How much does pet surgery cost?

Find out how much different surgeries cost for dogs and cats, and whether pet insurance will cover them.

There are many reasons a pet might need surgery. Procedures can range from basic ones, such as neutering, to more complex and expensive ones, such as foreign object removal, cancer surgery and more. The costs of these can vary widely depending on the animal, the vet and the situation. For example, if a dog needs surgery to remove a swallowed object, the cost might range from a few hundred dollars to a staggering $20,000+.

Cost of common pet surgeries

ConditionAverage claim cost Highest claim cost
Arthritis$498$11,302
Cancer$1,798$19,557
Cataracts and eye treatments$456$10,338
Cruciate conditions (e.g. cruciate ligament)$2,530$12,472
Dermatitis and skin conditions$374$11,578
Diabetes$2,583$13,358
Ear infections$279$10,581
Epilepsy$1,079$10,753
Foreign body ingestion$982$22,919
Gastrointestinal (e.g. intestinal blockage)$773$13,840
Heart-related$968$16,040
Liver-related$1,716$23,693
Fractures (e.g. broken leg)$2,715$25,496
Pancreas-related$1,360$14,094
Pneumonia$2,048$21,698
Snakebite$1,742$24,195
Urinary tract infections$576$9,305

These figures come from from The Hollard Insurance Company's 2016/17 claims data via PetSecure.com.au. As you can see, there’s often a considerable difference between the average cost of a claim and the highest.

Want cover for surgery? Pet insurance has your back

Updated October 23rd, 2019
Name Product Maximum yearly benefit Paralysis Tick Benefit Reimbursement rate Accidental Injury Illness
$20,000
$2,000
85%
Helps support Guide Dogs Australia.
$15,000
$1,200
80%
Save 15% when you buy Medibank Pet Insurance before October 31. T&C's apply. Promo code: PAWSOME15
$15,145
$1,200
80%
Get 2 months free when you sign up.
$12,000
$500
75% or 85%
Your pet is covered for life.
$11,000
$1,200
80%
Helps support the RSPCA.
$12,000
$1,200
80%
No joining fee to pay.
$12,000
$1,200
80%
Pay fortnightly, monthly or yearly at no extra cost.
$12,000
$1,200
80%
If you're over 50 get 10% off.
$14,000
$1,200
85%
With guaranteed renewal you can protect your pet for life.

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How much of this does pet insurance cover?

Pet insurance generally reimburses a portion of vet bills, up to around 80%, up to a specified annual limit. While it’s unusual for a single claim to push you over the limit, it can still happen.

To use an example from this list, the average cost of a pet swallowing something they shouldn’t have was $982, while the most expensive incident ended up costing over $22,919. In these types of situations, there’s a good chance that cheaper cover will end up costing you more overall.

  • Basic policies will often have an annual benefit limit of around $5,000, while comprehensive policies typically carry limits of around $15,000 or more. In this case, a cheaper policy would have left the owner with more than $15,000 in expenses, while a more expensive (i.e. comprehensive) policy will leave them with much less to pay on their own.
  • When claims get this expensive, there’s a significant difference between 80% cover and 100% cover.
  • The excess - i.e. out of pocket expense - is typically from $100 to $200, which makes a considerable difference to smaller claims such as $250 for an ear infection. However, if your priority is to cover the more expensive vet bills, it may be worth aiming for a higher excess as this can reduce your premiums without making too big an impact on your overall costs.

What affects the cost of pet surgery?

Whether you pay $300 or $8,000 for cruciate ligament surgery, or for any other procedure, hinges on a range of factors:

  • The nature of the condition. The same operation might be done in under an hour or might take several hours depending on the situation. Similarly, it might require more specialised equipment or a different type of anaesthesia. All of these can significantly affect the cost.
  • The veterinary practice. A more experienced vet with more advanced equipment might generally be more expensive, and veterinarians are generally free to charge what they want.
  • Whether you have a dog or a cat. Dogs are typically more expensive than cats.
  • The breed of your pet. Different breeds can medically be very different. For example, different breeds of dog will need different kinds of anaesthesia before surgery, some of which are more expensive than others. Some breeds are also more likely to be susceptible to different health issues which can affect the likelihood of needing to pay more or less for a surgery. Doberman pinschers, for example, are more likely to suffer disorders which inhibit blood clotting, in which case they will require additional care during surgery.
  • How large your pet is. Surgery is generally more expensive for bigger pets, although it can vary depending on the condition being treated.

Because the costs can vary so widely, it’s almost impossible to determine the average cost of a treatment and it’s unlikely that you’ll end up paying the average amount.

To be on the safe side, it may be a good idea to plan for the worst.

Does it matter which vet I go to?

Getting value for your money from pet insurance is dependent on the types of claims you think you’ll be making. If you have a comprehensive policy, more expensive claims can give you more value for your money.

There are no set general service fees for veterinarians so you might get very different prices from different vets.

This guide runs through some of the most commonly required pet surgeries and how much they generally cost to help you work out whether pet insurance is worth it.

As such, it’s worth considering the typical costs of different procedures, so you can think about pet insurance cover in real dollars.

Why are vet bills so expensive?

Surgery is complicated and involves a lot of steps before, during and after the process. All of these are part of the cost along with the equipment and expertise that’s being used. Depending on the procedure, your vet bill may include the following costs:

  • Diagnosis and examinations
  • Preoperative tests
  • Anaesthesia
  • Theatre fees
  • Surgical fees
  • Disposable surgical items
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Prosthetic items
  • Follow-up checks
  • Follow-up drug prescriptions
  • Pet kennel costs at the vet’s if your pet needs to remain overnight for health reasons

How much is pet insurance?

According to ASIC, pet insurance costs around $20 per month for cats and $24 per month for dogs. Sacrifice eating out just once a week and you won't have to choose between being thousands of dollars out of pocket or having to put down your beloved Rex.

The price of pet insurance varies, however on average it costs approximately*:

*Monthly averages found from ASIC (13 December 2016) Pet insurance. Moneysmart.gov.au/insurance/pet-insurance

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4 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    CathJanuary 17, 2019

    About how much should I expect it to cost for my French bulldog to get his soft palate shortened and nostrils larger?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JeniJanuary 22, 2019Staff

      Hi Cath,

      Thank you for getting in touch with finder.

      Currently we don’t have the estimate cost of any Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) related surgeries such as trimming elongated soft palate and stenotic nares correction. It is best to contact your chosen vet on cost of the said surgery.

      I hope this helps.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Jeni

  2. Default Gravatar
    RoxyNovember 9, 2017

    Can u give me an idea as to how much an ultrasound for a small dog would cost. Checking prostate, kidneys, bladder lining.. Thankyou.

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JudithNovember 10, 2017Staff

      Hi Roxy,

      Thanks for contacting finder, a comparison website and general information service. I hope you are having a great day.

      Depending on the situation and the equipment, the cost could be from $50 to $500. -It could also depend on what the vet is looking for and where you go.

      Diagnostic ultrasounds can be a lot more difficult and might require a vet to collaborate with radiologists, cardiologists or other specialists.

      I hope this helps.

      Best regards,
      Judith

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