Figuring out how much dog food or a crate costs is easy. On the other hand, jumping into the world of veterinary expenses can be a bit more complicated. After all, offices aren't always transparent about their prices, putting a damper in budget planning.

To make things easier, we broke down the average vet costs for dogs as they grow from puppies to adult dogs. Keep reading to learn everything from first-year expenses and necessary vaccinations to veterinarian care your dog may require later in life and affordable care options to keep your furry friend healthy.

Vet costs during the first year of a puppy's life 

When you consider veterinarian costs, most dog owners are prepared for services your senior dog may need when it is more likely to face joint conditions and illness. However, the first year of a dog's life can hit the owner's hard because young pups quickly rack up costs with required vaccinations, physical exams, and preventive care.

So how much is a vet visit for a puppy? While a veterinary price list for services varies from office to office and can often be hard to find online, most services fall in a general price range. 

To find the best deal, it will likely take calling around to the available options in your area and consulting with other local pet owner friends on where they had the best success.

Physical exams and office fees (6 visits / $45-$55 each visit)  

A physical exams is synonymous with a general visit, and provide a basic assessment of your dog's health. Wellness exams are typically between $45 to $55 per visit. During a medical exam, your veterinarian can track your puppy's growth process and check for any abnormalities.

While it is often said that dogs age seven years in one human year, the truth is they age even faster in the puppy stage. Once they complete their first year of life, a puppy is pretty much celebrating their 15th birthday in dog years. As they get older, the aging process slows down, averaging to the seven years figure.

However, with all those speedy physical and mental developments, your puppy needs to visit the veterinarian at least once a month for the first four months. This ensures they are kept up to date on their vaccinations. After the first four months, puppies should see the vet two more times during their first year.

With six total visits in the first year, physical exams and checkups will likely cost between $270 to $330.

Getting your pup spayed or neutered ($200 first year) 

Puppies can be spayed or neutered after eight weeks of age. However, some veterinarians recommend waiting closer to six months before the operation. 

In addition to sterilizing your pup, getting them spayed or neutered also helps prevent breast and testicular cancers. It generally costs around $200 to get your puppy spayed or neutered.

Required vaccinations (7 shots / $100 to $210 first year) 

In the first year, there are both required and optional vaccinations your puppy should and can receive. Generally, each round for an individual shot costs anywhere from $10 to $30. 

Therefore, with all shots and multiple rounds considered, the first year of required puppy vaccinations will likely cost between $100 to $210. Listed below is the break down of each required shot series. 

Rabies vaccine (2 rounds / $10 to $30 each round)  

First, it is necessary to get your dog vaccinated for rabies. Dogs get rabies when they are bitten by infected animals, causing headaches, hallucinations, excessive drooling, and behavioral issues like aggression, anxiety, and fear. Immediate treatment is critical; otherwise, it's almost always fatal.

While the CDC no longer considers the United States a rabies reservoir, 60 to 70 dogs still contract the viral disease each year. In nearly all cases, the dogs were not vaccinated beforehand. 

In the first year, the American Kennel Club (AKC) recommends getting your puppy two Rabies shots, one at 12 to 24 weeks and again at 12 to 16 months. With two rounds, this will likely cost you between $20 to $60. 

DHPP vaccine (3 rounds / $20 to $30 each round) 

The next diseases are covered under one vaccine, abbreviated DHPP. It includes Distemper, Adenovirus (Hepatitis), Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus. While not having to pay for each ailment's shots individually saves some money, the DHPP vaccine is still slightly more expensive than the Rabies shot.

In the first year, the AKC recommends getting your puppy three DHPP shots, one at 10 to 12 weeks, another at 14 to 16 weeks, and the last puppy stage shot at 12 to 16 months.

Young puppies also need additional Distemper and Parainfluenza shots before administering the DHPP vaccine rounds. To further understand how the vaccine protects, read the DHPP break down below.

Distemper (additional $10 to $30) - Distemper is a virus that affects your dog's breathing, digestion, and nervous system. It spreads through contact with infected animals and water contamination. In many cases, Distemper leads to neurological issues for your dog and becomes fatal.

With no effective treatments or cures, vaccinating for Distemper is crucial. In addition to the Distemper protection your pup receives in the DHPP vaccine, young puppies should also receive an individual Distemper shot at six to eight weeks. 

Adenovirus (Hepatitis) and Adenovirus 2 - Adenovirus is the cause of Hepatitis in dogs, causing issues with your puppy's liver and kidney function, vision, and breathing. Symptoms include everything from a stuffy nose to more severe problems related to blood clotting, depression, and death.

While Adenovirus often presents as a chronic condition, it's not as fatal as the previous diseases on the list. Hepatitis is fatal for 10 to 30 percent of dogs that contract the disease. It lurks in everything from your pup's saliva to their urine and feces, spreading when your dog accidentally swallows excrements from other dogs. 

Some DHPP vaccines also cover Adenovirus 2, which more specifically relates to air pathogens that harm the respiratory tract and cause Kennel Cough. 

Parainfluenza (additional $10 to $30) - Parainfluenza is a respiratory illness, not to be confused with dog flu. While not typically one of the more serious viruses, over time, Parainfluenza can cause chronic cough and breathing issues. Along with a prior Distemper shot to the DHPP series, the AKC recommends puppies receive a Parainfluenza shot at six to eight weeks. 

Parvovirus - Parvovirus is a deadly disease with quick-moving symptoms, making it especially serious and dangerous. Just two to three days after symptoms appear, the disease can cause death. Symptoms of Parvovirus include continuous vomiting, bloody diarrhea, loss of appetite and weight, weakness, lethargy, and fever.

Vaccinating for this virus is especially important early in a dog's life because puppies under four months are the most susceptible to it. 

Optional vaccinations ($10 to $30 each shot) ($30 to $360 first year)

After your pup gets the core vaccines, you can decide with your veterinarian if you should move forward with additional vaccinations. Costs are also typically $10 to $30 each for additional shots. 

These shots protect against diseases like Leptospirosis, Coronavirus, Bordetella and Lyme Disease. 


Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease found in water and wet soil that affects dogs in certain geographic locations. It is most common in subtropical and tropical areas. However, it can still affect dogs in other areas if they come in contact with an infected animal. Leptospirosis is included in the DHPP shot at certain offices.

The virus is often associated with rodents. Dogs can contract it through contact with an infected rodent or contaminated water and sex in rare instances.

Symptoms include everything from eye pain and respiratory issues to uncontrollable muscle movements and jaundice. Leptospirosis can be treated if noticed quickly but can also be fatal in some cases. The AKC recommends vaccinating for Leptospirosis once at 10 to 12 weeks, again at 14 to 16 weeks, and finally at 12 to 16 months during the puppy stage.


Coronavirus is a condition that often causes diarrhea and intestinal issues for puppies. This infection can go away on its own. However, dogs are often very uncomfortable during the experience. 

Since Coronavirus spreads when dogs are kept in dirty close quarters, this vaccine is more appropriate for pups who come from unsanitary kennels or abusive homes. If the Coronavirus vaccine is suitable for your pup's needs, the AKC recommends vaccinating once at 10 to 12 weeks, again at 14 to 16 weeks, and finally at 12 to 16 months.

Bordetella (Kennel Cough)

Bordetella is a respiratory virus that is the most common cause of Kennel Cough. While this condition can be treated with medicine in older dogs, puppies often have more associated severe symptoms.

Like Coronavirus, Bordetella is most likely to occur when your pup is regularly kept close to other dogs. The AKC recommends vaccinating once at six to eight weeks, again at 10 to 12 weeks, and finally at 12 to 16 months during the puppy stage.

Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks that take a free ride on your dog's back and legs. Veterinarians will recommend this vaccine, depending on your dog's likelihood to encounter ticks. 

Dogs affected by Lyme Disease may show fever, sluggishness, and lameness, while others show no symptoms at all. The AKC recommends vaccinating once at 10 to 12 weeks, again at 14 to 16 weeks, and finally at 12 to 16 months during the puppy stage.

Preventive medications ($50 to $100) 

In addition to vaccines, preventive medications against fleas and ticks and heartworm are also helpful for your pup's health. While flea and tick medications fight conditions like Lyme Disease, preventive heartworm treatments combat dangerous symptoms like lung and heart damage. 

Flea and tick prevention and heartworm treatments are typically around $50 each. 

Can I vaccinate my puppy from home? 

At this point you may be questioning, if vaccinations are a costly and time-consuming veterinary investment, can I give my dog its shots myself? Administering a shot may not seem difficult, but giving your pup vaccinations from home comes with additional complications.

Not all online retailers are legitimate when it comes to canine vaccinations. For instance, some may advertise they can provide everything your pup needs. But the truth is, some required vaccinations, like the Rabies shot, are not allowed for sale outside of veterinary offices.

Moreover, when administering vaccinations from home, it is easy to give your pup the wrong dosage. Similarly, at-home testers for medical conditions can also be faulty and unreliable.

So, while you can give your pooch shots or perform a dog heartworm test at home, the most accurate and effective results come from letting the vet handle your pup's needs. 

Annual vet costs after the first year ($140 to $1,025 each year) 

After your dog gets out of the puppy stage, it's time to consider the veterinary costs they may experience in adulthood. Thankfully, vaccination and office visit costs reduce in adulthood and are typically easier to manage. However, other new and unexpected expenses can quickly raise the price again.

Before going over costs, you may be wondering how often dogs should go to the vet during adulthood? Dogs between the puppy and senior stage should visit the vet at least once a year. On the other hand, older dogs can benefit from a trip every six months.

Once every one to two years, dogs need another round of the DHPP vaccine and any additional vaccines they were given from the optional category. Every one to three years, they also need to get a new round of the Rabies vaccine to stay updated and healthy. Your dog should take preventive medicines annually.

Other annual costs include dental care, which can be anywhere from $70 to $400, and a fecal exam to check for worms, which is much cheaper at $25 to $45. Allergy testing is also available for pups that seem sensitive to the environment, from $200 to $300. 

Unexpected vet costs ($250-$26,000) 

Unexpected vet costs are likely to occur if your dog was involved in an accident or other injuries. They may also be associated with illness and old age. If your dog does need immediate attention, how much does an emergency vet visit cost? They are typically between $250 to $500 but can range as high as $1,000.

In reality, emergency costs are the priciest component of vet visits, and diagnosing your pup may take more than a physical exam. Laboratory tests and blood work often cost between $200 to $300.

Illnesses like cancer burden owners not only with their dog's suffering but also with expensive treatment costs. Chemotherapy can cost $6,000 to $10,000, while radiation is an additional $5,000 to $7,000. 

Surgery can also hurt your pup and your pocketbook, ranging anywhere from $500 for mild procedures to $8,000 for severe and complicated operations. 

Affordable alternatives for vet care and vaccinations 

With all the costs above, owning a dog may have started feeling somewhat daunting. It's important to remember that not all of the expenses above will pertain to your dog's needs and be necessary. Also, pet assistance for low-income families is available, so everyone's furry friends can receive care.

While you can take to Google to search low-cost vet clinics near me or free vet care near me, it can be confusing to know which offers are legitimate.

Instead of searching for all cheap vet clinics near me, narrow your search to animal shelters and rescue or welfare groups. These choices offer regular vet care that is much cheaper than traditional options.

In some instances, free care is also available. You may get lucky with free care by seeking out a veterinary school that has students who need to learn on pet participants. 

If prescriptions and medications from your regular veterinarian are too expensive for your budget, compare them against the available options on PetCareRx to make sure you're paying the lowest price. Moreover, 

injury or illness diagnoses can also benefit from a second vet opinion for cheaper treatment options. 

Veterinarians also often have a soft spot for a loving pair of puppy eyes. If cost is an issue, expressing your concerns to your vet may prompt them to find a cheaper option or special deal for you.

Final thoughts

Average vet costs for dogs can get expensive, especially when caring for a new puppy. However, affordable alternatives are available if you help with basic care or face unexpected emergency costs.

In addition to pursuing these options, planning helps prepare you for unexpected situations. For instance, starting a safety fund for your pup ensures you have resources if something goes wrong. 

Overall, the more research and knowledge you equip yourself with, the better you can understand how to find vet deals that are reasonable and fair.