$560 For a Bladder Infection Diagnosis??!??!

Updated on March 04, 2014
M.B. asks from Seattle, WA
11 answers


I just got back from the Vet with one of my cats (I have 3). After spending less than 5 minutes with me, and my cat, it was pronounced he has a raging bladder infection. All the treatment they wanted to do was $560. REALLY!!??!?

Well, some of the stuff they wanted to do I declined, which brought the bill down to $330. Still WAY out of our price range, or what I was expecting, but fine, as long as my furbaby gets better.

Two of my cats I've had for 5 years, and have no idea how old they are. The shelter I adopted them from couldn't tell me. It was one of those guys that is sick. The other cat I've had for 3 years and is 4 years old. I inherited that one when we moved into the place we're at now.

Is this normal, or did I get ripped off? My cats are indoor only and have NEVER had a problem before now. Their food has not chanaged either. The Vet said this was a chronic thing and that he'd get more bladder infections unless I bought their way overpriced cat food.

What can I do next?

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answers from Columbia on

My kitty had to have a unrinary catheter placed for 3 days because of his blockage. He stayed at the clinic. He also had antibiotics and tests and special food. It cost me about $600 in all.

We go to a country/farm vet. If I'd gone to a city vet, the cost would have been over $1000, easy.

I don't think you've been ripped off. You're in the Seattle area. For less expensive vet care, look into a country/farm vet.

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answers from Detroit on

As a vet, it's hard to comment without looking at an actual itemized estimate/invoice and knowing in detail what exactly they are charging for what. Are they running only a urinalysis or are they also doing a urine culture and sensitivity test? Are they offering or recommending bloodwork or x-rays? Is the lab work being done in the clinic or being sent to an outside lab? What sorts of medications are they prescribing? What diet are they recommending? Without more information, no one can say if what they wanted to do was reasonable or not. We are only getting your side of the story, I don't know what else might have gone down.

I do know that prices for services can vary widely depending on what area of the country you are in and just what kind of a practice it is (lower-cost vs. more high-end). At my practice, it would break down something like this (and these costs are consistent with most practices in the area):

Exam/office visit = $42.00
Urinalysis in-house = $33.00
Urinalysis plus culture/sensitivity testing (sent out - if not doing UA in-house) = $150.00
Bloodwork (to rule-out more serious problems, like kidney disease) = $120.00
SQ fluids (if indicated) = $22.00
Antibiotics = $15.00 - $30.00
Other meds (for pain, anti-inflammatory, etc.) = $25.00 - $50.00
X-rays (if we wanted to check for bladder stones) = $60.00 - $100.00

So yes, it can add up, depending on how much you do - not every UTI needs full bloodwork or x-rays but recurrent ones may warrant further investigation. A older pet is more prone to more things than a younger pet (usually) so it may be in some cases we don't want to miss anything.

I try to spend enough time with my clients to get a good history, perform a thorough physical exam, and review with them my recommendations and their options. This can easily take more than 5 minutes - I have appointments for non-routine visits booked for 30 minutes and I make sure at the end that if there are any other questions, they get answered. What is sometimes challenging for me is when owners want a diagnosis without running any tests at all and I have to let them know that sometimes that just isn't possible - or that only running one diagnostic test tells me only part of the story. I give estimates ahead of time and let them decide what level of care they can manage and how aggressively or conservatively they want to be (though of course, in some cases, we don't have that option because of how serious the situation is).

There are many things that can cause UTI-like symptoms in a cat and not be infection - and sometimes, other treatments besides antibiotics can help. In many cases, the prescription diets can help, and canned would be preferable over dry because of the higher water content.

The costs may seem high when you have to pay out-of-pocket, compared to human medicine and insurance covering most, if not all, costs. But in general, compared to our human counterparts, veterinary care is a bargain. I can spay a dog for less than $300, which is akin to performing a hysterectomy, including anesthesia, IV fluids, and pain medication. I wonder how much a hysterectomy in a human runs?

If you are not happy with your vet or have your doubts, get a second opinion.

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answers from Phoenix on

Male cats can be prone to bladder infections. Some cats develop crystals and eventually stones in their bladders, leading to repeat infections. The recommended food is designed to prevent the crystals from forming to avoid those strings of infections. I would bet that was what the vet was talking about in your kitty's case. Let the vet know that you can't afford the food and ask for alternate recommendations for diet. There may be cheaper options- an ethical vet will lay out all the options if you ask, not just tell you you must buy this exact brand of food. As far as the price, I don't think you got ripped off, I think they wanted to be sure it was in fact the crystal/stone scenario above rather than something else. You would probably be more upset if they just gave you the low ash food and it turned out to be bladder cancer and you had wasted all kinds of money on an expensive diet.
Maybe ask about pet insurance, if this kitty may have ongoing issues?

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Some cats are just born with smaller urinary tracts and are prone to infections. It's even more common in male cats.
Sometimes they can be brought on and aggravated by cheap cat food like Purina Cat Chow or Friskies. If you look at the ingredients there isn't a lot of *real* anything in them. We've had cats with allergies and have had to use the more expensive but better for them foods to keep them healthy. But, it often costs you less then you think in the long run because they don't have to over eat to get all the nutrients that they need because it's not full of fillers. We just feed everyone a good, nutritiously dense food now. The food you're referencing is designed with ingredients that will help prevent infections, much like it's recommended to drink cranberry juice to help prevent and treat infections in humans.
Another thing about cat food. Companies are not legally required to change their labeling immediately if they change ingredients. They can go 6 months before having to make the change. It's not the same as human food. We learned that the hard way. We could not figure out what was wrong with one of our cats. One day I went to buy him a new bag of the food he'd been eating since he was a kitten and noticed the bag was different, now touting a "new formula" and looked at the ingredients, his lamb only food now had chicken in it which he was extremely allergic to! Called the company and found that it had been in there for months but they didn't change the labels until recently. I was livid! In the end he had become so sick that he could not recover and we lost him after trying everything to heal and save him.
It is possible that your vet is charging more for treatment than others. You can try getting a second opinion if it would help you feel better about it. Vets have to charge the real cost of treatments, it's not like they have big insurance companies helping to off set the costs like humans do.

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answers from Tulsa on

My cat (10 years old) had a bladder infection starting in Dec. $200 bill for antibiotics, antispasmodics, and labs with instructions to bring her back in 2 weeks to make sure it was gone. It wasn't, cue another $200 for the same (different antibiotic this time). Instructions to give it ANOTHER 2 weeks and come back. Still not completely gone, now we added special food, and fortunately the bill was only around $60 this time (they stopped charging for the visits after the second time). Long story short: We paid close to $500 over the course of 2 months to clear up bladder issues. Sigh.

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answers from Portland on

I'm old enough to remember when vets charged less. There was lttle they could do for the pet.. Medical science has advanced andvets are now able to do the same tests and ttreatment that are done for people. Vets now have better training too. Result is that they do charge more.

What I've experienced is that I have to consider how much I'm willing to payand decline the expensive services. Our vet outlines what he can do andasks if we want that. He doesn't give the cost. I learned the hard way that I have to ask for prices. Paid a large bill.

In your cat's situation I would ask for a simple urine test and medication if it was positive for infection. That is all my doctor does for me, a person, so it'sgood enough for my pet. If you don't ask for that up front the vet will offer more services.

People doctors offer more but will tell you why so that you can make an informed ddecision. I've found that with vets I have to ask if the service is actually needed and why.

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answers from Columbus on

I would say it depends on what all was done- office visit, urine collection cysto or free catch, urinalysis, ultrasound, x rays, meds, new food, fluids, injections given there for treatment. Was the cat blocked at all or just a bladder infection?The price could be right depending on what was done there and the treatment plan.

I have one with chronic problems and all three of mine are on a urinary diet because of it. Cystals can cause blockage and special diets help prevent crystals from forming. I also increase water by putting a little over food once a day.

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answers from Dallas on

Depending on the types of testing they did at the vet office, you probably paid within range of normal.

People would think I am out of my mind to know what we spent on vet bills in the last year. It was more than any of our personal medical expenses. BUT, we have 2 healthy dogs now. One did pass away but it was 6 months post surgery so we basically bought him 6 months and it was a great 6 months to see him so happy.

Vet bills are very pricey. You need a vet you can trust and communicate with so you know you are getting the best care for your money.

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answers from Santa Barbara on

My boyfriend is a vet but he's at work.
Office visit
Urine collection
Possible x-rays to look for stones
Sub-q fluids
Few other things. Some people will do anything to fix their little one.

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answers from New York on

Seems consistent with what we pay in vet bills. You might look into pet insurance, or at least consider it should you get another pet. Many won't write policies for older animals, or animals with pre-existing conditions.

We considered getting a policy for our dog when she was younger. The straight out policy ran a few hundred bucks a year, but had a significant deductible, not enough to cover annual vet visits. Were she to suffer a serious accident, or chronic condition, we'd have certain limited coverage, and then subject to annual and lifetime limits. We opted against buying the policies. At this point in her life, despite overall good health, she is too old to qualify.

F. B.

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answers from San Francisco on

I always feel ripped off at the vet. They diagnosed him without a test?

Antibiotics shouldn't cost $560, or $330. So I'm no expert, but if they spent 5 minutes with your cat and didn't do a test, then I don't understand what they are charging you $330 for. It seems to me it should be the cost of the office visit (maybe $100-ish), plus an antibiotic, ($50-ish), plus the food ($35-ish).

I hope you at least got an antibiotic for your $330.

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