There’s no NHS for pets. If a furry friend gets sick, your only option is to pay a vet to diagnose and treat your pet’s condition.
But medical treatment for animals isn’t cheap. For unscheduled trips to a veterinary surgery, you’ll usually need to pay a consultation fee, plus the cost of any required medication or surgery. Even if your pet is in good health, you’ll still need to fork out for routine treatments, such as neutering, worming, and vaccinations.
How much is spent on veterinary bills?
According to data company Statista, Brits forked out about £3.8 billion on veterinary fees in 2020. The majority of vets will charge a consultation fee, normally around £40-£60, just to see your pet.
After a diagnosis, treatment fees depend on whether your pet needs surgery, an overnight stay at the veterinary surgery, or short or long-term medication. When the worst comes to the worst, having your pet put down will cost £30 to £50.
What factors affect a vet’s fees?
All UK vets must be registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. But the fees charged by vets aren’t regulated and each veterinary practice is free to set its own price list.
How much you’ll pay depends on where you live, the type and size of pet you have, and the treatment it needs. Expect to pay more for out-of-hours appointments and home visits.
Like any other business, a veterinary practice will want to make a profit. When setting prices, it will also factor in business expenses such as staff salaries, business premises, heating and lighting, equipment, and vehicles.
Typical costs of treatment
Not all vets publish their price list online. Of those that do, most just cover consultations and common treatments, not each and every condition/procedure for every type of animal. This makes comparing fees amongst different vets quite tricky.
The Animal Trust is a not-for-profit vet that displays a comprehensive price list for treatments. Examples include castration (£59 for a cat, £139 for a dog) and spaying (£89 for a cat, £189 for a dog). Fracture repair for either a cat or dog ranges between £789 and £1,549. X-Rays, again for either a cat or dog, cost £289. As a rule of thumb, generally expect private veterinary practices to charge more than this.
ParkVets is based in south-east London. According to its website, it charges £27.50 for a consultation with a veterinary nurse, £55 for a standard vet consultation, and between £160 and £200 for an out-of-hours consultation.
Some vets will charge more for seeing different types of animal. For example, Barrier Animal Care Clinic which has branches in Charlton and Woolwich, charges £71.50 for a consultation for an exotic pet, reptile or bird, against a standard price of £43.85 for an initial consultation.
Benefits of pet insurance
A popular way to cut the cost of veterinary fees is to take out pet insurance. Insurance will cover you against a lot of unexpected pet costs – but it won’t cover everything, and an excess normally applies for each claim. The excess is the amount the policyholder agrees to pay before the insurance policy takes over.
According to industry organisation the Association of British Insurers, the average annual premium for a pet insurance policy stands at £271, while the average claim across all pet policies came to £817 in 2020.
How much you’ll pay for insurance depends on the type of animal, its breed and age. Buying ‘lifetime cover’ while your pet is young is generally a good idea as this will give you a maximum claim limit, per condition, per year.
If you renew the policy every 12 months, the cover resets, meaning any conditions your pet is diagnosed with will be covered for the period ahead. Conversely, if you change pet insurers each year, pre-existing conditions won’t be covered.
Caring for your pet for less
If you’re on certain benefits, such as Universal Credit, you can get free or discounted pet treatment from animal charities such as Blue Cross or the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA).
If your pet needs routine treatment such as nail clipping, worming or weight advice, seeing a veterinary nurse will be cheaper than a consultation with a veterinary surgeon.
Another option to cut costs is to get advice from a ‘digital vet’ online, or using an app. FirstVet and Video Vets Now both charge £24 for a video consultation. However, these services can only offer advice, not prescribe medication.
Shop online for cheaper medication
If your pet needs a repeat prescription for a long-term condition, rather than buy over-the-counter at your vet, it’s possible to save money by shopping around for medicine online. Any retailer you buy from should be part of the government’s Accredited Internet Retailer Scheme (AIRS). Retailers on the list must prescribe the most appropriate medicine for your animal and advise you on how to use the medicine safely.
The cost savings can be significant. Petdrugsonline.co.uk claims to offer discounts of up to 76% on prescription prices, while rival Animeddirect.co.uk offers up to 50% off big brand products.