As much as we’d like to avoid it, pets may need emergency veterinary care at some point during their lifetime, and that can be expensive — even with the best pet insurance coverage.
To help avoid a financial disaster, take some time to learn how much some of the most common procedures cost, and build a little wiggle room in your budget for an emergency vet visit.
In this guide, we cover:
- How much does an emergency vet visit cost
- What is considered a pet emergency?
- Emergency vet cost
- Common pet emergencies, illnesses and procedures
- How to prevent pet emergencies
- How much is an emergency pet visit FAQ
- Summary of Money’s How much is an emergency pet visit
How much does an emergency vet visit cost?
Pet owners can expect to pay $800 to $1,500 on average for an emergency vet visit, according to CareCredit, a short-term financing service for medical expenses. Initial costs may go towards stabilizing the pet and diagnosing the problem, often using expensive imaging equipment like X-rays and ultrasounds.
After diagnostics, the clinic will draft an estimate of the total cost, half of which is usually due upfront, with the remaining balance settled after your pet is ready to come home.
Here’s where pet insurance comes in: a standard accident and illness policy may reimburse up to 90% of the entire bill. This provides a significant relief for pet owners facing a large vet bill, considering how much is pet insurance. That said, pet owners still need to pay out-of-pocket and then file for reimbursement.
What is considered a “pet emergency?”
A pet emergency is scary, especially when it’s hard to know the difference between a condition that needs urgent care and one that can wait until the vet’s office opens.
Pet owners may be tempted to self-diagnose, use home remedies, or take advice from unknown online sources. Still, it’s best to err on the side of caution and seek a professional, either by phone consultation or driving directly to the clinic.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, these are the signs of a pet emergency, and warrant warrant a trip to the nearest pet emergency room ASAP:
- Severe or continuous bleeding
- Severe or continuous vomiting or diarrhea
- Difficulty breathing or choking, coughing and gagging nonstop
- Abnormal gum color (pale, blue, or yellow tinge)
- Inability to go to the bathroom
- Bloat — swollen belly, panting, restlessness and gagging
- Trauma — car accident, fall, broken bones and open wounds
- Bite wounds and animal attacks
- Possible ingestion of toxin or poison
- Heatstroke — abnormal gum color, lethargy, heavy breathing and seizures
- Hypothermia — shivering, pale gums, sluggishness, dilated pupils, slow heart rate
- Difficulty during birth — labor lasts more than 24 hours or the mom struggles for more than an hour to deliver the next pup or kitten.
- Seizures or sudden collapse
- Eye injury
Emergency vet cost
With most veterinary care, the cost depends on the pet, the severity of the condition, the location of the clinic and how it prices its services. After the initial diagnosis — which can set you back between $100 to $600 — the charges can vary significantly. Treatment for a minor wound won’t increase your bill as much, but hospitalization or an emergency surgery are serious expenses.
How much is an emergency vet visit for a dog?
An emergency visit for a dog can reach triple digits quickly, especially if surgery or hospitalization is needed. On the other hand, diagnostic tests such as a blood panel, X-rays, or ultrasounds cost the same for dogs of all sizes. (See the chart below for more info.)
These are some of the most common dog emergencies and their price range:
- Anaphylactic shock — $500–$1,000
- Bloat — $1,500–$7,500
- Intestinal blockage — $800–$7,000
- Trauma — $500–$4,000
- Stomach issues — $700–$3,000
- Seizures — $500–$5,000
- Heatstroke — $1,500–$6,000
- Poisoning — $200–$5,000
How much is an emergency vet visit for a cat?
We found few differences between emergency visit costs for cats and dogs, except for weight-based treatments and medications, which tend to cost less for cats.
Common emergency issues include:
- Anaphylactic shock — $500–$1,000
- Urinary tract blockage — $700–$4,000
- Intestinal blockage — $800–$7,000
- Trauma — $500–$4,000
- Stomach issues — $200–$2,000
- Poisoning — $200–$2,000
Common pet emergencies, illnesses and procedures
|Procedure or condition||Dogs||Cats|
|Pyometra (infection in female pets)||$1,000–$2,000||$1,000–$2,000|
Emergency clinics treat patients by triage, not by arrival time or appointment. Critical cases are seen first, and relatively stable pets may have to wait longer. Should that happen, be patient and focus on comforting your pet while you wait.
Who to call for a pet emergency
The first person to call is the family veterinarian, and if that option isn’t available, get in touch with the nearest veterinary emergency clinic or animal hospital. The vet or technician won’t provide a diagnosis over the phone, but they can recommend whether it’s necessary to take the pet in and offer first-aid instructions.
For suspected poisoning — ingestion of chocolate or toxic plants, for example — pet owners can call the 24-hour hotline of ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. We also recommend keeping a pet-friendly first-aid kit in your home to be used under veterinary guidance.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, that kit should include:
- Phone numbers of the nearest emergency clinic, your regular vet and the Animal Poison Control Center
- Instructions on how to use the kit
- Gauze to cover wounds
- Cotton balls to treat wounds
- Adhesive tape and non-stick, self-adhering bandages only (don’t use adhesive bandages meant for people)
- Hydrogen peroxide, milk of magnesia and activated charcoal (always check with your vet before administering these)
- Digital thermometer
- Eye dropper
- Muzzle, leash and stretcher to stabilize and transport your pet
How to prevent pet emergencies
Keep up with preventative care
Yearly vet checkups will help keep your pet out of the emergency room. Preventive care includes complete body exams, vaccinations, deworming, heartworm treatment, parasite prevention and pet dental care. Staying on top of annual checkups (and following your vet’s advice on proper courses of action) will help catch conditions early on, and may even prevent a trip to the animal hospital down the road.
Pet-proof your home
Pets, particularly puppies and kittens, are too curious for their own good — that’s part of what makes being a pet owner so fun. But it can also lead to some scary situations.
Potential hazards such as toxic houseplants, medications and cleaning supplies are best kept off-limits. Also, knowing the whereabouts of your purse or backpack can prevent your pet from devouring the last bits of overlooked chocolate candy; a snack that’s toxic for both cats and dogs.
Even pet food can pose a risk for dogs and cats that over-indulge, since overeating can lead to bloat, which is a life-threatening condition. To prevent this, try to schedule feedings twice a day instead of just once, and avoid exercise directly after each meal.
Be mindful of your pet and its surroundings
When pets venture outside, there are other precautions to consider.
For dogs, basic obedience training and using a secure leash and collar with an ID tag can minimize the chances of a car accident. Other considerations include walking during the early morning or late afternoon if the weather’s too hot and avoiding close encounters with other unknown, unleashed dogs.
With cats, outdoor safety is a bit more complicated. Cats can be more independent than dogs and they love to explore on their own, which can expose them to dangerous situations. Some owners opt to keep their cat indoors at all times — especially if they live in a high-traffic area — while others prefer to let the cat roam freely.
To keep an outdoor cat as safe as possible:
- Get a well-fitting collar with an ID tag
- Consider a microchip
- Get them neutered or spayed
- Stay up to date on vaccines
- Bring them in at night
How much is an emergency vet visit FAQ
When is it time to put a dog down?
As heartbreaking as it is, euthanasia may be the most compassionate decision when a dog's quality of life is at stake and there aren't viable treatment options.
A dog's quality of life diminishes as they reach old age, especially if they have a chronic illness. This may look like a persistent inability to eat, drink, sleep and move comfortably, along with general unresponsiveness to their owner and surroundings. Consult your vet if your dog shows any of these signs. The cost for euthanasia starts at $50 and increases depending on your pet's weight and the provider's location.
Do vets do payment plans?
Yes and no. Veterinary clinics don't usually offer payment plans but might make a special arrangement for patients with a long-standing relationship with the clinic.
Officially, vet clinics accept cash, debit, or credit cards and CareCredit, a short-term financing option. With CareCredit, qualifying pet owners can pay large vet bills over six to 24 months, with a promotional interest-free period.
Should I leave my dying cat alone?
Does pet insurance cover surgery?
What to do if you can't afford a vet?
First, try to work out a discount or payment plan with your vet. If that doesn't work out, consider low-cost clinics that are run by local veterinary schools.
You can also seek financial aid from nonprofits and animal welfare organizations like RedRover, The Pet Fund and Bow Wow Buddies Foundation. These are just a few of many organizations nationwide that provide financial assistance to pet owners, with some offering grants of up to $2,500 for veterinary care.
Summary of Money’s How much is an emergency vet visit
Pet emergency care may set you back $800-$1,500 on average, although more complex procedures like surgery will increase the price. Costs vary significantly by case, and most pet owners won’t know the full cost of the visit until the emergency clinic drafts an estimate.
That said, there are a few ways to plan and prepare for these high expenses. Consider pet insurance early on, set up an emergency savings account, or open a CareCredit line to finance pet healthcare expenses. If these options aren’t possible, research nonprofits and animal welfare organizations that might be able to help.
Most importantly, keep up with routine care and always be mindful of your pet’s surroundings.