veterinarian treats a cat with FIV once the owners have okayed the costs

Vet Bills in Australia Are Expensive – True or False?


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Are vet bills expensive in Australia? Many pet parents will readily nod their heads if you ask them this. When comparing vet prices with doctor’s or dentist’s fees, they can be similar. However, no need to panic – remember, pet health insurance can help with vet bills just like human health insurance, by covering a considerable portion of the medical costs.

But what’s behind these costs… and are they really all that high?

If you’re getting a pet or have one already it’s a great question to ask. It’s like planning to have a kid. You want to be sure you can pick up the hospital tab when needed. In this article PD uncovers the real costs behind vet bills so you can balance your knowledge bank.

Are vet bills expensive for our fur kids?

When you think of what it takes to bring a child into this world, there’s often the associated cost of giving birth with medical staff by your side. The spending on their health continues from there. For example, there might be some hospital stayovers and even surgery in a child’s life. Yes the costs are significant, but your child’s health is of greater value.

For many people, our pets are our babies too. Like humans, our pets are made of flesh and blood. Therefore it takes the same level of skill to fix them when they’re injured or ill. Like a doctor, a vet has to spend years training to make that incision, take an x-ray or perform a life-saving operation.

We buy our pets for a fee, even if we’re adopting from a rescue centre. But that doesn’t mean medical care is based on that fee. Medical care, for humans and pets, takes a very defined skillset. Of course, it also takes highly specialised equipment.

a family with a baby daughter sit on the grass with their pet cat

Understanding vet expenses makes a difference

Are vet bills expensive in Australia as much as they are worldwide? To answer this we need to understand what’s involved in the costs.

In most first world countries, when you visit the doctor, dentist, optometrist or ENT, you’ll go to different people for each of these specialities. They’ll each have their own practice, or they might all be in the same hospital.

When you go to the vet, you’re also going to a fully-decked-out hospital. It might be smaller, but it needs to cater to a similar range of health conditions that a doctor, dentist and every other specialist sees to. You’re not just visiting a vet you’re visiting a specialist. In most cases, you can see any of these veterinary specialists under one roof.

But veterinary training to become a specialist doesn’t end there. Like any industry that relies on science and technology, veterinary treatment is always advancing. There are lifesaving treatment methods available today that just didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago.

Vets don’t just wake up knowing how to perform these. This means that over and above the base costs of training to become a vet, there are continued education costs along the way and these don’t end. As Australian Small Animal Specialist Surgeon Abbie Tipler writes:

As hardworking individuals, we go in into the profession optimistic and hopeful about saving lives. In fact we pay thousands of dollars to train to do just that. Veterinary specialists (similar to a human specialist) pay even more for training.”

When you’re paying your vet bill, it might seem expensive. Though not when you understand how expensive it is to become a vet and continue upskilling – they’ve spent a ton of money to be where they are, looking after our dogs and cats with the necessary level of expertise.

Then there’s the ongoing clinic costs…

veterinarians treat a German Shepherd after the owner compares the vet prices and gives the go-ahead

Are vet bills expensive when it’s a hospital?

Not only do vets need to have this expert knowledge but they also need to have all the same equipment. A vet clinic is literally an entire hospital under a single roof. It has the equipment to extract teeth, take X-rays, perform surgery and more. When you pay your vet bills this is where much of the money is channelled into.

Are vet bills expensive in Australia? When you look at it this way, then maybe not. Yes, it might be a burden paying them, but that’s what (pet) family planning is all about.

As Dr Cath Watson explains in our vet vlog, only about 20% of the vet costs you pay actually go towards paying salaries. These are the salaries of veterinarians, vet nurses, vet receptionists and more:

Compare vet prices to doctor’s fees for the big pic

If you’re still asking ‘are vet bills expensive in Australia?’ another way to look at it is to compare vet prices to doctor’s fees. No one loves thinking about GP or dentist bills. But thankfully there’s Medicare and PBS (the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) to carry some of the treatment and medication costs.

On the other hand, there’s no such thing for pets. Yes, we love them and they’re central to our existence and well-being. But keeping them healthy and safe is squarely on us and our pockets. Sadly, it ain’t subsidised.

When you look at it this way, it helps uncover what’s really happening with vet costs. Vets are simply trying to keep pets healthy. That’s the reason any person becomes a vet, after all. They’re not the guys taking your money. The actual cost of doing the work they do is where the major costs are involved.

Those costs need to be covered so that they can treat our pets.

Pet owner expectations need to be realistic

Sadly, pet owner expectations can sometimes be painful for vets. Like doctors, vets are hoping to keep their clients safe and healthy. But sometimes a disease is beyond their control. This hurts you, your pet and them. No vet wants to see an animal suffer. Least of all someone who dedicates their life to animal wellbeing.

The best times are when they can heal your cat or dog. But sometimes the costs are too high for pet owners to accept and this might mean euthanising pets (here’s more on putting a pet to sleep). Being in a position where you know how to help an animal recover but aren’t given the freedom to do what you’ve practised can be a bitter pill to swallow.

Is the vet really to blame?

This sort of challenging health situation is hard on your pet, it’s hard on you, but it’s also hard on your vet. Explore how pet health affects vet mental health when you’re pondering the ‘are vet bills expensive’ question.

Even when owners consent to costs, some have been known to blame their vet for the costs involved. Vets routinely get blamed for the financial pressures pet owners face to fix their pets. Vets can’t pay to fix our pets (that’s like asking the supermarket to pay for your groceries).

Even though they have the equipment and skillset, they aren’t your pet’s parent. They have a job to do, costs to cover and a household to maintain. There are ways to get help with vet bills if you plan in advance. Find out more on how to plan for vet bills and other pet care costs in Australia.

a couple wonders if vet costs are expensive while waiting in the vet clinic reception area with their pet dog as they don't have help with vet bills

Compare vet prices based on your breed

When you research your pet to be (or the pet you have) specifically take time to find out about what that breed is prone to. Compare vet prices that people normally need to pay for their breed of choice. There are more than 600 known genetic conditions that affect dogs alone. Often these are carried in particular breeds.

So if you buy a Pug or French Bulldog for example, they’re likelier to incur vet bills for brachycephaly. Allergies tend to be common in Siamese cats whereas Ragdoll cats often have oral health and gut conditions. UTI in dogs is more prevalent in female dogs and certain breeds whereas pet obesity (which can quickly lead to diabetes and heart conditions) is often seen in the Labrador Retriever.

The French Bulldog is the cutest breed you could ever meet. I have a special interest in treating them. The reality though – they are bred for the cute squishy faces and not for health. In fact, things have got so bad, some may say they are virtually incompatible with life. 

– Small Animal Specialist Surgeon, Abbie Tipler

These are just some health conditions that can occur based on your pet’s profile and only some of these are genetic. This is why it pays to be prepared. Do your research when choosing a pet and plan financially. Compare vet prices and get a clearer understanding of the benefits of pet health insurance for a softer landing.

You should also learn about the difference between hereditary and congenital conditions in pets so you know what to expect. Remember too, comprehensive pet health insurance covers most illness and disease treatments unless you get cover after the condition starts. Because that’s when it’s considered to be a pre-existing condition.

See our snapshot of more common dog health problems by breed.

pet health insurance is a must for potential pet Christmas mishaps since vet bills can be an expensive cost unless planned for

How can pet health insurance help with vet bills?

While there’s no Medicare for pets, thankfully there is help with vet bills (whether you’ve answered yes or no to your ‘are vet bills expensive’ question). Pet health insurance is simple and affordable and it’s designed to give your pet and your pocket a soft landing.

Insurance for pets hasn’t always existed and not every pet owner knows about the benefits. It’s just like car insurance – you pay a bit each month – and if your pet gets sick or injured then your policy steps in to help cover costs. This can include surgery, hospitalisation, x-rays, blood work, non-routine vet visits and much more.

Considering the emotional value pets have, you could say pet insurance is priceless. Thankfully it’s actually really affordable. Buy your plan from PD Insurance online and we’ll give you your first month free.

Click below to get a quote and a whole lotta help with your vet bills.

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