What are the most expensive vet bills for dogs?

Unfortunately, there’s no NHS for dogs. If your dog has an accident or gets sick, you’ll need to pay for diagnosis and treatment at the vet

vet surgery
(Image credit: getty images)

Vets can be very expensive. For unscheduled trips to the vet, you’ll usually need to pay a consultation fee, plus the cost of any required treatment, medication or surgery.

Vets’ fees aren’t regulated or standardised in the UK – they can charge what they like. Each vets’ practice’s price list will be different and determined by factors such as location, staff costs and overheads. Prices will also be influenced by the breed and size of dog you have (bigger dogs cost more to treat), and the treatment he or she needs. 

Many pet owners have pet insurance. The right insurance policy for your dog will cover some, or all, of the cost of any vet treatment your dog needs. However, most policies will have limits per claim, per condition, or per year. In most cases you’ll be required to pay part of the claim – this is called the ‘excess’.

(MORE: Pet insurance for puppies)

Data from insurers

Tesco Bank, which sells pet insurance, looked at its claims data to determine average prices for common conditions that affect dogs.

Its research included looking at the most expensive claims for some ongoing conditions. For a large dog (over 20kg) these included:

Ongoing conditionTreatment cost
Arthritis/DJD £1,865
Cruciate rupture £5,001
Tumour £3,151
Skin allergy £2,058

However, the Scratch and Patch pet insurance survey 2020 cited two claims much higher than these figures – reaching more than £15,000. One was for a Cavachon with a fluxating patella and the other for a Rataneiro de Bodega requiring surgery on collapsed disks in its neck.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) also has examples of the following insurance claims that would make your eyes water if you had to foot the vet’s bill yourself:

  • £7,000 to treat a French Bulldog with a fractured leg 
  • £3,800 to treat a dog’s dislocated kneecap 
  • £3,600 to repair right leg cruciate ligament damage in a Jack Russell terrier 

According to Direct Line, neurology and nervous system disorders are typically the most expensive vet fee claims. These include epileptic seizures and spinal conditions such as disc prolapse. These typically cost £1,125 to treat. 

(MORE: Most expensive dogs to insure)

 Vets’ prices for surgery 

You should expect to pay more at the vet if your dog needs surgery rather than just medication. If you have a large dog, or ‘giant’ breed, surgery can cost up to twice as much due to the higher doses of anaesthetic and medication needed. 

Not all vets display their price list online but one that does is Abington Park Referrals in Northampton which specialises in orthopaedic and soft tissue surgery, internal medicine, oncology and diagnostic imaging.

Some of the most expensive surgeries on the price list include:

Total hip replacement £4,600
CT and hemilaminectomy decompression for intervertebral disc disease£3,000
Liver lobectomy£2,300
Humeral unicondylar fracture repair (not including CT)£2,500 - £3,500
Cranial cruciate ligament repair £3,000
CT and arthroscopy for elbow dysplasia£2,500
CUE (canine unicompartmental elbow resurfacing)£4,000
Laryngeal tieback£2,200
Thoracotomy/lung lobectomy/pericardectomy £2,300

These fees are estimates for uncomplicated surgical procedures and include initial consultation, x-rays, surgery, hospitalisation for one night, initial courses of pain relief and antibiotics. Any complications could mean additional surgery hospitalisation or medication, incurring extra costs.