Dogs offer unconditional love and companionship, which is priceless. But sometimes they get hurt or sick, which can require surgery — and that comes at a cost.
For some people, dog surgery costs aren't an issue, but for most of us, these unexpected bills can quickly derail our budgets. In this article, we'll discuss the average costs of some of the most common dog surgeries and share six options for how to pay for them.
How much does it cost to care for a dog?
The expenses of having a dog go beyond the initial cost to buy it from the breeder, pet store, pound, or adoption agency. Ongoing costs of caring for a dog include food, regular wellness checkups, collars and leashes, and more. Regular vaccinations for heartworm and other diseases are also necessary to keep your dog healthy. Many pet owners also spay or neuter their pets, which are one-time expenses.
According to a recent FinanceBuzz survey, 64% of dog owners pay over $200 per year on routine pet care. While this reflects routine expenses, the cost to own a dog can increase dramatically if your pet gets sick or injured. We all hope that nothing bad ever happens to our pets, but accidents happen and some illnesses are common to certain breeds.
Let's take a look at some of the most common dog surgeries and the average cost for those procedures.
Dog ACL and CCL surgery cost
Average cost: $1,000 to $3,000 per knee
When a dog injures its anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or canine cruciate ligament (CCL), the costs can quickly escalate. Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment may be minor (drugs, supplements, and rehab) or quite extensive (surgery). Common ACL and CCL surgery methods include extra-capsular repair, tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO), and triple tibial osteotomy (TTO). The TPLO and TTO methods are the most complex, which typically results in a higher total cost.
Dog cataract surgery cost
Average cost: $2,600 to $4,000
Cataracts tend to affect older dogs most often, however, some younger dogs can have cataracts too. This affliction can affect a pet's ability to see and harm their quality of life. Surgery may be required to remove cataracts and restore the dog's vision. If your pet requires a brief hospital stay, the price could potentially increase.
Dog herniated disc surgery cost
Average cost: $1,500 to $4,000
When a disc becomes herniated, it may affect your dog's ability to walk and their well-being. Although there are some non-surgical treatments, surgery is often considered the best option to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and restore normal blood flow. Your pet will undergo sedation so the vets can operate on this sensitive area of the body.
Dog hip replacement cost
Average cost: $3,500 to $7,000 per hip
Hip dysplasia is one of the most common canine skeletal conditions. Larger breeds are the most often affected due to the impact of their size and weight and joints. Depending on the age of your pet, different surgical treatments may be used to treat this condition. Surgery for younger dogs tends to focus on repairing the hip socket, whereas a total hip replacement is usually the approach for older dogs. Full hip replacements are generally the most expensive surgery.
Dog intestinal blockage surgery cost
Average cost: Up to $7,000
Some dogs will eat anything. Unfortunately, that also includes rocks and other items that can cause an intestinal blockage. What seemed like a good idea to your dog can turn into pain, bloating, vomiting, and lethargy. If left untreated, an intestinal blockage can lead to death. Removing the blockage includes x-rays, bloodwork, and surgery.
Dog stomach flip surgery cost
Average cost: $1,500 to $7,500
When a dog's stomach becomes bloated due to gas, food, or liquid, that bloat can lead to a stomach flip. This is a life-threatening emergency for dogs because it can prevent food from moving from the stomach into the intestines.
Paying for dog surgery: 6 options
Pet insurance coverage
One of the most popular ways to cover your dog against major vet bills is to purchase a pet insurance policy. These health insurance policies for pets cover many of the medical costs associated with wellness visits, illnesses, and injuries in exchange for your monthly premium. Some policies are charged directly by the vet, whereas others require you to pay the veterinary bills upfront then request reimbursement.
The coverages, deductibles, and premiums vary for pet insurance companies, so it makes sense to compare pricing before making your purchase. Some popular pet insurance companies include Pet Assure, Embrace, and ASPCA.
0% APR credit card
Pet parents who need a little time paying for their dog's health care might want to consider a credit card with a 0% APR promotion on purchases. This allows you to charge the medical care on your card today, and then pay it off over time without incurring interest charges.
Purchase promotions can be a better choice than balance transfers because you can earn rewards on the transaction. Credit cards with longer-than-average purchase promotions include the Citi Diamond Preferred Card and the Chase Freedom Flex. The Diamond Preferred offers a 0% intro APR on new purchases for 18 months, and the Chase Freedom Flex offers a 0% intro APR on new purchases for 15 months. You can also check out our picks for the best 0% APR credit cards if you’re interested in comparing options.
Having an emergency fund large enough to cover three to six months of expenses is a popular financial strategy. These funds are there when you need them to handle unexpected expenses such as home and auto repairs or veterinary care. When something bad happens, you could opt to use your savings to pay for emergency vet bills rather than go into debt to cover the expense. Emergency funds should be in an account that is easily accessible and earns an above-average interest rate, like from an online savings account.
Many veterinary offices partner with financial services companies to offer financial assistance to pet owners having trouble paying the bill. Dog owners often use these companies to cover larger expenses like emergency surgery and hospitalization, the deductible on pet insurance, or treatments not covered by insurance.
Although you do need to qualify for veterinary financing as with any other loan, the approval rates could potentially be higher. CareCredit is a popular choice for vets and pet owners. It offers no-interest financing on charges of $200 or more for terms of six to 24 months. Longer terms from 24 to 60 months with interest rates in the mid-teens are available for larger purchases
Personal loans can be used to cover any expenses, including the care of your pet. These tend to be unsecured, which means they're not attached to any assets, such as your home or vehicle. With a personal loan, you have a fixed payment for a set period of time. At the end of your loan term, your debt will be paid off. Using a personal loan could help you spread out the repayment of the cost of your dog surgery over several years. This makes the cost of any procedure much easier on your budget. If you’re interested in going this route, check out our picks for the best personal loans.
Payment plan with your vet
When you've been a good customer with your vet, it may be possible for it to extend a payment plan. These payment plans tend to be relatively informal agreements, in which you'll pay a set amount each month until the bill is covered. Because the vet is fronting the money for the procedure, payment plan terms might be shorter than what you’d get with a loan or 0% APR promotion.
Not all vets offer this arrangement, and not all clients would be eligible. However, before signing up for a loan that may charge interest, ask your vet whether it offers a payment plan.
What is the most expensive dog surgery?
The cost of surgery will often vary based on your geographic location as well as other factors. That said, emergency surgery to fix a dog’s stomach flip can cost up to $7,500, and a full hip replacement for a dog can cost up to $7,000.
What are your options if you can’t afford surgery for your dog?
When you can't afford surgery for your dog, talk with your veterinarian. It may offer a payment plan or other financial assistance for people in your situation. If it doesn’t offer financial assistance, consider contacting your local Humane Society organization, nonprofit group, or breed-specific organizations to ask about your options. People who live near a university with veterinary degree programs may also want to inquire about low-cost veterinary services that could be a match for your dog's needs.
Is it worth it to get pet insurance?
For many pet owners, pet insurance is worth it for their dogs. Pet insurance works by charging monthly premiums and potentially reimbursing you for both routine and unexpected costs. Additionally, many policies cover wellness visits and vaccinations that can be a substantial cost of pet ownership.
The bottom line
When your dog needs surgery, the cost of that procedure can complicate the situation. You're already dealing with the emotional aspect of the illness or injury, plus the additional financial burden. Fortunately, there are several options available to help cover your dog’s treatment costs and ease your money anxiety.