You want to give your dog the best care possible, but it can be hard not to do a spit take when your vet hands you a price estimate. Dog surgery costs can range from $600 to $6,000 (or a lot more), depending on the type of procedure and where you have it done. The good news is that you can still provide your dog with the treatment they need while saving a few hundred (or even thousand!) dollars. How? I’m about to let you in on eight tricks for reducing your dog’s surgery costs, because we don’t gatekeep here.
1. Comparison Shop
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with calling different hospitals to collect quotes for the surgery. Prices can vary significantly from hospital to hospital. Just be forewarned that they might need to see your dog in order to give you an accurate estimate.
2. Call a Teaching Hospital or Veterinary School
If you have a veterinary school or teaching hospital nearby, it’s worthwhile to contact them for pricing. Many have student training programs with reduced costs in exchange for providing the students with hands-on experience.
Of course, every procedure is closely supervised by attending doctors, but the great thing is that you get a cheaper surgery, all while helping to shape the future of veterinary medicine. That sounds like a win-win to me.
3. Ask About Discounts
Some veterinary hospitals offer discounts for seniors, veterans, nurses, teachers, etc. They don’t usually announce these discounts but will apply them if you ask and qualify.
4. Ask About Payment Plans
Similar to discounts, some veterinary hospitals offer payment plans but don’t necessarily advertise that they do. This is more common with privately owned places versus corporate-owned ones, and often, you have to be an established client with the hospital, but it never hurts to ask.
Many animal hospitals have a relationship with CareCredit, a medical-emergencies credit card company, and offer no interest for a period of time on certain expenses.
5. Combine Procedures
If you know that your dog needs more than one surgery done, you can save a lot by combining procedures. For example, let’s say they need their cruciate ligament repaired, but you’ve also been warned that the growth on their side should be removed at some point before it gets too big. Bam — do them at the same time!
You can expect to pay more upfront for both procedures, but it’ll save you money in the long run because you won’t have to pay for anesthesia or pre-anesthesia bloodwork twice. Your dog also won’t need to go under twice.
Depending on the surgeon, surgery, and your dog’s health, they might suggest against combining procedures for safety reasons. Always go with your vet’s recommendation because they know your dog’s medical history.
6. Time Blood Work Strategically
Pre-anesthetic blood work is always recommended before any surgery, but you’ll want to make sure you time it right. Most veterinarians will want it done within two weeks of the surgery, though that window can vary.
Regardless, if you take a few weeks to figure out your plan and gather funds, you might need to have it done again. Talk to your veterinarian about timing, and make sure you’re not paying to run blood work twice. That can save you $75 to $400 right there!
Insider tip: Generally, sending the samples out to a reference laboratory will be less expensive than your hospital running it in-house (if they have an in-hospital lab). Plus, you’ll get more comprehensive results.
7. Contact Funds for Veterinary Financial Assistance
Depending on what type of surgery your dog needs, there might be a non-profit organization that can help you with the surgery cost. Some are specific to dogs with cancer, senior dogs, or have income qualifications. There are several organizations like this out there, but here are a few to get you started:
- Magic Bullet Fund: Assists with costs for dogs and cats with cancer.
- Live Like Roo: Offers financial assistance for pets with a cancer diagnosis.
- Brown Dog Foundation: Provides financial assistance for life-saving veterinary care.
- The Mosby Foundation: Assists limited-income pet parents with care costs.
- The Pet Fund: Provides assistance for non-basic, non-urgent veterinary care.
- Frosted Faces Foundation: Assists families with funding for senior pets.
8. Try Fundraising
Online fundraising for major veterinary expenses is a lot more common than you might think. I’ve seen several veterinarians share or even create GoFundMes for their patients’ surgeries. You’d be surprised at how many people you know — or maybe don’t even know! — will be moved by your pet’s story and want to help.
How to Discuss Cost Concerns With Your Veterinarian
Talking about money can be incredibly uncomfortable, but trust me when I say that your veterinarian has their own financial worries. In no way are they going to judge you or your finances.
They simply want to help your dog get better, and in order to do that, it’s important that you’re open and honest about what your budget looks like. That way, together, you can come up with the best solution for your special pup.
Use some or all of these phrases when you’re in the exam room to help advocate for yourself — and, by extension, your pup.
- If we have the surgery, what are the chances [dog's name] will have a solid quality of life — and for how long?
- I agree that [insert surgery here] would be the best thing for [your dog’s name], but I’d like a price estimate breakdown before we proceed, please.
- Does your hospital offer discounts or payment plans?
- I want to do everything I can for my dog, but this procedure is simply out of my budget. What other options do we have?
- Today, I have [insert amount] dollars available. What can we do within that budget until I have the funds for the surgery?
- I’ll have [insert amount] dollars available on [insert date]. Could we wait for surgery until that day?
- Do you know of any local organizations that could help me with financial assistance for my pet’s care?
Get the Surgery They Need at a Lower Price
When your dog needs surgery, you don’t want to delay any longer than you need to. With these tips, you can help cut down on the price while still giving your dog the care they need. Work with your veterinarian, and don’t be afraid to apply for financial assistance if you need help with funds. You deserve to care for your pet without stressing about the price at an already stressful time.