How much does pet surgery cost?

Find out how much different surgeries for dogs and cats cost, 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 hundreds of dollars to well over $10,000.

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.

Want cover for surgery? Pet insurance has your back

Details Features
Major Medical Cover
Major Medical Cover
Reimburses 80% of veterinary treatment related to Accidental Injury and Illness.
  • $15,000 annual benefit limit
  • 80% of vet bill covered subject to terms and conditions
  • $1200 emergency boarding fees per year
  • 5% discount for each additional pet insured up to 15%
Get Quote More info
Comprehensive Cover
Comprehensive Cover
Price Beat guarantee on comparable pet insurance policies.
  • Accidental Injury and Illness Cover Plus Routine Care
  • $12,000 annual benefit limit
  • $1,500 annual tick paralysis benefit
  • Up to $1,200 emergency boarding fees
Get Quote More info
Ultimate Cover (Accident & Illness)
Ultimate Cover (Accident & Illness)
Get up to $11,000 cover every year on eligible bills. Benefit from a 10% multi-pet discount.
  • $11,000 annual claim limit
  • Up to 80% of eligible vet bills back*
  • No excess
  • Premiums go towards supporting the RSPCA
  • Optional routine care cover
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Premium Accident & Illness Cover
Premium Accident & Illness Cover
Get 10% of the premiums you’ve paid back after the first 12 months with The Real Reward.
  • $12,000 annual claim limit
  • Up to 80% of vet bill covered subject to terms and conditions
  • Take your pet to any licensed vet practice in Australia
  • Optional routine care benefit
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Comprehensive Plan
Comprehensive Plan
FREE engraved ID tag for all new policy holders
  • $8,000 or $12,000 annual benefit limit
  • Up to 80% of vet bill covered
  • Excess of $0, $100 or $200 per each unrelated condition
  • Optional Routine Care Cover
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 Premium Care
Premium Care
Helps support Guide Dogs Australia.
  • $20,000 annual benefit limit; covering accident and illness
  • Up to 85% of eligible vet bills covered
  • Excess options: $0 or $50
  • $1 million of Third Party Liability Cover – for Registered Guide Dogs only
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Sovereign Accident & Illness Cover
Sovereign Accident & Illness Cover
With every additional pet, you get a 10% discount. Offers optional coverage for routine care.
  • Cover up to 85% of eligible vet bills*
  • Claim up to 14,000 per year
  • Optional routine care
  • No excess
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Gold Accident and Illness
Gold Accident and Illness
With no joining fee and no excess to pay, it’s affordable protection for your four-legged friend.
  • Cover up to 75% of eligible vet bills*
  • Maximum claim of $12,000 per year
  • You’re free to choose any licenced vet in Australia
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Accident and Illness Cover
Accident and Illness Cover
Cover 75% - 85% of your veterinary treatment costs up to $12,000. Multi-pet discount up to 10%.
  • Annual limit up to $12,000
  • $500 tick paralysis treatment cover
  • 10% multi-pet discount
  • $300 in consultations covered per annum
Get Quote More info

Cost of common pet surgeries

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.

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

According to The Hollard Insurance Company, there’s often a considerable difference between the average cost of a claim and the highest. Note that your policy will never pay more than the total annual benefit limit. While it’s unusual for a single claim to push you over the limit, it can still happen.

ConditionAverage claim cost in 2014Highest claim in 2014
Arthritis$532$4,546
Cancer$1,821$9,160
Cataracts and eye treatments$449$7,940
Cruciate conditions$2,620$7,689
Dermatitis and skin conditions$615$10,922
Diabetes$2,819$8,371
Ear infections$250$4,412
Epilepsy$799$7,540
Foreign body ingestion$1,272$16,299
Gastrointestinal issues$900$16,299
Heart related$974$4,583
Liver related$1,322$11,583
Multiple fractures$2,350$24,131
Pancreas related$1,155$2,839
Pneumonia$2,169$10,981
Snake bite$1,757$23,209
Urinary tract infections$582$17,402

To use an example from this list, the average cost of a pet swallowing something they shouldn’t have was $1,272, while the most expensive incident ended up costing over $16,000. 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 $10,000 in expenses, while a more expensive policy might leave them with none.
  • When claims get this expensive, there’s a significant difference between 80% cover and 100% cover.
  • The excess 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.

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

What costs will pet insurance cover?

Pet insurance generally reimburses a portion of vet bills, up to around 80% and up to a specified annual limit. The most comprehensive Pet Insurance Australia policy, for example, covers 80% of vet bills, up to $15,000 per year.

Generally, your pet insurance can reimburse you for all costs related to the necessary treatment for health conditions that are covered under your policy. This means you can look into the most recommended and necessary treatments without needing to worry about the exact breakdown of all the different costs above.

How much is pet insurance?

So how much does pet insurance cost? We crunched the numbers on how much it costs to insure every possible dog breed. Here's the average cost of pet insurance for your pup per week.

Accident onlyAccident & illnessComprehensive
Average weekly cost$8$15$16
Accident onlyAccident & illnessComprehensive
Average weekly cost$8$18$19

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*:

  • $20 per month for accident only cover
  • $35-55 per month for accident and illness cover
  • $60 per month for comprehensive cover

Learn more about how pet insurance works and compare policies online.

Frequently asked questions


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

Andrew Munro

Andrew writes for finder.com, comparing products, writing guides and looking for new ways to help people make smart decisions. He's a fan of insurance, business news and cryptocurrency.

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2 Responses

  1. 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.

    • Staff
      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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