Having a regular vet for your dog’s care is an essential part of pet ownership. But what happens when you have an emergency on a Friday or Saturday night?
Most vets keep regular hours, such as 8 am to 5 pm, meaning you need to seek emergency care for issues that occur outside of normal hours. Fortunately, many regions have emergency vet clinics that handle critical care for pets, but it often comes at a higher cost than regular vet visits. Depending on what care your dog needs, emergency vet trips can cost between $100 and $5,000. Find out how much emergency vets cost for dogs this year.
The Importance of Emergency Vets
By their nature, dog emergencies are unpredictable. As pet parents, we do our best to limit these situations, but dogs can still find themselves in harm’s way. Dogs may get into hazardous situations on their own, such as eating chocolate from the counter or consuming a box of tampons that cause an intestinal obstruction. They may also experience a critical condition, such as bloat or a broken leg, requiring immediate veterinary care.
Emergency vet clinics exist for just such scenarios, much like emergency rooms for human medicine. Not every critical veterinary situation will occur during the convenient open hours of your regular vet, and not having access to veterinary care could mean the difference between life and death for your dog.
How Much Does an Emergency Vet Cost?
In general, emergency vet visits and procedures are at a higher cost than your regular vet. These facilities are typically 24/7, maintain a staff of specialists, and have a full lab with diagnostic and surgical equipment. The higher costs of services reflect the overhead.
The cost of your dog’s visit can also vary according to the size of your pet (since most medications are weight-based) and any other complications. The cost can vary according to your geographic location as well.
|Short hospitalization (1–2 days)
|Long hospitalization (3–5 days)
Source: Emergency Vets USA
The prices range according to the type of treatment and the specifics of the case. These prices are intended to provide a general range and not necessarily the exact pricing breakdown of the clinics in your area.
Typically, emergency vet clinics will provide a price estimate for your different treatment options, with both the low-end and high-end estimates.
Additional Costs to Anticipate
Like human emergency rooms, emergency vet clinics are intended to treat critical cases and get your dog stable, out of risk, and out of pain. Unless your dog is hospitalized, you may be advised to follow up with your regular vet for an exam and continued treatment.
Several costs can add to the overall price of your emergency vet visit, however. Medications, supportive care, office fees, and complications can all add to the price. Your price estimate will likely include a breakdown of different costs.
How Often Should I Visit an Emergency Vet?
Emergency veterinary care isn’t part of your dog’s regular veterinary care. If you’re lucky, you may never have to visit an emergency clinic for your dog. This is rare, however. Most pet owners have been to an emergency clinic at least once for their pets.
Does Pet Insurance Cover Emergency Visits?
According to Allstate, many pet insurance plans help with emergency vet visits. Pet insurance is designed to help with the costs of high unexpected veterinary bills, such as illness, poisoning, and accidental injury.
The specifics of the coverage and policies vary according to your insurance, however, so it’s important to understand what you can expect if an emergency occurs. For example, pet insurance may cover surgery if it occurs because of an accident, such as a broken bone, but not an elective surgery when other treatment options are available.
Pre-existing conditions are typically not covered by pet insurance. So, if you get insurance after a diagnosis and your dog needs emergency treatment related to that condition, it may not be covered.
It’s important to note that pet insurance typically reimburses the pet owner for a percentage of the covered expenses. You need to pay upfront yourself, then wait for reimbursement. Some insurance policies have a deductible as well, which is an amount that you pay out of pocket before any coverage is applied. Many insurance policies also have policy limits or a maximum amount the policy will pay.
How to Pay for Your Dog’s Emergency Vet Visit
Emergency vet visits are a stressful time, not only for your concern for your pet but your concern over the costs.
As mentioned, the emergency clinic will likely provide you with an estimate of your dog’s treatment plan and options. Most clinics will expect you to pay 50–75% of the estimated bill up front, prior to treatment, then the remainder when the treatment is completed. If the treatment cost is below what you’ve paid, you’ll be refunded the difference.
In some situations, treatment may be ongoing. For example, a dog that was hit by a car may need hospitalization and multiple surgeries spaced out over time. This spreads out the financial burden, but it’s likely to be higher overall.
If you don’t have pet insurance, dealing with a high bill can be overwhelming. You have the option to pay your bill with cash, debit cards, credit cards, or checks with most clinics. Another option that many clinics have is Care Credit, a financing option that helps with medical bills and veterinary bills, like a veterinary credit card.
With Care Credit, you can apply online for the cost of your dog’s estimated treatment. If you’re approved, Care Credit pays up front and you have a payment plan—with interest—to pay it back over a few months. Once approved, you have this payment option for future veterinary visits.
Finally, if you’re unable to afford the cost of treatment, ask the emergency vet about your options. You may be able to lower the cost with options like choosing generic medication, transferring your dog to your regular vet for ongoing care, and more. It never hurts to ask!
In a perfect world, your pet will never get hurt or need veterinary care outside of your vet’s normal office hours. The world isn’t perfect, though, and that’s why we have emergency vet clinics to handle critical situations with our dogs. Though the costs can be high, having the option of an emergency clinic can mean the difference between a positive or negative outcome for your dog.