Understanding the True Veterinarian Cost: Is Veterinary Care Too Expensive?

I’ve combed the Internet to see what America thinks about the state of their wallet at the vet. What do I find? Anger and frustration. From both sides.


This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS, and was last updated on June 19, 2024

veterinarian cost of checking Dachshund

Understanding the Frustration Behind Veterinarian Cost

Wow, I thought this would be a fairly straightforward post to write. Yikes, was I so wrong.

Is veterinary care too expensive? I’ve spent the weekend combing the Internet about what America thinks about the state of their wallet at the vet. What do I mostly find? Anger and frustration. From both sides of the exam table.

Many clients think they’re getting raked over hot coals, like being tortured in an episode of Game of Dog & Cat Thrones. Meanwhile, veterinarians are exhausted trying to do the best job possible for the pet while continually dealing with owners’ financial woes and complaints.

No wonder it’s an angry web of frustration and hostility out there. Both sides have validity. And there is no simple answer.

Anger Management: Addressing Misconceptions About Veterinarian Cost

Here’s a brief example of the public’s anger and misconceptions on the Internet:

  • Public’s View: “…blah, blah…cost $750. Is it too much? It’s way too much for the average person. I know several vet clinic owners who are millionaires…they jack up procedure fees…mark stuff up 400%…they line their pockets and rape customers for whatever they can get.”
  • Veterinarian’s Response: “Hearing no respect for veterinarians is heartbreaking. I’ve practiced for 30 years, been injured several times…the work is hard and nasty…and everyone thinks we should do it for free. No wonder vets now have the highest suicide rate.”

Eek, we’re getting bleak out there. Can we lighten up a little?

The Truth About Veterinarians and Veterinarian Cost

The majority of us do what we do because we love it, in the face of major frustrations about the state of veterinary medicine. Here are some key points:

  • Salaries and Debt: Our salaries are lower than those of comparable professions, and our educational loan debt is often much higher than what is financially sound.
  • Suicide Rates: Studies show that the suicide rate is four times as likely in veterinarians as the general public and double that of other health care professionals.
  • Burnout and Compassion Fatigue: Many veterinarians experience compassion burnout, feeling frustrated when unable to provide the care they know pets need.

Salaries and Profit Margin: The Financial Reality of Veterinarian Cost

Median salaries for veterinarians are less than those in similar professions that require advanced training and expensive schooling:

ProfessionMedian SalaryBusiness Revenues
Dentists$159,00023 percent
Physicians$187,00036 percent
Attorneys$137,00036 percent
Optometrists$110,00029 percent

Keep in mind, I said median salary. Most veterinarians are hard-working professionals paying off student loans instead of a mortgage.

Understanding the True Veterinarian Cost

We can do a lot more for your pets today than in the past, but these advancements come with a price. Here’s what you need to consider:

  • Cost of Care: Discuss the cost of procedures like bladder stone surgery or abdominal ultrasounds with your vet.
  • Options: If you’re uncomfortable with the options or the conversation with your vet, get another opinion.
  • Finding the Right Fit: There are various vets, hospitals, and owners. Find the right fit for you and your pet.

Understanding the Financial Burden of Veterinarian Cost

Veterinary care costs can be a significant financial burden for pet owners. Here are some insights from CareCredit on common expenses:

  • Routine Visits: Regular check-ups and vaccinations can cost between $45 to $55 per visit.
  • Emergency Care: Unexpected visits can range from $800 to $1,500 depending on the severity of the condition.
  • Surgical Procedures: More complex procedures, like dental surgeries or cancer treatments, can cost thousands of dollars.
  • Diagnostics and Tests: Tests such as X-rays, blood work, and ultrasounds can add up quickly, often ranging from $200 to $1,000 or more.

Understanding these costs helps pet owners better prepare for the financial responsibilities of pet care, ensuring their pets receive the necessary treatments without undue financial stress.

So What’s the Answer? Managing Veterinarian Cost

Pet insurance can help manage veterinary expenses, Here; ‘s how:

  • Frequency of Visits: Clients with pet insurance bring their pets to the vet more frequently and go further with diagnostics and treatment.
  • Quality of Life: We care for pets like family members, and insurance helps manage their health needs effectively.

My Prediction for the Future of Veterinarian Cost

  • Pet Insurance: I believe pet insurance will become more widely used and many of the “kinks” worked out. Research policies and ask your vet for input.
  • Corporate Shift: The profession is likely to turn more corporate, with younger vets unable to invest in the current business model.

Who will lose out? You, the pet owner. Veterinary corporations aim to control the market and increase costs, potentially making the money-grubbing comments about the profession more accurate.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How much does it cost to become a veterinarian?

The cost to become a veterinarian can range from $150,000 to $250,000 for a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree.

How much is a veterinarian visit?

A veterinarian visit typically costs between $45 to $55 for routine check-ups, but emergency visits can range from $800 to $1,500.