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Why Is Veterinary Care So Expensive?

Animalia explores the sometimes surprisingly high cost of pet care. If you’ve ever wondered how your vet bills got to be so high, read on.


Written by

Animalia Team

why does vet care cost so much

From routine check-ups to emergency room visits, providing for your pet’s medical care means covering lots and lots of expenses. It’s not uncommon for pet owners to find themselves asking ‘why’. Why is vet care so expensive? Some might even ask, ‘why did I get a pet at all?’ after they’ve seen their veterinary bills pile up. 

Vets don’t charge pet owners out of malice. After all, they’re professionals like anyone else and they offer a specialized service. In addition to the costs associated with medicine, equipment, supplies, licenses, and the salaries and benefits of their staff.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons your veterinary costs could end up surprisingly high. 

Medical doctors take a Hippocratic Oath and vets take an oath too. The Veterinarian’s Oath was introduced in 1969 and has been amended twice

The rise in veterinary costs

Over the last decade, the average cost of veterinary care has risen significantly. The average cost of a canine veterinary visit was $137 just 10 years ago. Today, the figure is more than $100 greater, standing at $238. For cats, the average of veterinary visits have gone from $81 to $153 in the last decade. The average cost of veterinary care in the United States rose by 23% between 2010 and 2020. This all ups up to more and more pet owners looking for ways to save on care.

This rising costs can be explained by several factors, including inflation, rising income levels, an aging population, and increased demand for veterinary care. Moreover, the adoption of new and advanced medical treatments has also played a role in driving up pet care bills.

1. More expensive procedures for pets

Technological advances in veterinary care have created new procedures and treatments for pets, leading to both better outcomes for pets and higher overall costs. Digital radiography, a type of X-ray allowing veterinarians to take images of an animal’s organs and tissues, for example. This has made diagnosing and treating certain medical conditions easier, meaning pets live longer and pet owners often pay more.


In some cases, advancements in medicine for humans have led to the evolution of treatments for animals. Stem cell technology, for instance, has been used to create new treatments for diseases such as arthritis and cancer. 

2. Rising pet populations

Rising pet populations have led to increased demand for veterinary services. As more pets are born and adopted, there is a greater need for increasingly costly veterinary care. After all, more pets means more people bringing their pets to the vet.

The demand for care is also driven by pet owners buying more and more expensive breeds of dogs and cats, which often require more expensive veterinary treatments. An estimated 69 million households in the United States own at least one pet as of 2021 and that number is only expected to increase.


COVID-19 brought about a pet adoption boom, seeing millions of Americans break the monotony of lockdown by welcoming home a new dog or cat. A survey from the ASPCA found that a whopping 23 million households added a pet to the family during the pandemic’s first year.

3. Longer pet lifespans

As dogs and cats live longer, they get to spend more and more quality time with their loving owners. Unfortunately, even a relatively healthy dog or cat will present their owner with a world of expenses over their lifetime. According to an American Veterinary Medical Association study, dog life expectancy is now up to 15-20 years old. More time together, means more spending in addition to all the good stuff. Don’t let that keep you from bringing home a new pet, but make sure you’re prepared for the financial aspects of responsible pet ownership.

The nation’s first training program for veterinary technicians was established by the Air Force in 1951.

4. Low awareness of pet insurance and policy exclusions

Pet insurance is designed to help cover some of the out-of-pocket expenses associated with veterinary care for your beloved pet. It provides a kind of financial safety net, offering peace of mind and assurance that you’ll never be totally blindsided by veterinary expenses. Though policyholders are responsible for paying vet bills upfront, providers send out reimbursement on eligible expenses to ensure pet care budgets go further. 


Enrollment remains low, however, as many pet owners are not aware about the potential savings presented by insurance. Some don’t know it exists at all, though a growing number of employers are including it as a benefit for their teams. 

More expenses can come when pet owners neglect to do their research. In some cases, it may be more affordable to purchase a policy through your veterinarian than directly from the insurer. Talk to your vet next time you visit their office with your pet!

Keep in mind that several factors can contribute to the high costs for veterinary care even with pet insurance:

  • The costs of certain speciality treatments may not be covered. It’s crucial for pet owners to thoroughly research policy details before making a selection. This will help maximize coverage and optimize costs.
  • Policyholders are generally responsible for covering costs associated with pre-existing conditions. It pays to enroll pets when they’re young, healthy, and more likely to qualify for expansive coverage. 
  • Certain plans may require policyholders to pay high premiums each month or pay a high deductible before coverage kicks in. 

Need help paying for veterinary care? 

Purchasing pet insurance early and thoroughly researching your options helps ensure you’re prepared to cover the broadest possible range of healthcare costs, get reimbursed for the most possible expenses, and keep your pet happy and healthy for as long as possible.

Get a quote today to learn more about how a policy from Animalia can help you save on the cost of care and do more for your pet. 


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