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Veterinary Visit Costs

The average cost of a routine veterinary checkup is $50 to $250, according to the pet financing experts at CareCredit. The actual cost will depend on the type of pet, where you live and the services your pet requires, such as vaccinations, blood tests, imaging, medications or other treatments. The most basic veterinary service is an “office visit,” which includes a physical examination and veterinarian consultation to determine your pet’s care needs.

The following chart outlines average office visit charges in major metropolitan areas using Banfield Pet Hospital’s cost estimator tool. This will give you an idea of local pricing, but your vet clinic may charge slightly more or less.

CityAverage Office Visit Cost for Dogs or Cats
San Francisco, Calif.$94
Los Angeles, Calif.$79
New York, N.Y.$75
Seattle, Wash.$75
Chicago, Ill.$68
Denver, Colo.$65
Milwaukee, Wis.$64
Atlanta, Ga.$64
Houston, Texas$64
Baton Rouge, La.$61
Des Moines, Iowa$58
Nashville, Tenn.$58

What To Expect During a Veterinary Visit

Routine Check-Up Exams

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Your pet should visit the veterinarian at least once per year for routine care, which costs an average of $50 to $80 for a cat or dog. Your vet will perform a nose-to-tail examination of your pet and discuss with you any abnormal findings and the benefits of additional treatments. Routine wellness examinations can detect health issues early before they snowball into larger problems. Common examples include:

  • Arthritis
  • Dental disease
  • Lumps or bumps
  • Heart conditions
  • Obesity

Vets often perform other wellness services, such as vaccines, parasite testing, microchipping or geriatric screenings, alongside a routine checkup. As a note, the cost of these services may vary and are not typically included in the price of a routine checkup.


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Vaccinations protect your pet from serious and sometimes deadly diseases that circulate among wildlife or other community pets. Puppies and kittens are most at risk for contracting these diseases because of their immature immune systems, but adults can also be affected.

A vaccine works by presenting your pet’s immune system with inactive versions of bacteria or a virus, so their system learns to fight future diseases. This immunity is crucial not only for pets but also for people since some diseases can be spread from pets to humans.

Most vaccines are administered as an initial series with two or three doses several weeks apart, and your pet is boosted with another single dose every one to three years, depending on the product. A single vaccine dose can cost from $20 to $60.

Vaccination Costs for Dogs

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You can break vaccinations down into core and non-core categories. Core vaccines are recommended, or required by law in some cases, for all pets. Non-core vaccines are recommended only for pets with specific lifestyle factors that increase disease risks, such as socialization with other pets or swimming in natural water.

The average cost of vaccines for dogs is summarized in the table below:


Core vs. Non-Core

Typical Schedule

Average Cost

Distemper, parvovirus and hepatitis combination (DHPP, DAPP and DA2PP)


3-dose puppy series; booster one year later, then every three years

$20 to $60



Single dose at 16 weeks; booster one year later, then every one or three years

$20 to $30, plus license fees



Single dose every six to 12 months




Two dose initial series, then annual


Lyme disease


Two dose initial series, then annual boosters


Canine bivalent influenza


Two dose initial series, then annual boosters


Vaccination Costs for Cats

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Cats require different vaccinations than dogs, and generally receive fewer vaccinations overall. All cats — including exclusively indoor cats — need vaccinations to stay healthy. While vaccines sometimes caused tumors at injection sites in the past, the tumor-causing substances have been removed from modern, cat-specific vaccines.

The following table summarizes the average cost of cat vaccines:

VaccineCore vs. Non-CoreTypical ScheduleAverage Cost
Feline distemper combination (FVRCP)Core3-dose kitten series; booster one year later, then every three years$20 to $40
RabiesCoreSingle dose at 16 weeks; booster one year later, then every one or three years$20 to $30
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV)Non-coreTwo dose initial series recommended for all kittens, then annual boosters only for high-risk adult cats$25 to $45

Flea, Tick and Heartworm Prevention

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Fleas and ticks are not only a nuisance for your pet and in your home, but also serve as vessels that can transmit dangerous diseases, such as Lyme disease or cat scratch fever, to you and your family. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquito bites and live in your pet’s heart and lungs. They can grow up to a foot long, causing inflammation, serious damage and sometimes sudden death.

Diseases that result from fleas, ticks and heartworms can be expensive and difficult to treat, which is why monthly preventive medications against all three parasites — typically combined into one or two separate products — are recommended for all pets. Currently, six months of protection from the three parasites cost around $150 for cats and up to $210 for large dogs.

Dental Care

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Dental disease affects nearly all dogs and cats by 2 years of age, and causes difficulty eating, pain, loose teeth and bad breath. Similar to people, pets need regular professional dental cleanings, although pet cleanings must be performed under general anesthesia. Annual checkups and cleanings are ideal, but some pets may require more or fewer frequent visits.

Professional dental care costs vary depending on disease severity. A routine, preventive dental cleaning averages $300 to $500, but pre-anesthetic blood work, tooth extractions, X-rays or medications may be extra.

Spaying and Neutering

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Spaying and neutering are routine surgeries recommended for most pets to prevent reproduction and reduce cancer and other reproductive health problems. A spay surgery removes a female pet’s uterus and ovaries, and a neuter surgery removes a male pet’s testicles. Sterilization procedures average $200 to $600.

In general, spaying is more expensive than neutering because the surgery is more invasive. Both procedures are less expensive in cats than in dogs. Shelters, rescues, your local ASPCA or low-cost community clinics may offer procedures at a lower cost than private veterinary hospitals.

The following table summarizes average spay and neuter costs for dogs and cats:

Surgery TypeCost
Dog spay package$400 to $600
Cat spay package$300 to $400
Dog neuter package$400 to $500
Cat neuter package$200 to $300

Diagnostic Testing

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Routine diagnostic tests that provide more information about internal health usually round out your pet’s wellness visit. Early organ function changes are generally not detectable on a physical examination, but diagnostic tests will help catch any changes. When compared year after year, annual diagnostic blood and urine tests allow your veterinarian to determine your pet’s baseline and watch for slowly trending values over time.

Typical costs for blood and/or urine tests are $80 to $200 for dogs or cats. Annual heartworm testing, which will run around $35 to $75, is also recommended for dogs.


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Routine medical issues, such as urinary tract infections, allergies, kennel cough or gastrointestinal (GI) upset, are often resolved with medications. Arthritis, thyroid disease or diabetes management may also require long-term medications.

For your convenience, most veterinarians stock medications in-house or provide an online pharmacy store. An independent pet or human pharmacy can also fill your pet’s prescription. Many larger pharmacies provide medications at a lower cost than private veterinary facilities because of their collective buying power.

Below are some common pet medications and their average costs, according to Chewy, a popular, competitively-priced online pet pharmacy.

Cephalexin 500 milligrams (mg)AntibioticTwo week supply$10
Doxycycline 100 mgAntibioticTwo week supply$12
Apoquel 16 mgAllergiesOne month supply$81
Carprofen 75 mg (generic)Anti-inflammatoryOne month supply$38
NeoPolyDexSteroid/antibiotic eye dropOne bottle$16
OtomaxEar medicationOne tube$39
Metronidazole 500 mgAnti-diarrhealOne week supply$5
Vetoryl 10 mgCushing’s diseaseOne month supply$75
Felimazole 5 mgAnti-thyroid treatmentOne month supply$13

Fecal Examinations

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A fecal exam is the study of a small stool sample on a microscope slide, looking for and identifying eggs that would indicate intestinal parasite infestation. These tests can be performed at the veterinary hospital or sent to an outside veterinary laboratory. Puppies and kittens commonly harbor parasites that were passed in utero so they require several serial tests. Adult pets need fecal tests once or twice per year, depending on their exposure level to other pets.

Fecal tests are similar in pricing to heartworm tests, with an average cost of $35 to $75.

Unexpected Veterinary Care Costs

According to a CareCredit study, the average annual pet health care costs — which include expected wellness expenses and sick pet and emergency care — range from $374 to $965 for cats and $534 to $1,285 for dogs. Unfortunately, you cannot always predict your pet’s health needs and certain diseases or conditions can cost extra thousands any given year.

We calculated expected care costs for common pet illnesses and injuries using claims data from several popular pet insurance companies. The chart below outlines costs for common pet illnesses and injuries:

Eye conditions$200–$2,000
GI conditions (inflammation, infections, chronic disease and foreign body emergency surgery)$1,600–$5,000
Broken bone$2,200–$2,400
Dental disease$500–$800
Urinary tract infection$400–$1,050
Feline kidney disease$1,300
Heart murmur or disease$1,100–$2,500
Skin disease, allergies or allergy testing$200–$2,500
Ear infections$850
Cruciate ligament tear (i.e., surgery)$2,000–$5,000
Growths or tumors$300–$1,600

How Breed, Age and Species Affect Veterinary Costs

Your pet’s age and breed, specifically when it comes to dog breeds, will also impact veterinary costs. Generally speaking, mixed breeds are healthier than purebred pets, which are often plagued by genetic diseases or prone to specific breed-related problems. Puppies, kittens and senior pets also require special veterinary care that typically costs more than adult pet care.

Cats and dogs incur similar costs throughout their lifetime, although cats may cost slightly less because they are smaller, require fewer vaccinations and are less accident-prone. However, cats are not necessarily healthier than dogs and may incur significant vet bills for acute or ongoing medical conditions.

Questions To Ask Your Pet’s Veterinarian

If you are looking for a lower-cost or new veterinarian, remember that pricing is set per practice and can vary widely. Plus, your decision should be based on more than cost, as lower costs sometimes equate to corner-cutting. A good veterinarian will discuss total costs with you upfront and provide you with a spectrum of treatment options, allowing you to choose the best option for your pet’s needs and your family’s budget.

Ask your veterinarian these questions to help you budget for your pet’s care:

  • How much do you charge for an office visit?
  • What vaccinations does my pet need?
  • Does my pet need annual diagnostic tests?
  • Which parasite preventives are best for my pet?
  • How can I avoid unexpected pet health costs?
  • Do you offer payment plans for surgeries or other large bills?
  • How can I save money on my pet’s medications?
  • How often should my pet visit for wellness care?
  • Do you offer any promotions or discounts throughout the year?

How To Save Money on Veterinary Visits

Most pet owners consider their pets as family members and want to provide them with the best possible veterinary care. But this is becoming more difficult as vet care costs rise. Budgeting for expected wellness expenses by setting money aside is a good start, but you should also consider setting up an emergency pet fund, opening a pet credit card or purchasing pet health insurance to help cover unexpected costs.

How Pet Insurance Helps with Veterinary Costs

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Pet insurance works similarly to human health insurance, with a few differences. You pay a monthly or annual premium for veterinary care coverage, but most pet insurance plans require you to pay your veterinarian directly and receive reimbursement for the bill later. Major plans cover accidents and illnesses, and many also offer optional wellness and dental coverage. Sliding reimbursement rates and deductible amounts allow you to customize most insurance policies.

One major caveat to pet insurance is that it rarely covers pre-existing conditions, unlike many human health insurance plans. So the earlier you acquire your pet’s health insurance, the more complete their coverage will be over time. You can still purchase a plan later in your pet’s life but will have to continue covering costs associated with any existing conditions. For example, if your pet has cataracts when you purchase an insurance policy, versus developing it afterward, your provider will likely not cover treatment.

Similar to a human health insurance policy, pet insurance premiums rise as your furry friend ages. Premiums may also depend on your pet’s breed. Average annual pet health insurance costs between $350 and $500 per year for a standard accident and illness plan. When you consider unexpected pet expenses, insurance can save you money over time and make healthcare decisions easier.

Accident and Illness Plans

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A good accident and illness plan covers pet injuries, illnesses and chronic diseases — as long as they are not pre-existing. Always read your policy’s fine print carefully before choosing a plan. You should also consider what could happen to your pet down the road and what treatments you’d like covered. Avoid plans with per-condition spending limits or per-condition deductibles.

We recommend that you consider the following coverages when choosing a pet insurance policy:

  • Hereditary, congenital and breed-related conditions: Insurance is necessary for all purebred pets due to the risk of breed-specific diseases, and should be considered for most other pets.
  • Bilateral conditions: If your pet tears a knee ligament on one side, they likely will tear the other. You want to make sure your plan covers both the initial and second incidents.
  • Cancer care: Most plans include cancer care, but may have specific exclusions or limits regarding treatment.
  • Rehabilitation: If your pet has surgery, will the plan cover their post-operative rehabilitation? This is an important consideration so you have coverage for any resulting treatments.
  • Complementary and alternative therapies: If you prefer a holistic approach, you’ll want this coverage for treatments such as acupuncture or laser therapy.
  • Chronic conditions: Check your policy’s coverages for common chronic conditions, such as kidney disease or arthritis. Good pet insurance plans cover long-term conditions without significant limitations.

Accident-Only Plans

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Accident-only plans are not the best option for most pet owners since they do not provide continued coverage for ongoing medical concerns. While these policies may be a good option if your pet has pre-existing conditions, you should focus your coverage on unexpected events like emergency vet visits.

Preventive Care Plans

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Pet insurance is not intended to cover routine wellness exams and costs, which you can instead plan and budget for. If you add a preventive care or wellness plan to your policy, you’ll pay a higher monthly premium, but will have fewer out-of-pocket veterinary expenses.

When evaluating preventive care plans, compare your pet’s typical annual wellness costs to any additional premium charges. You should also consider your budgeting capabilities and if you can put money aside for your pet’s wellness care, which lessens the need for pet insurance with a preventive care add-on.

Is Pet Insurance Worth the Cost?

According to our 2022 pet insurance survey, 93% of pet owners with insurance agree that their plan was worth the purchase price. Most insurance premiums cost a few hundred dollars per year, significant savings compared to several thousand dollars for a pet emergency. Although you may not use your pet’s insurance every year, which means your premiums may sometimes have no return, the monthly premium may be worth the peace of mind. However, you may prefer to funnel that money into an emergency pet savings fund to rely on as needed.

Without pet insurance, you could be faced with heart-wrenching decisions about your pet’s care based on cost. For example, should your pet get cancer, have a serious accident or develop pancreatitis, could you afford the out-of-pocket treatment costs? Pet insurance coverage prevents economic euthanasia, and keeps your pet by your side longer.

Wellness plan add-ons may or may not be worth the expense, depending on the quality of the plan and how well you can budget for routine pet care. Pet owners who prefer to roll pet expenses into one monthly payment, rather than set money aside, may prefer wellness plans.

The Bottom Line

When you bring a pet into your home, you commit to their lifelong care and the best possible veterinary treatment. But, rising vet prices mean that annual and unexpected costs can add up more quickly and leave you struggling or in debt. Pet insurance can offset these costs and provide you with peace of mind and coverage in times of need.

Our team works hard to bring you pet insurance ratings and analyses to help you understand how pet insurance works and choose a plan that fits your pet’s needs and your family’s budget. Learn more about pet insurance costs and the top providers offering cheap policies.


Elizabeth Kowalski holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Illinois and an associate’s degree in veterinary technology from Purdue University. After more than 10 years working as a certified veterinary technician, she chose to pursue veterinary writing, combining years of practical knowledge with a talent and passion for the written word. She has been featured in industry publications such as Today’s Veterinary Business. Elizabeth enjoys creating content for pet owners and veterinary professionals alike, and spends her free time playing sand volleyball and lounging at home with her pitbull, Piglet, and husband, Brenton.


Tori Addison is an editor who has worked in the digital marketing industry for over five years. Her experience includes communications and marketing work in the nonprofit, governmental and academic sectors. A journalist by trade, she started her career covering politics and news in New York’s Hudson Valley. Her work included coverage of local and state budgets, federal financial regulations and health care legislation.


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