How Much Does a Sick Pet Cost?

sick pet, vet costs, pet costs

My wife and I have very different perspectives on when to visit the doctor. She tends to go shortly after the onset of symptoms. I tend to give my body a few days to fire up the immune system and recover on its own as well as avoid the cost and annoyance of having to actually to go the doctor. If anyone in our family does go to the doctor, I have enough knowledge of our medical insurance plan to know how much a diagnostic visit is going to cost. If a procedure is needed that I don’t know the cost, I call my provider and find out before I move forward. That way I know how much my bill is going to be before it even comes in the mail.

But what about when a pet becomes ill?

sick pet

Image courtesy of niamwhan /

This scenario played out in my home on Monday.   One of our cats was unable to keep anything in her stomach, but otherwise seemed OK. She wasn’t hiding and was fairly energetic. My thought was we would keep our eye on her, and assess how she was feeling the next day. If there was no improvement, then we might think about taking her to the vet. My wife, on the other hand, called every vet within a 5 mile radius looking for someone that could fit her in immediately.

With my son and wife visibly upset with the situation, I knew this wasn’t the battle I should choose to fight. I did insist on getting an estimate as to how much a diagnostic visit would cost. When my wife finally settled on an animal clinic, she received a base quote of $303 for a wellness check and blood work to rule out any major illnesses that affect older cats (ours is 11 years old).

By the time we walked out the door, our grand total was $379.50

Here’s the breakdown of our bill:

  • Exam/Office Call: $60.75
  • Lab: Blood Profile, CBC, FPL Test : $242.25
  • Bio-Hazard Disposal Fee: $3.00
  • Anti-nausea injection: $34.50
  • Fluid pack: $39.00

Total: $379.50

The good news is, all the tests showed that our furry friend is extremely healthy. In fact, she seemed to be feeling much better even the next morning. The bad news is, we threw down close to $400 to find out she had a upset stomach. As my wife and I looked over the bill, we both knew it, but not a word was said.

How do you decide when it’s time to go to the doctor? How do you decide when it’s time to take your pet to the doctor?

Brought to you courtesy of Brock

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • I think I am with you on this one. I usually give myself some time to see if I improve in a couple of days with home remedies unless it is a symptom I had never experienced before. If I drop unconscioıus for a while or something drastic like that, I would probably call an ambulance.

  • I’ve had a terrible experience with a vet more than once misdiagnosing but still charging a ton of money. I try to find the symptoms as much as possible to see whether I can do anything about them before taking my dogs to the vet. If I can’t, I will bring the dog in and tell them a VERY detailed description in what happened. That way at least I get my money’s worth.

  • I’ve been in rescue work for 20 years; a parent for 16. I am of the “let’s give it a day” attitude unless I see acute signs. I think it’s educating oneself (like with so much else in life) as to what to look for. Vomiting cats and dogs don’t even raise an eyebrow in our house unless there is blood or other signs of distress. The next time this happens, your wife may be more relaxed. But I’ve been there — thought it may be serious, it wasn’t, I paid the bill. I never regret it. In those 20 years, I once went too late. Believe me, that’s much, much worse.

  • Animals go downhill very quickly because we don’t know they are sick until some time has passed. I do tend to do the “give it a day route” myself unless there are other symptoms. I do have two older cats (8 and 12) and I have them enrolled in my vet’s Silver Whiskers program which is yearly testing and semi-annual check ups and it is honestly not that much more than their yearly exam. It is $275 a pet and includes:2 exams, rabies and distemper shots, blood tests and urine screen. It seems like a lot but they have a baseline every year of the blood work and they also have caught one issue in my older cat already that they were able to remedy before it got bad.

  • One time I had both of my cats very sneezy and somewhat lethargic and with low appetites. I took them both in, they looked them over, and basically said that it was likely a virus, it would pass, and that I just needed to watch them to make sure they didn’t show signs of it spreading to their lungs. Sure enough, a couple of days passed and they were fine. What made me shake my head was not that I went to get things checked out, because it had definitely been a few days already when I went, but why it didn’t occur to me to just take one in the event that it was a ‘just let things run their course’ diagnosis. As it was, I had to pay for two office visits. Ugh!

  • I prefer to wait before going to the doctor, because some sickness actually only requires you to have a rest. If only after a couple of days I don’t feel better, then I’ll go to the doctor. I do the same with my pets. Nevertheless, your cat is quite old, so if I were you I think I’d be as worried as your wife…

  • “I knew this wasn’t the battle I should choose to fight.” LOL. Wow that is expensive for one visit. Good to call ahead though and understand what it was going to cost. I usually just suffer the sticker shock.

  • @TPOL – Well, if you drop unconscious I hope someone else is around to call the ambulance for you! LOL. The human body is a wonderful thing…most of the time it can heal itself. My philosophy is that if the body shows signs that it needs help healing (after not being able to do so on it’s own), then go to the doc. Otherwise, body heal thyself. thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • @Caroline – I agree, going too late is much worse. Which is why I would never, ever contemplate saying anything regarding spending $400 for an upset stomach. My way would work 100 times, but on that 101st time….yikes. No good for anyone.

  • @MoneyBeagle – I feel your pain…both cats have to go back soon for checkups and shots. At least the vet said the one that was brought in will not need another wellness check….

  • @Suburban Finance – That was one of my thoughts too…..they re “senior” cats, so they are much more at risk for some major illnesses. I’ve never had full bloodwork done on a pet before though….so that was interesting.

  • @May – It was definitely better to at least know what we were getting ourselves into and make the conscious decision together. As far as picking my battles..I’ve been married for 18 years – I’ve learned to pick up on which ones I may have a chance at winning. 🙂

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