Don't Let the Emergency Vet Care Break the Family Bank

Prior to bringing a pet into your family, it is imperative that you can afford the regular veterinary care and other yearly expenses. Are you considering, or have you recently added a four-legged family member? Have you accounted for the purchase of quality food, vaccinations, monthly flea/tick/heartworm prevention, yearly exams, grooming costs, bedding, crates/cages, and most importantly toys? If you have, then the next logical step is to put some thought into emergencies. Unfortunately, not being prepared to care for your dog or cat in the case of an emergency can lead to dire outcomes.

Average Emergency Veterinary Costs

The cost of emergency veterinary care can be downright shocking, particularly if you are a first-time pet owner. Often an emergency situation will occur when your regular vet is closed for the day or on a weekend, and you will have to resort to visiting an after-hours emergency veterinary hospital. There is, of course, a premium attached to that service and full payment is usually required at the time of service. For perspective, here are some examples of actual regular hour emergency vet costs:

  • Cat bite abscess (cat): $1,250
  • Hit-by-car (dog): $5,600
  • Urethral obstruction (cat): $2,700
  • Toxin ingestion (dog): $6,500
  • Heatstroke (dog): $4,200
  • Gastrointestinal foreign body surgery (dog): $3,275
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (dog): $3,000
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis (cat): $4,600
  • Back surgery for ruptured disc (dog): $5,600

Also, during an emergency, diagnostics may cost upwards of $2,000 and necessary overnight and ICU stays can be many times that figure.

So, We Shouldn't Get a Dog?

You should absolutely get a dog, or a cat, or a hamster for that matter, but you need to be aware of potential hazards and pitfalls and most importantly be prepared. First, you should know how to avoid potential emergencies. For instance, it is important to stick to a puppy's vaccination schedule and not expose him to unknown dogs until he is fully vaccinated, usually 13-14 weeks, this is the same for kittens. Another concern for cats, in particular, is exposure to essential oils. If you plan to bring a cat into your home, did you know that many essential oils that you may already have in your home can be toxic to cats? The best way to avoid accidental illness with your pet is to be as informed as possible. Do your research and take precautions.

Preparing for the Worst

What if you bring a pet home, read everything under the sun about how to keep him healthy and safe, do the preventative veterinary care and he gets sick or injured anyway? There are a number of ways to be prepared:

  1. Pet Insurance: Depending on the age of your pet, pre-existing conditions, and your ability to pay a monthly premium, pet insurance can be a smart choice. A few things to look for in a pet health plan are, claims are paid to the vet not out of pocket reimbursements, claims are paid for actual cost not insurance company defined rates, and monthly premiums do not increase with use.
  2. Care Credit and Wells Fargo offer lines of credit to pay for veterinary care. It works similar to your regular credit card, but you will have a certain amount of time to pay it back without interest. This is a wonderful option, however, the interest rate hikes and penalties for late or missed payments can be brutal.
  3. Savings Accounts designated for emergency vet care are a good idea in theory. If you are disciplined and can budget a certain amount to contribute every month, and not dip into it if you come up short in other areas, then it can work.

Adding an animal to your family can be a joyful experience and a guaranteed source of happy memories, but it is an emotional and financial commitment that requires preparation.