How to manage your pet’s veterinary bills

dvm with cat

If it seems like your pet’s veterinary bills are taking a bigger bite out of your wallet, you are probably right.

Pet health care costs are on the rise, much like those for their human family members.  With medical and food costs representing the two largest pet care expenditures, many people are looking for help with their veterinary bills.

Average annual pet care costs

Whether you already have a pet or are thinking about getting one, it is important to add pet care as a line item in your family budget.

While costs vary by species, breed, size, age, overall health, region of the country and other factors, average first-year pet costs range from $1,270 for dogs and $1,070 for cats.

Veterinary-related expenses – including spay/neuter surgery, routine medical care, pet health insurance and miscellaneous medical needs – comprise anywhere between 42%-53% of the total annual budget for dogs and a whopping 59% for cats.

Research pet costs in your area, including the big-ticket items like veterinary services and pet food. Then adjust your budget to better reflect the going rates in your particular community.

Tip: Multiply your total annual pet care budget by at least 10% to leave room for unexpected expenses and flexibility in how you spend your pet care dollars.

Military discounts for pet insurance

You can buy pet health insurance for Fido and Fluffy to help defray the costs of both routine and ‘unexpected’ visits to the veterinarian, including emergency and surgical care.

Plans vary based upon the specific types of protection you want for your pet, how much of a deductible you can afford, the age of your pet, and other factors.

Many pet health insurance companies offer a military discount, but they are often unpublished and available only if you speak with an agent to request it specifically.

Some companies publish military and other discounts directly on their site, and offer reductions for multiple pets, animals that are microchipped, or for applying online.

Tip: Call pet insurance companies to ask whether they have a military discount and how you can get it. Many do not publish these rates or include it only if you apply online.

Financial assistance for veterinary care

There are many excellent organizations that provide grants and other financial support for veterinary care. See our article on help with pet veterinary costs for a current list.

Tip: Ask your pet’s treating veterinarian if s/he offers a military, senior, or other discount. Many practices have discount programs that they do not publicize.

Have a pet plan

In the end, your biggest cost-savings tool is being prepared for both routine and unexpected costs.

This includes budgeting to reflect your lifestyle, your specific pet’s needs, and local costs of living. Have a rainy day fund for unexpected expenses or emergency care, and get into the habit of making contributions to it each month.


  1. Manuel Espinoza

    What is a good medicare plan to enroll my dog in. I am a veteran who has a emotional support dog. My dog is sick, what dog insurance should I get. Can anyone give me some good advice?

  2. Blake

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  4. Terrell Financial Group

    Yeah, if someone considering to get a pet must also consider the finances for it.

  5. Pets for Patriots

    That’s a great point, Randy; thank you for calling attention to the wide range of preventative measures that can improve the quality and longevity of a pet’s life.

  6. Randy Aronson, VMD, CCRT, CVA (pend)

    I think one important item left out of the blog is preventative or integrative care for our pets. We have found in many cases that the correct diet, supplementation, exercise, and training will save our clients many thousands of dollars over the lifetime of their pets. Many times treatment can comprise food therapy, herbs, acupuncture, rehabilitation veterinary medicine and avoid costly surgeries and medicines.

  7. cat insurance

    Pets are very important pet owners. They serve as guard, best friend they are even considered as family members. Thus, ensuring their health is very important. I do believe that pet insurance is worth the cost. It’s similar to the issue of health insurance for humans. You never know for sure if you’re going to use it a lot but if you do then you’re going to really get your money’s worth.


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