How Much Does An Emergency Vet Visit Cost?

Six minutes Jun 26, 2023

A trip to the emergency vet can be a harrowing experience and the bill that comes with it can add insult to injury.

What many pet parents don’t know is that emergency veterinarians can charge more for their services, and visits can add up. Here’s a basic guide about the cost of emergency vet visits, some ways you could provide care for your pet, and how you can potentially save funds.

Basics of Emergency Vet Costs

Emergency vet costs can be expensive because of high operating expenses, the rising cost of medications, and specialized labor. The cost can also be increased based on where the clinic is located.

Let’s consider a scenario: A dog named Waffle ingests a sock which causes them to become severely constipated. Waffle needs surgery to remove the sock from their gastrointestinal tract immediately at the 24-hour emergency vet clinic in downtown Chicago, Illinois. The bill that Waffle’s pet parent will pay could include:1

If Waffle’s pet parent had lived in a rural area, this itemized bill may be smaller. Because of their location and the need for comprehensive emergency care, the bill was almost $4,000.1 Due to the variety of services offered at emergency vet clinics and the animals they treat, costs will vary depending on your pet’s emergency.

How Much Is an Emergency Vet Visit for a Dog?

While the specific numbers for emergency vet visits can vary, there are estimates based on common dog diseases and illnesses.  Here’s what dog parents can expect to pay for an emergency vet visit.²

Type of Service



$150 – $250


$300 – $600

Hospitalization (1 – 2 days)

$600 – $1,700

Wound treatment

$800 – $2,500

Emergency surgery

$1,800 – $5,000

Oxygen therapy

$800 – $3,000

*Cost depends on your dog’s size, where you live, and the severity of their case.

How Much Is an Emergency Vet Visit for a Cat?

Cat parents may be well aware that their curious kitties get into all sorts of trouble. Sometimes that trouble lands them in emergency situations that could cost them big time. Here are some estimates of what common emergency vet visits for cats could cost.²

Type of Service



$150 – $250


$300 – $600

Hospitalization (1 – 2 days)

$600 – $1,500

Wound treatment

$800 – $1,500

Emergency surgery

$1,500 – $3,000

Oxygen therapy

$500 – $2,500

*Cost depends on your cat’s size, where you live, and the severity of their case.

How Much Is an Emergency Vet Visit Without Pet Insurance?

Generally speaking, most vets require you to pay for services upfront. That means that you will typically have to cover the entirety of the bill — whether it be $100 or $1000 — before you can take your pet home.

Pet parents who invest in pet insurance can’t get around this “pay to play” model, but they can expect to be reimbursed. The way pet insurance works is very simple. Once you’ve hit your deductible, you can typically have anywhere between 80% to 90% of qualifying expenses reimbursed. That means that regardless of how you paid — cash or credit — you can expect a portion of those covered expenses to be returned to you.

Cat in a crate looking at the camera

When To Take Your Pet to the Emergency Vet

Our pets can’t tell us when they’re sick or in pain. Given how expensive pet care can be, it can be hard to figure out what can and can’t wait. Experts at the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) put together a helpful checklist for pet parents of what an emergency actually looks like.³

  • Bleeding that doesn’t stop within 5 minutes
  • Choking, difficulty breathing, or coughing that won’t stop
  • Bleeding from the nose, mouth, or butt
  • Coughing up blood
  • Bloody urine
  • Eye injuries
  • Seizures
  • Fractured bones or sudden lameness
  • Obvious pain or anxiety
  • Heat stress or heat stroke
  • Severe vomiting or diarrhea that lasts more than a day
  • Refusing to drink water for a day or more
  • Unconsciousness

All of the above can usually be clear signs that something is wrong with your pet. It’s best to not ignore these symptoms and call an emergency vet clinic to let them know that you’re on the way.

Alternatives to an Emergency Vet

Still unsure if your pet needs it if your pet’s illness is an emergency? It’s highly advised to speak to your vet, but there are other options if you think emergency care isn’t critical to your pet’s wellbeing.

Telehealth services

There are 24/7 telehealth applications available for pet parents who need answers in the middle of the night. Many of these applications are subscription-based, but this service comes complementary if you choose to invest in a MetLife Pet dog insurance or cat insurance policy.

MetLife Pet Insurance offers a telehealth concierge service that can answer basic health questions at no additional cost to customers.⁴ These sorts of perks may help you save time and money before you run to your vet.

For example, a pet parent near Charlotte, NC contacted our on-call vets about their 8-month-old kitten. The kitten had ingested a large amount of tissue paper and then vomited everything up. On top of that, they’d started a new diet. Our vet quickly advised them to start a bland diet and monitor their kitten to see if the symptoms would resolve themselves, then follow up with their regular vet in 2 days.⁵

Prepare a pet first aid kit

A good way to prepare for non-life threatening emergencies for your pet may be to create a basic first aid kit for your pet. There are detailed guides available online, like this one from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), that can help teach you how to provide basic first aid for your pet.⁶

Pet parents can create a kit that includes:⁶

  • Important phone numbers, like your vet, your nearest emergency clinic, and poison control
  • A copy of your pet’s medical records
  • A pet thermometer
  • Clean towels
  • Non-stick bandages
  • Milk of magnesia or activated charcoal to absorbed swallowed poisons (if instructed by a veterinary professional)
  • 3% hydrogen peroxide solution to induce vomiting
  • Saline solution to wash wounds

You should place this kit in an easily accessible area or someplace visible. Some box stores sell pre-packaged kits but it's important to keep them well-stocked.

Be sure to keep yourself safe while giving your pet first aid by restraining them with a muzzle or a clean towel. Even the most lovable pets can bite or scratch if they’re in pain.⁶

Call the pet poison hotline

One of the most common pet emergencies is accidental ingestion and poisoning. Swift action is necessary so it’s best to skip the drive to the emergency vet and call Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435.⁷

They’re available 24/7, even during major holidays when harmful foods and toxins are commonly ingested. They’ll ask you for basic information about your pet and what they may have ingested.

Once you’ve had a thorough discussion with the representative, they’ll advise you on if and how to take care of your pet at home or if you should head to the vet. Make a note of your case number in case you or your vet needs to speak to them again.⁷

Options To Pay for an Emergency Vet

If a trip to the emergency vet is unavoidable, the unexpected cost can put a strain on your wallet. The good news is you have a few options to pay for your pet’s medical care.

Care Credit

Care Credit is a widely accepted payment option for pet parents who need to pay for emergency vet visits due to accidents and illness. Their financing works by allowing you to set terms for up to 2 years without interest on purchases of $200 or more.⁸ This may be an advantage compared to traditional credit cards.

However, approval can be based on a credit check like a traditional credit card, and your interest rate may vary considerably after your promotional period is up. Pet parents should read their terms and conditions very carefully to ensure that they get the full advantage of this credit product.

High-yield savings accounts

You may have a “rainy day” fund for yourself, but does your pet have one? It may be a good idea to put aside some money for your furry friend each month in a high-yield savings account for emergencies. This can help soften the blow when emergencies happen.

Outside help

There are organizations out there that can help you when you can’t afford your vet bills. For example, Waggle is a non-profit organization that helps you find assistance to take care of your pet.⁹ They can be a better resource than traditional crowdfunding websites that could take a portion of the money you have raised.

Pet insurance

Preparedness is key to shielding your finances from unexpected vet bills, which is why pet insurance may be a great option for you. Most pet insurance policies don’t cover pre-existing conditions, but if you get the policy when your pet is still healthy, pet insurance can be a lifesaver.

MetLife Pet Insurance Could Help You During Pet Emergencies

At MetLife Pet Insurance, winner of the “Pet Insurance of the Year” Award, we’re committed to helping you keep your pets happy and healthy, whether that means learning all there is to know about your pets or protecting them with an insurance policy. Our policies cover the most common emergency vet visits so that you can focus on what matters most: your furry friend. Get started today with a free quote.

1 All claims paid amounts are based on MetLife internal claims data from October 2022.

² “Average Cost of Emergency Vet Visits,” Emergency Vet USA

³ “13 Animal Emergencies That Require Immediate Veterinary Consultation and/or Care,” American Veterinary Medical Association

⁴ May not be available in all states.

⁵  Based on consulted data from December 2022

⁶ “Pet First Aid [Brochure],” American Veterinary Medical Association

⁷ “What to Expect When Calling ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center,” American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

⁸ “CareCredit Vs. General Purpose Credit Cards: How CareCredit is Different?,” Care Credit

⁹ “Financial Assistance for Emergency Vet Care,” Waggle

Coverage underwritten and issued by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85254 or Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations. Application is subject to underwriting review. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC for details. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator for this coverage. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

L0423030713[exp0425][All States][DC,GU,MP,PR,VI]