Pet Care Cost Calculator

Lilly is fairly famous for her expensive veterinary dramas. Actually, all of my dogs proved rather expensive at one point or another. That’s one reason (among many) two dogs is my limit. Two dogs is what I can afford.

So, I was intrigued and then amused when the social media team from Time Inc. Lifestyle Group, which partners with VPI Pet Insurance, contacted me about VPI’s new pet cost calculator. Essentially, you put in some information about your pet, breed, where you live, etc. and it generates a list of costs associated with the most likely veterinary expenses you’ll face.

The report generated for Lilly made me LAUGH. Why? Because the costs seem so mundane. Seriously, I often spend more than this for routine veterinary visits … forget the dramatic ones like paintball poisoning, rattlesnake bites, spider bites, and the many other things that seem to happen to Lilly every six months or so.

The highest one listed is $480. Is it just me? I can practically sneeze and run up a bill like that.

best dog blog champion of my heartI would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE for you guys to give this tool a try and report back. Everyone who does that by:

  • Using the pet cost calculator
  • Reporting your impression of the results in a blog comment here

… will be entered to win either a collapsible water bowl or a pet first-aid kit from VPI. I’ll do a random drawing of those who comment, and VPI will send out the prizes. SO … be sure you include a valid email address so that I can ask for your mailing address, if you win.

Prize giveaway entries CLOSE at midnight Sunday, July 10, 2011. I’ll number all the comments and use to choose the winners. VPI has offered 10 total prizes (5 bowls, 5 first-aid kits) as giveaways to Champion of My Heart readers.

Pet Insurance Disclosure

If we’re being honest here, I do have pet insurance for Lilly (from a company other than VPI). I do not have any on Ginko because he would likely have so many pre-existing conditions (at his age, etc).

While I am a pet insurance customer, that doesn’t mean I’m some super pet insurance advocate. I’ve written about the pet insurance debate before. I’ve also written about the logistics of perhaps changing pet insurance companies.

I worry that the limits are too low for things like cancer treatments, and I often feel like I’d be in essentially the same shape financially, if I socked away what we spend on premiums each month instead.

BUT, every time I think about cancelling our policy, Lilly has another medical adventure.

P.S. If you’re looking for spots to look up pet health info, try these ideas … 20 online sites for healthy pet info (assembled by a veterinary technician site).


best dog blog champion of my heartChampion of My Heart is a finalist in the 2011 Petties (DogTime Media pet blog awards). Voting in each category is open July 5 through July 29. You can vote 1-2 times per day.

If you cannot see the VOTE button on this linked page, hold down your SHIFT key and click the page reload icon in your browser.

Please VOTE Champion of My Heart as Best Dog Blog!

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Avery - July 8, 2011

I’ve got a house full, but I chose to run my little guy, as he has managed to rack up the most vet bills over the years (and definitely the most emergency vet visits). Pickles is a six year old Dachshund. His list was as follows:

1. Slipped spinal disc, no surgery – $470
2. Allergy-related Skin Problems – $200
3. Ear Infection – $160
4. Slipped spinal disc, surgery – $4620
5. Tooth extraction from infection – $450
6. Bladder infection – $340
7. Upset stomach, vomiting – $370
8. Injured muscles/soft tissue – $230
9. Benign skin growth – $380
10. Skin infection – $140

On the whole, I felt most of it didn’t really applied to him. Most of the list has to do with skin issues or infections, and my boy has never had a single one–not even a hot spot. He has no allergies, and his ears are never even gunky, much less infected. My vet tells me he has the teeth of a dog a couple of years younger, so I’m not too worried about them, either. Most of his vet bills have been the result of misadventure–a torn shoulder muscle (courtesies of a neighborhood GSD), a bad wasp sting, etc….

Now the slipped disc, that is a valid concern and one I think about–especially since he loves to jump onto and off of things (we call him our agility Dachshund). I was surprised to see that bloat wasn’t on the list. I know Dachsies are small, but being so deep chested makes them at risk for it–it’s the only non-trauma he’s been to the vet for. My vet told me he always tries to make Dachsie owners aware of that risk.

Melissa - July 8, 2011

I ran my two dogs.

Agnes, 9 year old mixed breed:
3 of the 5 Most common are all spot on: benign skin growth, ear infection, upset stomach.

The prices are off a bit, probably because we don’t bother running a lot of expensive tests. When she last had gastritis they gave her SubQ fluids and sent her home, now I know what to watch for. I think it was $200 for that visit?

Thor, 9 month old German Shepherd:
Ear infection, allergies, upset stomach, skin infection and bone pain/inflammation are listed as most common. He actually hasn’t had any of those to the point of needing vet care *knock on wood*

For severe problems the list makes sense for him. Bloat (very common in GSD), slipped spinal disk, cruciate ligament (they are high energy dogs involved in some high-impact sports).

The prices seem more realistic on them though, aside for $330 for vomiting.

Overall it seems like a pretty decent calculator to me.

SeeDogThink - July 8, 2011

I used Tai in my example -had to use a fake American zipcode so I used 90210 which is the only one I “know”…. 🙂

His cost of care came out as follows:

Common Problems

Disease/Condition Cost*

Upset Stomach/Vomiting $310

Ear Infection $170

Allergy-Related Skin Problems $180

Injured Muscles/Soft Tissue $240

Laceration or Bite Wound $300
Torn Nail $180

Eye Infection $100

Sprain $180

Inflamed Intestines/Diarrhea $160

Kennel Cough $150

It’s interesting because out of the 10 conditions listed, he has actually suffered from most at one point in his short little life. We currently don’t have pet insurance and now I wonder if the fact that he has pretty severe allergies (which are responsible for most of the problems he has ever experienced) would preclude us from getting insurance. We have certainly paid quite a bit in vet costs. And as you mentioned, these expended are definitely one reason why I am likely going to stick to owning only 2 dogs at a time.

I agree I am likely better off just putting my own $$ away for emergencies, but the sad truth is that I DON’T or something other (car emergency, etc) comes up to eat into those savings.

Gini Green - July 8, 2011

The prices seemed about right but I think having a standard young labrador retreiver is probably one they had no problem getting stats on. There just are too many of them!! lol
Here is what it looked like:
Gretel’s Cost Of Care
Severe Problems
Slipped Spinal Disc Surgery
Damaged Intestinal Segment Surgery
Brain/Spinal Cord Cancer Surgery
Urinary Urethra Cancer
Immune System Disorder/Cancer
Common Problems
Ear Infection
Upset Stomach/Vomiting
Allergy-Related Skin Problems
Inflamed Intestines/Diarrhea
Eye Infection

Thanks for posting it – this could be a really good tool for some.

Mike - July 8, 2011

As was already reported, I too have a mixed breed dog so the results were the same as JC. Being that my dog is a GSD/Lab mix I am also including the results of their respective breeds because I would guess that some of the breed specific issues could affect my Annie. One thing that was NOT listed (surprisingly) is hip dysplasia which my girl does suffer from. While there are some shared results from all 3 calculations I did, I included them in this comment. Interesting results because I have had significantly higher vet bills just recently, for a severe UTI. The costs were approximately 3 times what the generator shows for a bladder infection although Annie’s situation was severe with a rapid onset. Interesting to see the figures for the various issues that were addressed though.

***Mixed Breed***
1 Urinary Urethra Cancer $4513
2Chest/Lung Cancer Surgery $4452
3 Slipped Spinal Disc Surgery $4011
4 Pelvis/Back Fracture Repair – Bone Plate $3825
5 Leg Fracture Repair – Bone Apparatus $3401

Common Problems
1Allergy-Related Skin Problems $190
2Ear Infection $170
3 Benign Skin Growth $430
4 Upset Stomach/Vomiting $320
5 Bladder Infection $350

***German Shepherd***

1Slipped Spinal Disc Surgery $4236
2Stomach “Bloat” Surgery $2792
3Leg Fracture Repair – Bone Plate $2643
4Immune System Disorder/Cancer $2473
5Cruciate Ligament Surgery $2463

Common Problems
1Allergy-Related Skin Problems $210
2Ear Infection $180
3Benign Skin Growth $460
4Upset Stomach/Vomiting $380
5Arthritis $320

***Labrador Retriever***

1Slipped Spinal Disc Surgery $4721
2Damaged Intestinal Segment Surgery $4181
3Brain/Spinal Cord Cancer Surgery $3625
4Urinary Urethra Cancer $3146
5Immune System Disorder/Cancer $2817

Common Problems

1Ear Infection $180
2Allergy-Related Skin Problems $210
3Benign Skin Growth $460
4Upset Stomach/Vomiting $380
5Benign Fatty Growth $270

Penny Ronning - July 8, 2011

Just used the pet calculator, but since it didn’t have Minnie’s breed listed (not a surprise) I selected the breed closest to hers — Border Collie. My numbers were also rather low, Roxanne. Upset stomach/vomiting was listed as the highest potential cost ($310) with a bite or laceration as the second ($300). Not surprised by either! Wonder why the calculator does not factor in if your dog is spayed or neutered? Found that interesting.

Kelly Ann T. - July 7, 2011

I had to use the year 2001 since 1999 was not available. Milele our 12 year old Malamute is on some great suppliments for her arthritis and she is doing great. She just had her checkup and the vet is impressed.

1 Arthritis $330
2 Benign Skin Growth $510
3 Thyroid Hormone Deficiency $160
4 Bladder Infection $390
5 Ear Infection $200
6 Urinary Incontinence $150
7 Diabetes Mellitus $1120
8 Abscess $360
9 Upset Stomach/Vomiting $400
10 Laceration or Bite Wound $340

Kelly Ann T. - July 7, 2011

Milele was born in 1999 so I had to use 2001 since thats when the years started. It showed my Alaskan Malamute’s stats as the following.
1 Arthritis $330
2 Benign Skin Growth $510
3 Thyroid Hormone Deficiency $160
4 Bladder Infection $390
5 Ear Infection $200
6 Urinary Incontinence $150
7 Diabetes Mellitus $1120
8 Abscess $360
9 Upset Stomach/Vomiting $400
10 Laceration or Bite Wound $340
WOW, I guess I should feel blessed that she is doing so well. We don’t have any major issues, but I do have her on some natural vitamins.

Mami2jcn - July 7, 2011

I used the calculator for our poodle puppy and the top problem was ear infections.

    Roxanne Hawn - July 7, 2011

    That’s interesting. I don’t think of poodles as having lots of ear trouble.

JC - July 7, 2011

I just did this for my 5.5 year old spayed female mixed breed. (there is an option for mixed breed).

I got two sections of results — Severe Problems and Common Problems. Here’s the breakdown and cost

Severe Problems Cost

1 Urinary Urethra Cancer $4513
2 Chest/Lung Cancer Surgery $4452
3 Slipped Spinal Disc Surgery $4011
4 Pelvis/Back Fracture Repair – Bone Plate $3825
5 Leg Fracture Repair – Bone Apparatus $3401

Common Problems Cost

1 Allergy-Related Skin Problems$190
2 Ear Infection$170
3 Benign Skin Growth$430
4 Upset Stomach/Vomiting$320
5 Bladder Infection$350


    Roxanne Hawn - July 7, 2011

    Oh, yay. I’m glad you found a spot for mixes. I wonder if I did it wrong since my numbers were so low. Hmmm.

Kay - July 7, 2011

Pet insurance can be an important item. Costs are always going up and illnesses and accidents happen to our pets the same as with us. It might be helpful if they (VPI) could give a rough idea what a monthly premium would be. Many older folks who have pets may think it is a good idea but think they couldn’t afford it. If they had a rough idea it might help them look into it a little more seriously. .

Rachel - July 7, 2011

So I just did this for my dog (5 year old neutered male brittany). And I got a different list of things:

1 Allergy-Related Skin Problems $190
2 Ear Infection $170
3 Upset Stomach/Vomiting $320
4 Benign Skin Growth $430
5 Benign Fatty Growth $240
6 Bladder Infection $350
7 Laceration or Bite Wound $310
8 Injured Muscles/Soft Tissue $260
9 Skin Infection $160
10 Epilepsy or Seizures $400

These costs seems to be significantly cheaper than the prices at local vet. And MUCH cheaper than the vet hospital nearby.

But what I did notice is that there is not an entry for traffic accidents even though my zip code completely urban. I would have thought that would be kind of a big deal for my area.

And there is no listing for Lyme disease treatment – this seems like a pretty common problem for the dogs I meet at my dog park.

Kim M - July 7, 2011

First of all, my dog is 11, and this calculator doesn’t go back far enough (apparently all dogs alive now were born in 2001 or later?!?!).
Second, it makes you choose a breed? What about all of our “All-Americans”??
Third, despite differences in data entered between Lily and my Fly, I got the same exact list you have pictured above.
A bit useless in my opinion.

Now, my 4 year old, Banner, has some higher-priced items in his list (he’s only 4 so maybe that was the difference? but again, he’s an all-american, so I just randomly picked a breed that’s a similar size to him), with cruciate ligament surgery coming in at $3190 and Mast cell (malignant) skin tumor at $1570. Friends with larger dogs than mine have had the cruciate surgery for $4500-7000 in this area, so I’d say that number might be a little low!

    Roxanne Hawn - July 7, 2011

    Interesting, Kim. I didn’t notice the age cutoff. Thanks for giving it a try. I’ll share all the feedback we get with the VPI folks.

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