Vet Blog

Preparing Clients For The Cost Of Veterinary Care

Dr. Kate Boatright
Associate Veterinarian, Speaker, Author - Penn-Ohio Veterinary Services and KMB Veterinary Media LLC
vet tech with family and dog

One powerful way veterinary teams can help decrease the stress of financial conversations is by having them more regularly with pet owners — even before there is a financial strain. Many pet owners are unaware of the costs associated with pet ownership.

A recent survey by Care Credit and Pet’s Best Insurance found that 45% of dog owners and 38% of cat owners thought they were financially prepared for pet ownership and discovered they were not.1 Veterinary clinics should embrace the opportunity to help pet owners understand the finances of veterinary care to minimize the surprise of veterinary costs.

What does pet care cost?

There’s no doubt that pet ownership comes with a certain level of responsibility to provide basic care, including food, shelter, and medical care. Some pet owners may invest hundreds or thousands of dollars in obtaining their pet from a breeder or rescue organization, while others gain a pet from a friend, a family member, or their front porch. Regardless of how the pet joins the family, once there, they require ongoing care.

Annual costs for dog ownership — including medical care, food, and supplies — can range from $1,270 to $2,803, and $961 to $2,487 for cats.1 Medical care accounts for one-third to half of these costs (or $534-1,285 for dogs and $374-965 for cats) for services such as examinations, vaccinations, parasite prevention, and medication.1 For families living on fixed incomes, having information that allows them to budget for pet care costs can help ensure their pets receive needed care.

Adding in a single emergency, surgical procedure, or illness can make these costs rise quickly. One-third of pet owners will face an unexpected expense that causes financial hardship.1 For 25% of pet owners, an unexpected bill of $250 or less will cause hardship.1 While we cannot predict when an illness, injury, or emergency will occur, we can educate owners on ways to prevent these situations, potential costs for common illnesses, and how to monitor for early signs of illness.

An unexpected vet bill of $250 would cause a financial hardship for 25% of pet owners.

How much responsibility do veterinarians have regarding financial education for pet owners?

Many veterinarians commonly discuss estimates to care for sick and injured patients, especially when it comes to diagnostics, surgical treatments, or hospitalization. Costs around preventive care are discussed less commonly.2,3 Since preventive care can decrease the incidence or severity of illnesses, shouldn't we prioritize having these conversations more often?

While it is not the sole responsibility of the veterinary team to educate pet owners on the costs associated with pet health care, we should be active participants in this education. Even if we choose not to actively engage in the conversation, we should, at the very least, be able to direct owners to accurate information. If we don’t, a client's education may come from "Dr. Google" or other online sources that may not be accurate or convey the full value of what we offer.

How can veterinary teams educate clients about cost?

Veterinary teams should identify opportunities to educate clients about preventive care and associated costs, as well as ways to prepare for an emergency, such as by purchasing a pet insurance policy. Topics of conversations that should happen in the exam room include:

  • The anticipated cost for a full vaccination schedule, since the initial vaccination series can be more expensive due to the number of boosters needed, and many owners may not be aware of the frequency of vaccination required
  • Additional costs in the first several months for puppies and kittens, including fecal testing, parasite preventatives, and spay/neuter surgery (which may occur later in life, depending on age and breed)
  • Breed-specific concerns for individual animals, what monitoring pet owners should consider, plus the costs of diagnosing and treating common diseases in that breed
  • Age-based screening tests, such as senior screening blood work, starting as early as one to two years before you recommend starting the test
  • Long-term costs for treating chronic disease up front, including any diet, medication, and monitoring needed, so that owners are fully prepared for the financial commitment if they choose to treat
  • Recommendations for purchasing pet insurance using tools like Pawlicy Advisor as a resource

Veterinary clinics can also consider educating a larger audience of current and potential clients through engaging in online marketing and opportunities in the local community. Here are several ways you can provide education to a wider audience:

  • Utilize social media to highlight the importance of preventive care. Discuss the cost savings of prevention compared with disease treatment.
  • Use email blasts to communicate with clients about preventive care offerings. Consider targeting owners of pets of a certain breed or age to discuss specific recommendations.
  • Offer an interview on pet care to a local newspaper, TV, or radio station. You could discuss a seasonally relevant topic–such as heat stroke in the summer or holiday hazards in the winter–or locally relevant issues, including disease outbreaks like canine influenza or parvovirus.
  • Hold an event at your clinic or participate in a community event and include information on recommendations for preventive care.

Regardless of how you educate pet owners about veterinary care, remember that the ultimate goal is to equip pet owners with the knowledge they need to best prepare financially for their pet’s medical care, both routine and non-routine.


  1. Synchrony. Lifetime of care study. Available at Accessed April 20, 2023.
  2. Kipperman BS, Kass PH, Rensiw M. Factors that influence small animal veterinarians’ opinions and actions regarding cost of care effects of economic limitations on patient care and outcome and professional career satisfaction and burnout. JAVMA 2017;250(7):785-794.
  3. Groves CNH, Janke N, Stroyev A, et al. Discussion of cost continues to be uncommon in companion animal veterinary practice. JAVMA 2022;260(14):1844-1852.

A Team Approach to Financial Conversations in Clinical Practice

In upcoming articles, we will discuss more specific strategies for conversations about pet insurance, preventive care, and emergency preparedness with pet owners.

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Kate Boatright, VMD

Dr. Kate Boatright
Associate Veterinarian, Speaker, Author - Penn-Ohio Veterinary Services and KMB Veterinary Media LLC

Dr. Kate Boatright, VMD, works as a small animal general practitioner, freelance speaker, and author in western Pennsylvania. Since graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with her veterinary degree in 2013, she has worked throughout Pennsylvania as both a general practice and emergency veterinarian. Both in the clinic and outside of it, Dr. Boatright enjoys building relationships with her clients and educating pet owners on how they can keep their pets as healthy as possible. She loves being a veterinarian and educating students and colleagues on wellness, communication, and the unique challenges facing recent graduates. Outside of the clinic, she is active in many veterinary organizations, enjoys running, watching movies, and playing games with her husband, son, and cats.

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