Understanding the Cost of Veterinary Health Care

Mar 4, 2024

Inflation and price increases have been seen across many Canadian businesses throughout the past few years, and the veterinary medicine profession is, unfortunately, no exception. The rising cost of veterinary care is due to many factors including rising costs of goods and services, increasing demand for care, and a shortage of veterinarians and registered veterinary technologists.

Costs associated with veterinary care help ensure animal owners have access to high levels of care they expect for their animals; provides training and ensures the well-being of veterinary teams; and safeguards sustainability of businesses to provide veterinary services in the long term. It is important to understand the components of veterinary care when evaluating the costs associated with it.

  • Pet owners understandably expect to receive the highest levels of care for their animals, leading to the adoption of advanced technologies and medical techniques in veterinary practice. These advancements enhance diagnostic accuracy and treatment efficacy, but they also come with increased operational costs.
  • Many medications, instruments, and supplies used in veterinary medicine are the same as those used in human medicine, and shortages in the human medical industry have resulted in rising costs to veterinarians.
  • Veterinary medicine is experiencing the effects of inflation as seen by other industries since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Rent, utilities, medications, supplies, pet foods, and labour costs have all increased.
  • There are several costs associated with fees for any given medical procedure or surgery. For example, fees for an abdominal ultrasound include costs associated with the purchase of the ultrasound machine, maintenance costs, interpretation of results by a veterinary radiologist (who may have over a decade of education and associated student debt), technicians tending to an animal during the procedure, and medication and supplies used for sedation.
  • Increased demands for specialized veterinary services necessitates more extensive training and expertise of veterinary professionals. This advanced level of specialization contributes to increased labour costs, which are ultimately reflected in the overall cost of veterinary care.

Within Canada, veterinary associations provide fee guidelines and veterinarians adjust prices based on the region, level of care, and other factors with most clinics setting prices within a fairly standard range. As with any good or service, animal owners should be cautious of prices that are significantly below average.

Animal owners can take steps to help mitigate effects of rising costs of care. These include:

  • Purchasing pet insurance. While not the right option for everyone, pet insurance can help spread costs of care over many smaller payments and can provide a buffer in emergency situations. When shopping for pet insurance, it is important to check what it includes, paying special attention to per-year or per-condition maximums, co-pays, and deductibles. Remember that pre-existing conditions will not be covered, and insuring animals young is generally less expensive.
  • Practicing preventative care. Keeping animals in good body condition, well exercised, with good nutrition, vaccination, parasite control, and other preventative healthcare will minimize health issues. Diagnosing diseases early through the use of preventative medicine will allow treatment when diseases are less severe (and often less expensive) rather than paying higher costs of emergency care.
    • Large animal owners can help reduce costs by being organized in advance of a farm visit with proper handling and assistance.
  • Budget for upcoming veterinary care needs. Look into costs of veterinary care in your area, especially for the species and breed of your animals. Plan to save enough money each month, if possible, to provide necessary levels of routine annual care.
  • Payment plans may be offered by some veterinarians but are often more readily available through pet financing companies; it is increasingly difficult for veterinarians to manage the large accounts receivable associated with in-house payment plans.

In addition to increasing costs of veterinary care, there are challenges regarding access to care because of the veterinary shortage. We recommend animal owners develop a relationship with a local veterinarian and follow preventative healthcare advice to maximize the health potential of animals and maintain ability to access emergency care when needed.


Jan 2024; Matthew Kornya, BSc, DVM, DVSc, DACVIM (SAIM), Resident ACVECC, ABVP (Feline) Residency Trained
Consulting Editor             

With input from the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) Communications Advisory Group