The Annual Vet Visit Cost: What to Expect Budget Accordingly for Your Pet's Next Check-Up

BY | August 13 | COMMENTS PUBLISHED BY
The Annual Vet Visit Cost: What to Expect
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Annual vet visits are important in maintaining your pet's health for years to come. Learn here what an annual check-up may cost so you can budget before your next visit.

Taking your pet to the holistic veterinarian once a year is a must. These annual check-ups are an opportunity for the physician to give your four-legged friend a once over, and it’s also when your pet will receive its vaccination boosters and undergo certain health tests. These annual sessions are also a great way to seek professional veterinary advice on anything you may have trouble understanding. Moreover, these annual visits will help the vet examine your pet carefully and suggest regular pet medications. 

The vet visit is also when certain conditions, like arthritis, can be identified and given treatment, such as Rimadyl (or Carprofen). So, what does a standard vet visit cost?

These visits play an important role in maintaining your pet’s overall health, and every owner should expect to spend a certain amount on an appointment each year. Here we’ll break down the typical cost of an annual vet visit.

How Much Is a Vet Check-up for a Dog?

For pet owners, the average vet cost depends on what they want out of the sessions. There are four basic types of vet check-ups for dogs: office calls, vaccine boosters, heartworm tests, and fecal exams. Each of these types of check-ups has varying costs (depending on your location, specific vet, dog breed, etc.).

  • Office Calls: $45-$55
  • Vaccine Boosters: $18-$25
  • Heartworm Tests: $45-$50
  • Fecal Exams: $25-$45

Basic Costs

Once your dog or cat is into adulthood, these are the basic services that every pet parent should expect to pay for at the annual vet visit.

  • Office Call: This is the cost of the appointment and physical examination and can vary widely depending on your geographic location and the veterinarian, or clinic, that you choose. The average cost is $45-$55. 
  • Vaccine Boosters: Vaccine boosters are shots administered after the initial dose to keep the vaccine effective. Some of your pet’s vaccinations may require boosters while others may not, but most pets require 2-4 boosters each year. The average cost for booster shots ranges from $18 to $25.
  • Heartworm Test: This annual test checks for heartworm disease, which is a serious and potentially deadly condition caused by parasitic worms. Blood testing for this disease generally costs $45-$50. 
  • Fecal Exam: Fecal exams are performed to identify gastrointestinal parasites, and the importance of this testing as part of the annual check-up has grown significantly in recent years. The average cost falls somewhere around $25-$45.

Additional Costs

Depending on your pet’s age or medical condition, you may need to pay for additional services at the annual vet visit. As per your vet’s recommendations, your pet may have to undergo certain diagnostic tests. 

  • Geriatric Screening: Older pets (typically 7 years and up) will require geriatric screening. This is a more comprehensive exam that may include complete blood work and chemistry, urinalysis, x-rays, and more. The typical cost for this type of screening is $85-$110.
  • Dental Cleaning: A dental cleaning is performed when your vet sees gingivitis in your pet’s mouth or notices bleeding during brushing. Many pets have their teeth cleaned once a year at the annual check-up. This procedure generally costs $70-$400 and will vary for dogs and cats.
  • Allergy Testing: Just like humans, dogs and cats can develop allergies and will typically exhibit symptoms such as itching, licking, and sneezing. If you suspect that your pet is suffering from allergies, your veterinarian may suggest an allergy test. Allergy testing is performed one of two ways -- with an intradermal skin test or with a blood test. Skin testing generally costs $195-$250, and blood testing generally costs $200-$300.
  • Surgery And Other Health Issues: If your pet has to undergo surgery or has other health issues that require treatment, the cost can run into the thousands depending on your pet’s specific issue. 

Taking your pet to the veterinarian once a year shouldn’t be treated as optional -- it’s a necessity. Be sure to budget for the visit along with any additional costs that may arise. If you are having trouble paying for your pet’s annual health care, you may want to look into purchasing pet insurance or a prescription plan for pets, such as PetPlus.

Want to Spend Less on Vet Visits?

Sign up for PetPlus, the first-ever prescription plan for pets. Find out how much a membership will help you save.

PetPlus is a program that makes it easy and affordable to take care of your pet.

PetPlus is a great way to save money on the care of your pet. Here are some of the reasons why you should consider signing up for PetPlus insurance:

  • It provides great coverage at a low cost.
  • You can sign up online or over the phone, and you can use your credit card or PayPal account to pay for it.

With PetPlus, you’ll have access to high-quality veterinary services at a fraction of what they cost at full price—and that includes prescription medications. Your veterinarian will prescribe medications, vaccines, and other treatments as needed, all at no additional charge through PetPlus insurance coverage during their visit with your pet. Moreover, it’s important to ensure that the pet food you use should be of high quality as the market is awash with many fake products that can harm your pets. The high-quality food might be a bit expensive at first glance but will eventually prove cost-effective in terms of keeping your pets healthy and happy for years to come. 

Moreover, make sure you fulfill all the needs of your pets. Pet stores can be a go-to spot for many pet owners, as they offer a wide variety of items to meet any need your pet may have. Pet stores can be found in most shopping malls and are staffed with friendly employees who are eager to help you find the best products for your furry friend.

Common Diseases You Can Avoid Through Your Annual Vet Visits

Parvovirus

Parvovirus is a highly contagious disease that can affect dogs of all ages. It's transmitted by contact with infected dogs or their feces, and it can't be passed from person to person (or from dog to person). 

Moreover, your professional vet can recommend Amoxicillin for cats and Amoxicillin for dogs for this disease. If you do have a parvo-positive puppy or adult dog, you'll need to take some time off work and stay home for about 10 days while your animal recovers. 

You can find a pet pharmacy in your area. Pet pharmacists are well-trained to assist you to choose the best medications for your pet, and they can answer any questions you have about their care. They also stock medicines, supplements, food, and more so that you have everything you need in one place.

Heartworm

Heartworm is a disease that affects dogs and can be fatal if not treated. Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes, and once the parasite has been transmitted to your dog, it will begin to grow inside their body. The worm will grow in the heart and lungs of your dog and cause damage to these organs over time.

Heartworm treatment includes antibiotics for secondary infections caused by the worm, as well as anti-inflammatories for pain relief. A common heartworm medicine is Selamectin; however, there are many other medications available if this drug does not work for your dog. 

Upper Respiratory Infections

Upper respiratory infections (URIs) are a common problem in dogs, often caused by viruses. There may be an accompanying bacterial infection as well, but URIs are typically viral. Symptoms of URIs include sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, and difficulty breathing. The most common causes of URIs are kennel cough (Bordetella bronchiseptica), canine influenza virus, and canine adenovirus type I and II.

Dog owners should be aware that their dog's URI symptoms can also be indicative of allergies or other health problems like heart disease or liver disease. Moreover, using Doxycycline for cats and Doxycycline for dogs with your vet’s advice can help you eliminate these infections. 

Obesity

Obesity is a major health problem in dogs. Obese dogs are more prone to certain diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and orthopedic problems. Obesity can also cause stress on the joints and spine, which may lead to arthritis. 

Obesity can result from a poor diet or lack of exercise. Some owners overfeed their pets because they love them so much that they want them to be “nice and fat,” but this can actually be harmful to your dog's health. There is no particular effective medicine for obesity; however, using products by Hill's Science Diet can help improve the condition and increase the chances of better growth development. 

Allergies

Allergies are a common cause of skin problems in dogs. They can be caused by food, pollen or dust mites, and other substances that your dog is allergic to. Many dogs are affected by different allergens at different times of their lives, causing them to feel itchy, sneeze, and cough often. 

Allergies can be treated with meds that suppress the immune system’s reaction to the allergen, so your dog doesn’t react as strongly when they come into contact with it again. Using Temaril can help you treat allergies of any kind in your pets. 

Facing a Big Vet Bill? 

For many dog owners, paying for vet bills out of pocket isn't always an option. Between the money you spend on their food and toys along with everything you have to pay for just in your own life, a big vet bill can definitely throw you for a loop.

Fortunately, if you are one of the many dog owners being faced with a looming quote or bill that you’re not sure you can afford up-front, there are many options so that you can get your pooch the care they need without having to sacrifice your own necessities.

#1 Ask for a Payment Plan

Vet offices realize that some costs simply aren’t easy to swallow. However, that’s the price we pay to keep our four-legged friends healthy and happy.

Most offices are definitely willing to step up to the plate and work with your budget so that they can deliver the utmost care to your pet without breaking the bank. It’s best to ask beforehand, if you can, to work out a payment plan. However, even after the fact, most offices are more than happy to work something out with you.

For those without pet insurance (and even those who have it), your office may be able to provide a payment plan. This means that, rather than paying everything up front, you’ll be able to pay the bill in weekly or monthly installments that are a bit easier to manage.

If your clinic is registered with ScratchPay or a similar service, they should be able to offer a payment plan to you.

#2 Get a Line of Credit 

In addition to considering a payment plan through the vet office directly, you can also try out a service like carecredit.com that will provide you with the financing of sorts to cover your vet bills.

Basically, the line of credit works like a credit card. You’ll be given a cap of a few hundred or a few thousand dollars, and then any charges deducted from your line of credit can be paid back with time.

They will approve you for up to $2,000 in instantly available funds, so it might be a fantastic thing to look into, especially if you’re being faced with an emergency vet bill that you weren’t planning on.

Keep in mind that while you’ll have between 6 and 24 months to fully repay what you borrowed, failing to pay it back in time will incur a hefty penalty. So long as you pay it back within the promotional period, you don’t have to pay interest.

Since this is a line of credit, it will report on your credit report so pay it back timely and seriously.

#3 Pet Insurance

Similar to the health insurance that you should be carrying for yourself, there are also pet insurance plans that can cover your vet bills with only a deductible coming out of your pocket.

Some pet insurance plans actually offer coverage even if your pet has pre-existing conditions. So, if you have gotten a quote for a treatment or surgery and you know it’s going to cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, it might be worth it to go ahead and sign up for insurance.

As always, be certain that you read the fine print. Some pet insurance plans will not cover pre-existing conditions, and others will exclude certain things from their coverage. When in doubt, call to speak with a representative directly and tell them what situation you’re in.

Also, be certain that the clinic you will be taking your pooch to accepts your pet insurance. You can confirm this with a quick phone call. 

#4 Charitable Organizations

Where you just hit with a big vet bill that you’re not so sure you’ll be able to cover on your own? If the above options don’t cut it, you might consider reaching out to a charitable organization or even setting up your own fundraising campaign.

GoFundMe is among the most popular platforms to raise money for causes, whether it’s the much-needed surgery for your dog or some other treatment that they desperately need but you can’t afford on your own.

Some organizations will also be willing to give donations to cover emergency surgeries and vet bills. A few animal shelters have funds for just this purpose, although not all of them will be in a position to help since they have so many animals to care for on their own.

If you are reaching out to a foundation, consider the Brown Dog Foundation and the Pet Fund because they were specifically established to help people in your type of situation.

As a last resort, it never hurts to ask for family members and friends to pitch in. Explain to them what has happened, how much you need, and how soon you would ideally need it. Bringing your dog along as you ask never hurts either, because who can say no to those puppy dog eyes?

#5 Create a Pet Bill Fund

While this may not be of immediate assistance to you, using your recent vet bill as a lesson to build up a cushion for any similar future instances can prevent you from finding yourself in the same predicament again.

If you don’t want to pay a monthly fee for pet insurance that you don’t foresee using again, you can put some money directly into a high-interest savings account every month in case your dog ever has another surprise vet visit pop up.

How much you put away will depend on your budget, but it could truly make a lifesaving difference next time your dog needs treatment or surgery that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to pay for on your own. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do vet visits cost so much?

You must understand that veterinary practices are also businesses, which means they have to cover their costs and make a profit. Like human hospitals, vets have to buy and maintain expensive machines required for diagnosis. Usually, they also have a laboratory to analyze bloodwork, urine, stool, and tissue samples at the premises so they can provide faster diagnosis. Many vets have surgical facilities like an anesthetic device, monitoring equipment, surgical tools, etc. All of these add up to the costs they charge from pet parents so that they can provide the best possible healthcare for your furry friend.

How often should a dog go to the vet?

Once your dog is one year old, you should take it to the vet for a complete checkup at least a year. This checkup is usually quite comprehensive and is thoroughly checked for any signs of medical ailments or abnormalities. However, you may have to take your dog more than once a year if it falls sick or is undergoing some form of long-term treatment. If you notice any signs of ailment or injury in your dog, you must immediately take it to a veterinary clinic. That way, the vet can examine the dog immediately instead of waiting for its next visit.

Do vets do unnecessary procedures?

Like any other industry, there are veterinarians who try to make a bit more profit so they can cover their overheads. However, not all vets are like that, and most would only suggest a procedure if necessary. This is why it is imperative to choose a reputable and reliable vet. You can read reviews on Yelp or Google left by other pet parents who’ve used the services in the past. That’ll help you choose a vet who is unscrupulous and provides the utmost care for his or her patients.

Do vets charge different prices?

As we mentioned before, vets are running a business, which means they can set their own prices. However, these prices are not hidden and are usually displayed on their websites or at their clinics. Vet charges should not be taken as an indication of the entire medical expense because further tests and procedures can add up to the cost. Surgery costs can vary quite a lot because that depends on the doctor’s expertise. Some vets offer packages that can reduce costs substantially. Also, corporate veterinary practices usually offer better prices because they purchase medicines and equipment in bulk.

Do dogs need shots every year?

Yes, dogs need booster shots every year. These vaccinations protect dogs from various diseases, including serious ones like distemper. Moreover, in most states, you are legally required to keep your dog’s rabies vaccines up to date. You might have to pay a fine if you miss your dog’s rabies shots. Annual vaccines are of two types, core and recommended. Core vaccines include rabies, parvo, distemper, and hepatitis. The recommended list includes Bordetella bronchiseptica, Borrelia burgdorferi, and Leptospira bacteria.

More on Pet Care Costs

How Much Should Neutering a Pet Cost?
How Much Should Spay a Pet Cost?
What Are the Pros and Cons of Pet Insurance?
The Cost of Cat Boarding: Economical to Luxury
What's the Cost to Kennel a Dog?

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis, or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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