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The essentials

  • Emergencies can be costly, so it’s best to be prepared — Understanding the cost of common emergencies can help you set up or maintain a proper emergency fund for your pet.
  • There are several ways to finance emergency care for your pet — These include pet insurance, setting up a savings account, or even financing through a company like Care Credit.
  • If you’re not sure that your pet needs emergency care, consider telehealth first — Speak to a professional over the phone or online first. It can save you time and money when assessing your pet’s condition.

As a pet parent, you know that illnesses, accidents, and injuries can happen in the blink of an eye. Getting your pet the help and care they need is going to be your priority. But this can come with some hefty bills.

On average, an emergency exam costs $100-$200, and an overnight stay can cost $1,000-$2,000. And, this may or may not include diagnostic tests. To help make sure you’re as prepared as possible, we’ve put together some information to help you know what to expect and how to save for a rainy day proactively.

What is an emergency vet?

Emergency veterinarians specialize in treating acute or life-threatening injuries and illnesses in animals. These vets typically work within veterinary hospitals or emergency clinics but often consult with general practice veterinarians. 

In some locations, the general practice vet, when working after business hours or on holidays, qualifies as the emergency vet.

Traditionally, emergency veterinary care costs more.

  • Advanced training and skills. These vets are trained in a variety of ways to be able to tackle any emergency that comes their way, from cancer and car accidents to poisonings. 
  • Additional treatments and diagnostics. Many facilities have an intensive care unit (ICU) with oxygen cages and advanced medical equipment, including CT scans and MRIs, that may not be found in a traditional vet’s office.
  • Location. The cost of caring for your pet can depend on where you bring them for care. Regardless, your pet should be cared for by board-certified veterinarians who specialize in different areas of veterinary medicine.
  • Specialty. If your pet needs to see a specialist in an emergency, such as a cardiologist or oncologist, the cost of care will be greater than if they were seeing a general practice emergency vet.
  • Working off hours. These vets and their staff sometimes work nights and holidays. As such, they tend to be paid more than those who work during normal business hours. Plus, operating a facility 24/7 costs more.

The cost of an emergency vet versus a regular vet

The cost of an emergency vet visit varies due to several factors, like location, animal species, breed, size, and the emergency. 

So,  how much is an emergency vet visit? Let’s break down the general cost of treatment.

  • Blood work: $80-$250
  • Exam: $100-$200
  • Standard imaging: $150-$600
  • Pain medicine: $40-$80
  • Hospitalization: $800-$2,500
  • IV fluids: $60-$95
  • Emergency surgery: $1,500-$5,000+

What’s considered a pet emergency?

We know how scary pet emergencies can be and the difficulty a pet owner may have in determining what constitutes an emergency and what can wait. It’s best to be cautious and seek professional medical help via a telehealth consultation or an emergency vet clinic visit. 

However, these are just a few of the signs that your pet should be taken to a vet immediately.

  • Gastroenteritis. Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract can present as vomiting, diarrhea, and low-grade fever. 
  • Poisoning. There’s no one symptom you can use to diagnose poisoning in pets. Clinical signs tend to differ depending on the type of toxin, but it often triggers gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms.
  • Seizures. These can present as whole-body tremors or partial seizures that may only affect one part of the body or present as a sudden onset of rhythmic movements (tremors) or actions.
  • Eye injury. Pus, excessive discharge, cloudiness, bleeding, and excessive eye rubbing can all be signs of an eye issue. 
  • Bite wounds/animal attacks. If your pet gets into a scuffle with another pet or animal, seek treatment immediately. 
  • Bloat of the belly. An enlarged belly can have several causes, including Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus.
  • Severe trauma. This can be classified as any major accident like a fall, a car accident, being hit, etc. 
  • Trouble during birth. If your pregnant dog hasn’t given birth to a pup 2-3 hours after their water has broken, if they’re straining during birth, or if your dog has been in second-stage labor for over 12 hours, seek help
  • Broken bones. X-rays will be needed to diagnose a fractured bone, but your pet will likely limp or refrain from putting weight on the affected area. 
  • Hypothermia. This can occur because of extended exposure to cold environments and can present as shaking, lethargy, and lower body temperature. 
  • Heatstroke. This occurs when your pets’ natural cooling mechanisms can’t keep them cool and, if left unattended, can cause permanent damage.
  • Difficulty breathing. If your pet is experiencing labored breathing or gasping, seek care.

How to pay for an emergency visit

When your pet has an emergency, you will likely need to make a payment or a credit card deposit for them to receive care. The staff at the emergency room should be able to help you navigate your options, but here are some of the most common ways to pay for your pet’s treatment.

Invest in a pet insurance policy

Pet insurance is a growing category, and many mainstream insurance companies are starting to offer it. Like the health insurance you have, there are different plans, but you can expect to pay a monthly or annual premium as well as a deductible. 

The amount of your deductible and the reimbursement you’ll receive can vary between plans and the insurance company you choose. So, you may want to do some research before purchasing to ensure you understand what and how much the plan covers. 

It’s important to purchase pet insurance early on in pet ownership because any pre-existing condition may not be covered. Lemonade is a great option that caters to your needs.

Build an emergency fund

If you don’t want to pay the premiums associated with health insurance or your pup isn’t eligible to be covered for any reason, you may consider building an emergency fund and adding to it regularly. 

Emergencies (and even routine medical needs like dental cleanings) can be costly. Preparing for whatever life throws at you will prevent you from having to make big decisions based on the funds available.

Consider financing options, like Care Credit

 Care Credit is a financing option that will allow you to pay off the balance from your pet’s care over time. This way, the vet’s office will have the funds needed to cover your pet’s emergency care and you won’t be facing a huge mountain of debt all at once. 

However, you must qualify for Care Credit based on your credit score. If you qualify, you will be approved for a certain amount of money which you will need to pay off in a certain time to avoid a high interest rate.

Work out a payment plan

Some veterinary practices may allow you to pay a deposit for your pet’s emergency care, and then pay the remaining balance over time. This is becoming less common as many veterinary offices face clients who skip out on payments. If you don’t pay your bill, then the veterinary hospital will likely send you to collections.

No matter how conscientious you are as a pet owner, emergency vet visits can happen so it’s best to be as prepared as you can. Having a plan in place will help you to feel calm and in control while your pet is getting the best medical care possible. Remember that the medical staff is doing the best they can to help your pet be kind and patient with them.

Frequently asked questions

How much does it cost to get a dog’s stomach pumped?

If your dog has consumed a toxin, poison, or item that they’re allergic to, vets will try to induce vomiting to get the substance out of their system. If that doesn’t work, and all options are exhausted, a gastric lavage may be the best way to help them. 

These procedures require traditional routine diagnostics, blood work, x-rays, and more,  as well as the anesthetic and oxygen therapy used during the procedure. While the exact cost for you will depend on several factors, you can expect to pay $1,500-2,500. 

How much does a vet visit cost near me?

Veterinary costs will vary depending on your location and the number of vet practices in the area. Plus, your pet’s size, breed, and health needs will also play into the final cost you owe. 

How much does it cost for a dog to get stitches?

The type of stitch that your dog receives will ultimately determine the cost. Traditional sutures and dissolving sutures tend to be of similar cost, whereas staples may cost less. However, you must also pay for an exam fee, anesthetic, the procedure and bandage material, and any follow-ups. In total, this could be anywhere from $800-1,000+. 

How often should a dog go to the vet?

This all depends on your dog’s age and health! Puppies need to see the vet once a month until they are 4-5 months old. Adult dogs (1-7 years) usually only need to go once for annual visits (depending on your pet’s overall health), and senior dogs (8+ years) should be seen twice a year.

Is it cheaper to go to an emergency vet than a regular vet for a sick pet?

More often than not, emergency vet visits may cost more simply due to the urgency of the situation that brings you there. While the cost can be slightly higher, the important thing is getting your dog care as soon as you can. Emergency facilities are there exactly for that reason.