Cost of Pet Care in Ontario

It’s no secret that the cost of living has gone up in 2024—but what about the cost of being a dog or cat parent? In Ontario, Canada, the cost of pet food is estimated to have increased 58% and the cost of veterinarian care has gone up 49%. Source Cost of dog parenthood

The cost of food is dependent on the size and specific health issues of your pet. The cost of veterinarian care is dependent on the type of service required, the specific condition of the animal, and the veterinarian practice itself. Why owning a dog or cat in Canada has become so expensive Globe and Mail – Feb 2024

Over the years, there has been a noticeable trend in the veterinary landscape in Ontario, with local independent veterinarian practices being acquired by corporate entities. This shift has impacted the dynamics of pricing and services offered.

What Impacts the Cost of Pet Care?

The general costs of care for pets depend on several factors:

  • Cat vs dog – cats cost less usually
  • What breed – some breeds have known issues
  • Size of animal – larger pets eat more and require higher doses of any medications
  • Age and health of animal –  older animals tend to have more serious issues. Caring for a senior dog
  • Where you live –  whether you have access to lower cost food and vet care options
  • Preventive care vs Emergency care – all costs rise when issues become an emergency

The type of pet receiving care

The type of pet receiving care is a factor that can impact how much you pay for food, grooming and vet visits. Care for a cat or small dog is typically less than for a large or medium-sized dog. Medications or treatments are priced by weight, so cost more for larger animals. Also care for older pets may be more expensive as they are more likely to suffer from more severe illnesses or injuries. Other factors such as your pet’s weight, medical or health history, and temperament may also impact the price of food and vet visits. Medication to calm an aggressive or overanxious pet can add to the overall cost.

The breed of your pet

Be aware that some breeds are more prone to specific health issues. Examples of breed-specific issues include the following:

  • ACL tears
  • Bladder stones
  • Brachiocephalic syndrome
  • Cancer
  • Ear infections
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Knee and elbow dislocations
  • Slipped discs

Veterinarian Cost Factors

Where you and your veterinary clinic/hospital‍ are located

Veterinary costs vary depending on where you live in Canada. The general cost of living in a certain area will affect the average emergency vet visit costs. Typically rural veterinarians charge lower fees than those in the city. Be aware though that rural vets may logically prioritize their regular large stock farm clients so you may have trouble booking your pet in for an appointment.

The type of veterinary clinic/hospital‍

if your pet requires a trip to a vet clinic for a specialized illness, the cost could be higher as more advanced equipment or knowledge might be needed. The average cost of exam fees at a general veterinarian’s clinic office may be somewhere between $45 and $65. Meanwhile, the average cost of exam fees at a veterinary specialist’s office can be more than double, averaging between $100 to $250. The cost of diagnostics and treatment plans can also vary between the two types of facilities, costing up to $1,500 at a general vet’s office and up to $3,000 at a specialty vet’s office.

The type of illness or injury your pet is suffering from

Next, the type of illness or injury your pet is suffering from is another detail that will affect your emergency vet bill. As you might expect, surgery is often the most expensive. The cost of surgery to remove a foreign object in your dog’s stomach can be upwards of $3,000.

The extent of the veterinary care required

Beyond the type of illness your pet is dealing with, the extent of the illness (and therefore the emergency veterinary care required) will also impact the cost. If your pet needs to stay at a veterinary hospital or clinic for several days or weeks, this will be more expensive than a less severe illness that does not require an overnight stay. One pet insurance company, Fetch, estimates that an average emergency visit cost for a minor ailment, such as an ear infection, is around $474, while the cost of a sick visit for a serious ailment requiring hospitalization hovers around $4,012.   What to do in a pet emergency

Cost of Pet Care 

OVMA (Ontario Veterinary Medical Association)

OVMA represents veterinarians across Ontario and provides guidance on pricing and services. While they do not have standardized pricing, they offer general insights into the cost of veterinary care:

  • Preventive Care: Routine check-ups, vaccinations, and preventive medications are essential for the well-being of pets and can help avoid more significant health issues down the line.
  • Diagnostic Procedures: Blood tests, x-rays, and other diagnostic procedures may incur additional costs ranging from $100 to $500 or more.
  • Surgical Procedures: Surgeries such as tumor removal, orthopedic procedures, and emergency surgeries can be quite costly, ranging from $500 to several thousand dollars depending on the complexity.

OVMA – Annual cost of owning a puppy or dog

OVMA – Annual cost of owning a kitten or cat

VCA (Veterinary Centers of America)

VCA is one of the largest corporate veterinary chains in North America, with several locations across Ontario. Their pricing structure typically varies based on the specific services rendered. Here are some approximate costs for common procedures:

  • Routine Check-up: A basic physical exam for a cat or dog may cost anywhere from $50 to $100.
  • Vaccinations: Core vaccines for cats and dogs can range from $20 to $60 per vaccine, while additional vaccines may cost extra.
  • Spaying/Neutering: The cost for spaying or neutering a pet can vary widely based on factors like size, age, and gender, but generally falls within the range of $200 to $500.
  • Dental Cleaning: Dental procedures can range from $200 to $600 depending on the severity of the dental issues and if any extractions are required.
  • Emergency Services: Emergency visits can be significantly more expensive, often ranging from $100 to $500 for the initial exam, excluding treatment costs.

The Future of Veterinarian Services

  • The trend of corporate entities acquiring local independent veterinarian practices has raised concerns within the veterinary community. While corporate chains often offer streamlined services and extended operating hours, some critics argue the quality of care may be compromised in favor of profit margins.
  • Moreover, the shift towards corporate ownership has led to a more standardized approach to pricing, which may not always align with the needs and budgets of pet owners. Additionally, there are concerns about the loss of personalized care and the sense of community that often characterizes local independent practices.
  • While corporate entities like VCA offer convenience and consistency in pricing, the reduction in local independent practices raises questions about the future of personalized care and community connections within the veterinary profession.

In conclusion

The costs of pet care vary widely depending on breed choices, size, age, and access to veterinarian care.  Vet care costs will vary widely and will cost far less if the owner takes preventive care of the pet.  Pet owners are encouraged to research and compare options to ensure the best possible care for their beloved companions. Need help finding affordable vet care?

Companion animal veterinary fees in Ontario are some of the highest in Canada. The good news is that there are ways to keep those costs down. The most important of those is preventive health care.  This includes annual vet checkups, vaccines, spay/neuters, home dental care and grooming. These are by far the most cost-effective and life-preserving steps a caregiver can take to protect a pet’s health.

Preventive vs Emergency Care

As you can see from this table, the cost of preventive care is only a fraction of the cost of reactive care. It is important to maintain regular health checks, provide proper nutrition and exercise and do basic grooming. These actions will certainly reduce costly health issues. 

One other factor – if an owner requires hospitalization or must enter a temporary shelter,  an animal that is not spayed/neutered or vaccinated is not welcome, even if that shelter is pet-friendly. Should it be required, that animal will also be much less welcome in any foster or rescue placement, limiting its chances of being re-homed.

Prevention is key to keeping Costs down

Even for pets that do not go outdoors (or only venture out with a human chaperone) accidents can happen. Pets with intact reproductive systems are more likely to attempt to run away and those that succeed often end up with unwanted litters. There are also associated issues with ‘intact’ pets such as aggressive behaviour in males that may result in injury and mammary tumors in females. Why Spay Neuter is Necessary

Heartworm is one of the most preventable animal ailments (often administered as a flavoured treat by the veterinarian). However, untreated animals who get heartworm must undergo dangerous and costly treatments in order to eliminate it.

It goes without saying that the cost of dealing with any illness that could have been prevented with a vaccine is only the tip of the iceberg. Most of these illnesses can have quite severe outcomes. As puppies or kittens, pets need two vaccines to ensure immunity develops. They then require a booster every one to three years to maintain this immunity.

Vaccinations are required by law and the rabies vaccine is particularly important due to the risk of transfer to humans!

Ensure your pet is fully protected – follow the recommendation of your veterinarian and have your pet  vaccinated regularly.

For more about vaccinations for pets – read this article 

While dental care may not be your pet companion’s favourite activity (or your’s for that matter), the cost of dealing with dental issues that arise from years of neglect can be huge. Keeping in mind that the average dog has 42 teeth and the average cat has 30, the cost of extraction at $500 to $800 per tooth can be overwhelming. Not to mention the unspoken suffering an animal with tooth decay must endure.

The most common condition veterinarians find at annual check-ups is dental disease.  It is estimated that by the age of three, 70% of our pets will have some degree of dental disease. The sooner it is caught,  the sooner a veterinarian can perform a scale and polish (in exactly the same way as at our own dentist, but with some anesthetic to hold them still!) and extract any problem teeth to help your pet hang on to fresh breath for as long as possible.

Left untreated, dental disease can lead to other health problems, including liver and heart disease, so the sooner it is caught, the better the long-term health of your pet.

Here are more tips for dental health.

How often you take your pet to the vet depends on your pet’s age and general health. For example, puppies, kittens and senior pets need more frequent visits, while healthy adults need less.

We’re all nervous about the cost of vet visits. When we keep in mind that preventative health care can keep our pets healthier longer, and are likely to save us money in the long term, then it makes sense to choose to do an annual wellness exam.

Think of it as routine maintenance and a chance to discuss any concerns with your vet.