advanced knowledge, and with higher knowledge comes higher fees.

How Much Is Vet Care?

Below are statistics on how much vet care can cost pet owners.

  1. Pet parents spend a yearly average on the following vet visits:1
    1. Routine vet visits: $257 for dogs, $182 for cats, $102 for birds, and $549 for horses
    2. Surgical vet visits: $474 for dogs, $245 for cats, and $45 for birds
    3. Emergency vet visits: $349 for dogs, $154 for cats, $107 for birds, and $471 for horses
    4. Sick vet visits: $204 for dogs, $244 for cats, and $138 for birds
  2. A pet owner is given a vet bill of more than $1,000 every 6 seconds2
  3. 1/3 of dogs get cancer, which can cost more than $10,000 and sometimes up to $20,0002
  4. The annual cost of owning a dog averages $1,8431
  5. Owners spend an average of $102 per year for heartworm medication for dogs ($65 for cats)1
  6. Flea and tick control products cost an average of $85 per year for dog owners ($77 for cat owners)1

You can read more pet insurance statistics here, and we made this short video to help sum up some of the big takeaways.

How Can Pet Insurance Help?

Pet insurance works similar to how health insurance works. When you get sick, your insurance is there to make sure you don’t clean yourself out financially while taking care of yourself. It works the same for your pet. Instead of having to dig deep into savings to care for your four-legged family member, you can rest easier knowing that pet insurance will cover some of the cost of the treatment.

Accidents Happen

With many pet insurance plans, you’re guaranteed that just because this fluke occurred, you’re not going to be left to pick up the pieces, and the check, alone. Make sure, though, when you’re checking out potential policies that the one you’re interested in does indeed offer accident protection, and you are prepared to cover the deductible.

Certain Breeds Have Health Issues

You may love your English Bulldog, but that doesn’t mean you can wish away their hip dysplasia, cardiac disease, or respiratory disease. You can protect yourself against the odds. Many pet insurance policies offer protection against hereditary and congenital conditions, so you’re financially covered.

Basic Care Costs Increase With Age

Human healthcare costs increase with age, and it’s the same for our pets. Prepare for their senior stage by starting your pup off with a policy in their earlier years and looking for a company that won’t increase monthly premiums as your pet ages. While not all companies will guarantee not to hike the price on your senior pup, some will. To learn more about which pet insurance company is best for your pet, visit our pet insurance comparison.

When Pet Insurance Isn’t An Option

We get it. Pet healthcare is still a luxury for many animal owners in the U.S. While we strongly suggest trying to find a policy that fits your needs and budget, we understand that sometimes, pet insurance is just not an option. Not to mention if your pet already has pre-existing conditions that won’t be covered.

Whether you’re able to cover your pet under a policy, or you just want to keep your insured pup healthy with preventative measures, here are a few tips for taking the edge off rising vet costs.

Start An Emergency Fund

An emergency cash stash can keep you from financial hardship should an accident or sudden illness happen. Set aside money as you can, and you’ll feel less stressed when it comes time to actually use it. You may even want to create a pet health savings account where you automatically save $20 a month “just in case.”

Buy Quality Food

As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” The same is true for your pet. Feed them highly processed foods, and you’ll reap the unpleasant reward from that decision in the vet’s office. Spend a little more on better food, and you’re less likely to pay unwanted vet visits — and pet health bills.

Use Free Clinics

Several times a year, vets may offer free clinics where they nix appointment fees. It’s a great time to schedule your pet’s vaccinations and annual check-ups. If your vet doesn’t provide this service, check with your local Humane Society or animal control; they should be able to offer you a list of available options.

Order Pet Meds Online

For non-life-threatening prescriptions, try using an online pet pharmacy for your pet’s prescription needs. Learn more about safe practices when ordering pet medications online.


This should really be the first item on the money-saving list. By spaying or neutering your pet, you not only save the cost of caring for an unplanned litter of pups down the road, you also don’t contribute to the thousands of animals already crowding our shelters and streets in need of a home.

Also, non-neutered males can develop prostate issues as they age. By neutering your pup, you’re able to beat these odds and not contribute to shelters’ overcrowding. We think it’s a win-win.

Prevention Is Key

We’ve explored why the cost of veterinary care is rising and ways that you can keep your costs down in the event your pet needs medical care. However, whether you choose to cover your pet with insurance or not, the key to a long, happy life with your four-legged family member is prevention.

Regular wellness exams, quality food, and spaying/neutering can go a long way in preventing unnecessary health issues in your pup.

Do you have any vet money-saving ideas to share?

Sources: [1] Pet Life Today, [2] InsuranceNewsNet

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