The Cost of Veterinary Medicine

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Dr. Rob

9/27/12

The Cost of Veterinary Medicine

This next post was inspired through my interactions with our Facebook followers. A recurring theme that pops up on the site (and in my private practice as well) is the exceptional cost of veterinary medicine.

Many people feel that they are limited in the care that they can provide to their pets due to rising veterinary costs.  Many have posted that they feel that their veterinarians are greedy and often run “unnecessary ” tests to drive up the costs of their veterinary visit.  They are denied prescriptions for medicines and care for their pets if they don’t follow veterinary recommendations regarding diagnostics and treatments.   Veterinarians are called cruel for denying care to a sick animal because their owners cannot afford the care or refuse the care that is deemed necessary by their vet.

The first thing that strikes me from all of this is that, in my opinion, the traditional relationship between veterinarian and pet owner has soured a bit.  We are, it seems, a long way from the James Herriot days of veterinary medicine.  Over the last decade or so there has been a dramatic increase in the availability of testing, specialty facilities (which rival top human hospitals in the diagnostics and care available for their patients), and equipment available to the general practitioner to help him/her in treating and diagnosing their patients (ultrasound, surgical lasers, digital x-ray, dental x-ray machines, flexible endoscopy, anesthetic monitoring equipment etc.).

These diagnostic and treatment modalities are invaluable in providing information to the veterinarian and in allowing us to diagnose and to treat patients that in the past would have been treated blindly, left undiagnosed, or even euthanized.  Veterinary students are introduced to these advanced diagnostics and treatments in school nowadays, and the approach of a veterinarian towards his patient is expected to be on par with that of physicians in the human medical field; however, these diagnostic and treatment modalities come at a cost. A typical ultrasound used in private practice can run in excess of $50,000.  An MRI machine, expected at any specialty facility, can run several million.  If a veterinarian is to have these pieces of equipment available for her patients then someone must pay for it.

Perhaps the single most influential force driving up veterinary costs is the school debt that a veterinarian now graduates with.  In 2010, for example, the average veterinarian graduated with over $138,000 in student loans (VIN NEWS Service).  That debt is growing exponentially.  It is not uncommon at all for us to have a recent grad tell us when applying for a job that they are $200-300.00 in debt.  Incidentally, the average veterinary salary during that same year of 2010 was $67,000 (VIN NEWS SERVICE).

Veterinarians are not immune to other rising costs that are crippling most businesses in this tough economy.  Rising fuel costs, the exploding costs of providing healthcare to employees, food costs, taxes, supplies, and prescription costs all cut dramatically into a veterinarian’s profit margin.  Veterinarians are also well aware of rising unemployment and have seen many of their previously solvent clients now unable to pay bills.  People, in this economy, are reluctant to get new pets and are taking their existing pets to the veterinarian less frequently.

In addition, there has been an explosion of online pharmacies.  In 2010 PetMeds alone reported sales of $238 Million.  This was $238 million dollars taken directly out of veterinary practices.  Large companies like this buy products in huge bulk, often illegally, and receive huge discounts unavailable to the local veterinarian.  When a veterinarian loses revenue through pharmacy sale losses, they must make up this income by raising other costs like exam fees or diagnostics.  The money simply has to come from somewhere.

Most clients who argue that the cost of veterinary medicine is too high do not even take steps to help lower their own costs.  Greater than 90% of pet owners do not own pet insurance for their pets even though costs are typically very low (around $50/month) and some plans pay up to 90% of costs when the animal is sick.  There is usually a scramble to get the insurance once the pet is sick. Rightfully so,  just as if someone was trying to buy fire insurance after their house burned down, they are not able to do so.  When clients complain about costs, there are a variety of other options such as Care Credit where a client can receive interest free credit cards for their pet’s care.  Often times this option is not enough to satisfy the disgruntled client.  It is not that they want time to pay for the care, they simply are unable to or don’t feel that they should have to pay for the care.   Similarly, there are often low cost clinics and shelters where people can take their pets if they have real financial burdens.  Many times clients will object to the drive to get to one of these clinics or the wait times once there.

In defense of the disgruntled client, there are bad veterinarians just as there are bad people in any profession.  I have often seen tests run unnecessarily.  I have seen bills run up.  I have seen animals hospitalized who clearly did not need to be and animals operated on who did not have to be.  I can tell you horror stories that rival the worst dishonest auto mechanic (no knock on the auto mechanics!).  The over-vaccination and early pushing of spaying and neutering, still prevalent in a lot of veterinary practices, is a driving force for this very website; however, for the most part, I feel that veterinarians are good people who care deeply about the animals that they are treating and try their hardest to be fair and honest.

I strive my best each and every day to treat people’s pets as if they were my own.  I try to present all of the options to my clients.  There is usually an “A plan” and a “B plan”, and I do my best to present them both to the client.   We work every day trying to provide the best care that is possible within an owner’s budget.  We have also done our fair share of charity work over the years and have rescued literally thousands of strays and treated them for free.

It is imperative that you develop this type of relationship with your veterinarian.  When your veterinarian recommends testing or hospitalization, you should have the utmost confidence that that is what needs to be done.  You should feel that there is an open dialogue with your veterinarian and that you are free to ask questions.  You should feel that you are intimately involved in the process of diagnosing and treating your pet.  If you are uncomfortable, keep looking until you find the veterinarian that you implicitly trust.  You will find him or her.

Should anyone be allowed to own a pet regardless of their income?  Should a veterinarian, who is running a business, be obligated to take care of a pet if the owner cannot afford care?  Should the owner of that pet be forced to relinquish that pet if services are rendered for free?  Are we in a better place today then we were 20 years ago?  Your questions and comments below.

 

Questions

Comments

  1. Your article presented some excellent points. One way to keep costs contained in my opinion would be to treat some ailments such as urinary tract infections blindly. Examine a urine sample, prescribe a broad spectrum antibiotic and test the urine again right before the end of the course of antibiotics. If the urine is fine and symptoms are gone, that’s all that’s needed. It is not necessary to do a urine culture for the first episode IMO. Also, consider the age, condition and suspected diagnosis before undergoing extensive testing. If the dog is old and a mass on the liver is found on ultrasound, why biopsy it? If blood and urine tests show that a dog is experiencing kidney problems, does it really matter what the exact type of kidney problem is? Wouldn’t the supportive care for kidney problems be similar no matter what the diagnosis is? If a veterinarian suspects there is nothing that can be done to “cure” the dog of a condition, why undergo extensive testing when the outcome will probably be the same? I understand that from an intellectual viewpoint, a professional would want to know the exact diagnosis but in many instances, that knowledge won’t help to cure the problem. In my opinion, chemotherapy and radiation are a very inexact science in dogs at this point. Will the extra six months of life be of good quality? Also, preventative dental care has become so costly yet it is so important to the animal’s health. It is hard for owner’s to pay $400.00 a year for dental cleaning. I realize the dog must be sedated but that is more than my dentist charges for a cleaning on a person. I feel we are not in a better place today than we were 20 years ago. A veterinarian should be able to offer “comfort care” for anyone’s dog with small monthly payments. Good homes are difficult to find for dogs and cats. If the owner provided a good home – the animal is in healthy weight, is socialized and loved, clean and well-groomed, he should not be forced to relinquish the pet if services are rendered for free. IMO, small monthly payments should be expected by the caregiver or bartering for cleaning, painting, lawn care, etc. if possible.

    • Angry Vet says:

      Your approach is solid and in most cases is exactly the way i would practice. Age, history, first time episodes are all valuable pieces of the puzzle and an experienced clinician will not test in these instances. However there are mistakes in your post that exactly point out why the veterinarian is needed. An educated owner cannot replace the veterinarians education and diagnostics. For example, NO not all kidney problems are treated the same. A kidney infection for example which may have a normal urinalysis and a negative culture will look very difficult on an ultrasound . A kidney infection can be cured with antibiotics. Other forms of kidney disease cannot be cured…simply managed. Why biopsy a liver? Because treatment options and even cures are completely different based upon what the results of the biopsy are. A good clinician is not out to gouge you . We are out to use the minimal testing (which in some circumstances is completely necessary and helpful) to provide the best outcome for your pet.

      • Ron says:

        I took my cat in yesterday for what i expect is heat ehaustion…he had a temperature. Vet made us pay $400 and on top of that made my wife hold the cat down while the doc took an anal temperature and my wife was bitten by the cat. Dont they have employees for this? And why did i have to pay before services rendered? Same thing happened to my other cat…they had me keep the cat in the clinic, ran up a $100 not trustingy0 bill over 2 days, then the cat died anyway. ofcourse i still had to pay. I DO NOT RRUST VETS. They started it….by not trusting us and making us pay before treatment. This place has no expensive equipment to pay for…Im supposed to get kanchya back at 10am and he better be ok. if not, im going to LOOSE IT!

        • Ron says:

          not 100 dollars….a Thousand dollars!

        • kathy says:

          Sadly a lot of places will take payment prior to treatment The old addage of a few rotten eggs ruining it for everyone else. The veterinary field has some of the worse non payment rates so to be able to get by a lot have to put safe guards in place. Although there will always be a few professionals out there for the money the vast majority of clinicians got into the job to help animals. Looking at similar levels in other fields e.g dentist or doctors; vets earn substantially less. Trust me, if they were in it for the money they’d have chosen a different career to begin with! I appreciate things get emotional when your pets are involved but do you really think your vet intentionally set out to rip you off or hurt your pet? No – they are putting your animal first and in all likelyhood actually undercharging. Look up equivolent costs in human medicine. That will truly shock you.

  2. Nancy Stock says:

    Great post.
    I was a dairy farmer for 20 years and developed a fantastic relationship with my vet clinic who I use to this day. They offer 24 hour service due to the large animal practice and their veterinarians are truly excellent and the senior partners are gifted surgeons who do not automatically refer the patient to some high end specialist. They do it all.. maybe because when you are on a farm with a 1500 pound cow and the farmer as an assistant you HAVE to do it.
    I do all I can to support them.. and a number of their clients actually donate money (no tax write off) so they CAN help someone who is a good owner but not wealthy enough to support emergency care that will clearly extend an animals life and relieve suffering. I also try my best to buy my animals’ drugs from them as I know the animal pharmacy is a source of income (heartworn, flean and tick as well as Rx).

    That being said, I have been told I am also somewhat unique in that I go the extra mile to fully understand my animals (now dogs and cats.. no farm animals) and fully understand their ailments and treatments.

    I am realistic about how much I will do and realistic about costs. I will not spend thousands on an elderly animal just to get a few more months (the money is better put into a new rescue or given to the shelter). I will not spend thousands on a seemingly lost cause either. We understand this (my vets and I) and we have cried over the passing of more than one animal.

    I suspect that, having been a successful farmer I am also in a unique position to understand the cost of overhead and running a business.

    As to college cost… when I retired from Dairy farming I looked at going to vet school and being in my mid 40′s I could not make the money work. I figured by the time I had student loans paid off, I would be ready to retire.

    I have had pet insurance.. but with multiple pets (4 cats and 2 dogs) the cost was truly too high. I have a Credit card with a high limit.. but I also have limits on how much I will spend.

  3. Linda Legere says:

    You make some good points. I do believe that vets are caught up in a dilemma caused by a shift in societal values: I have noticed a distinct separation between pet owners. To oversimplify a bit, there are those who own working animals and livestock (or used to and are of the ‘old school’), and those who have one or two small animals strictly as coddled pets. I do see that some well to do coddled-pet owners would want to have all the latest technology to diagnose their pets. Most of us rural animal keepers, as much as we love our dogs, cannot afford this and cannot go to heroic measures if some major disease is found. I would love to see the return of the vet that used to come out and treat our large animals and would bring along real raw bones for the dogs and give them a rabies shot when needed. The cost of the visit was x cents a mile from the previous farm and a small call fee, plus supplies and meds. Nowadays, if I tell the vet that my dog sleeps outside he wants to treat him with chemicals because he ‘could get fleas’, plus he makes me feel like an abuser for letting the dog act like a dog (herding dogs have to be around livestock even if they might get stepped on). It now seems impossible to have a ‘relationship’ with the vet unless your pet is very ill and being treated agressively. I cannot afford to take the dog to the vet just so I can keep in touch.
    It hasn’t always been this way. I once had a vet in my barn, pressing her face into the neck of a horse with her arm thrown over the mare’s mane. Tears poured down the vet’s face. She held the syringe in her hand, loaded and ready to euthanize the horse. She said, “I can’t do it”. This was a 28 year old mare suffering from Red Maple poisoning –our pony had already died of it (due to misdiagnosis/delayed treatment by another on call vet) and we didn’t want the old mare to suffer, but she seemed to be perking up. The vet ended up telling me she was just 10 mins away and would come right over if needed at any time of the day or night, but to wait for now because old Chipper might just make it through this. Well, that faithful mare went on to live another six years, participating happily in PonyClub with young riders until the week she died. On the other hand, if the game warden caught a dog chasing deer he was required to shoot him and, as sad as it was, we all felt he was justified in doing so –people had to train and care for their own animals — not by brushing their teeth and filling them with chemical ‘remedies’, but by feeding them well and teaching them to respect other animals and people. Veterinary science has come a long way, but we have lost the code of personal responsibility that animal owners used to share.
    Sorry to go on so long, but there is one other group of pet owners I have not mentioned. There are those who cannot afford to care for themselves, yet think they should have pets around just for their own enjoyment. They seem to feel entitled to subsidized veterinary care. I imagine that these are the ones who wonder why vets are so ‘mean’ not to provide free care for their sickly animals.

  4. Ellen says:

    Physicians can put the cost of equipment on patients since they usually have insurance. Pet insurance may average $50, but gets higher with multiple pets, and that first $50 isn’t always affordable. That doesn’t make me a bad owner, just one that doesn’t make that kind of money and prefers to spend the dogs’ budget on good foods, like supreme quality dog food and raw. Their supplements and fish oil aren’t cheap, either. And, we have to eat ourselves and the cost of that and heating oil is through the roof.

    There is something to be said here about volume of clients. You really don’t have to bang everyone that comes through the door if you have a generous clientele. All of us will be able to pay off your school loans eventually, but we have some of our own to get to first, and some of us have been laid off after many years at a job.

    My vet (currently but not for much longer) does not take Care Credit, makes no payment plans unless you can put down at least half, does not come to the home, does not belong to any participating groups for discounted spay and neuter, but has a beautiful new pharmacy in the renovated house that is the waiting room with flat screen TV, exam rooms, back rooms and kennels. They push early spay, unnecessary, non-core vaccines and will agree to titers if YOU request them. I hate to see what they’ll charge for those if they decide to invest in a VacciCheck. They have no clue about raw and I was lectured once by one of the partners.

    So, if I have an emergency with no funds, first I’m sent to the “area emergency clinic” because there are no after hours at this vet, and then I’m stuck making a painful decision if nobody wants to make a payment deal – or I get to beg online with a ChipIn to save my animal’s life.

    Holistic vets charge more, so even though I would love to go to one, I cannot afford it, but may have to save up to start a new relationship with someone who cares about my animals the way that I do.

    I agree, the cost of veterinary care is almost unaffordable and does not promote preventive care at all, and makes profits look much better than helping people keep their pets. I actually read a while back that the Veterinary Medical Society was the one proposing to vets to stop taking deposits on care and proud that they won that one…

    • Angry Vet says:

      Ellen, some of you problems with your vet sound more like you’ve got issues with the way they practice more than the cost of service – of course any amount spent on a service you don’t think is good is too much!! Care Credit can be a bit tricky. I used it to pay for my daughter’s dental work ($9500!!) and I did like it, so I started to offer it at our office. It does come at a steep price for the practice though. In order to provide a client with time periods of no interest there is a fee to the practice – the longer the interest free period the higher the cost to the practice – it can go up to 10-15% I believe – maybe higher. The profit margin in most offices (the money we make as income after expenses are paid) is about 20% in well run practices so using the method of payment has a negative side for the practice as well as a positive one. The bottom line is that the cost of doing business is very high these days – even when I go over these numbers with staff members they are surprised at how much money we spend to keep the doors open.

  5. Jane says:

    I think your points are pretty accurate. I would add that it is the owner’s responsibility to question their vet, politely. For instance, if the vet recommends a test, it is the owner’s responsibility to ask why. If the test is to confirm cancer, and the owner wouldn’t treat the cancer, is the test really necessary? Of course, in this scenario, if there is a reasonable possibility that the test could also determine if it is a more treatable and more benign condition, then it might make sense.
    I do disagree somewhat about the pet health insurance. Although I think that pet health insurance is improving some as more insurers have entered the market, in many cases it doesn’t pay for itself. There is much fine print and many exclusions and limitations. For instance, for my greyhound, who I got at 5 years old in 2008, the quoted insurance rate was $150 to $200 a month. This included an extra cancer rider, which I wanted because bone cancer is common in greyhounds. It did not include any preventative care. For my other two dogs (not greyhounds) the rate was quite high with many exclusions. Of course I adopted them in 1996, when VPI was the only game in town. I elected to put that money into a bank account and save it for a rainy day. I did this for all 3 of my dogs. Unluckily, my greyhound did develop bone cancer just two years after I adopted him. I treated with amputation and chemotherapy. I also treated with a metronomic protocol (about $120 a month) and we got almost two years more. One of my other dogs developed lymphoma and subsequent kidney failure. She received a few months of Wisconsin CHOP chemo and then we went to leukeran. In addition to these issues, I also had to do two cruciate repairs, 7 injuries that required anesthesia, at least 10 ultrasounds, etc. My point is that these dogs got all the care they needed. My out of pocket for all this stuff (especially the greyhound) was more than my savings. So I decided to research what insurance would have paid. Because of the limits and the deductibles, I actually saved over $6000 by just saving the money. However, I did lose money on the greyhound because he cost me $13000 for cancer treatment just two years after I got him. I had $5000 in the bank for his care ($200 per month plus interest). But even with the cancer rider, with the limits, deductibles and exclusions insurance only would have paid $7000. So I “lost” $2000 on this dog, but made $4000 on my other dogs. My point is, if you are willing to save the amount of your premiums, and not touch it, you will come out ahead over time. However, if something happens before you have built up your nest egg, and you do not have the ability to find money elsewhere, you will be in trouble. So if you don’t have good cash flow, pet health insurance can be a godsend.
    Lastly, I want to comment on the fees that vets charge. It seems that in the past (30 years ago), vets subsidized more expensive procedures with the routine procedures. For instance, the huge markup on medications allowed them to reduce the price on a necessary, but expensive procedure. This allowed their patients to receive care when it was critical, even though the cost would normally be very high. Of course, I don’t know this for a fact, it just seems to me to be the case. Now, with the advent veterinary pharmacies and the increased use of human meds, the vet can no longer rely on this income. With the increase of low cost vet clinics who provide basic care (shots, yearly exam) full service veterinarians will soon not be able to rely on making money off these procedures. Combine that with advances in veterinary care and increased expectations of the owners, full service vets offices now have to have more advanced equipment. This all leads to an exponential increase in the cost of veterinary services.
    Because my dogs are treated like children, I am very thankful for the advances in veterinary care. I fully understand that other people wouldn’t pay $13000 for an average expected additional life of 14 months, but for me it was worth it. And I was lucky, I got two years. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity 5 to 10 years ago.

    • Angry Vet says:

      Jane, well written and very insightful. While I do think that insurance does help many times there are definitely “fine print” times when it is quite annoying. As far as a decrease in pharmacy income leading to an increase in service based income – very true! I’m a third generation vet and my generation came out of school as this was all happening. To be fair, I do not have much of a problem with the way things are now. I didn’t spent 8 years in college and vet school to make my living selling products. I much prefer to provide the best care and veterinary expertise that I can for my patients/clients and receive proper fees for that rather than large mark-ups on products.

  6. txchick57(?) says:

    How well I remember the time I had to scramble and sell everything I could get my hands on to pay for cancer treatment for my dog. Not treating wasn’t even a consideration. Now I have insurance. The costs now are truly frightening (I don’t blame veterinarians for this). My cat is going on Monday to have his teeth worked on. Estimate: $800 and that’s if nothing goes wrong.

  7. Susan Mann says:

    One question I usually ask about any diagnostics is if it will change the course of treatment. For instance, Arie had a toe injury, diagnosed by ultrasound (that we probably didn’t need, since the vet was able to diagnose by palpation, but we did need the u/s of her shoulder) and an xray was recommended, which I declined.

    My personal opinion is that I don’t want to deal with a very “corporate” practice, which seem to have higher overheads, including more personnel not directly involved in providing care -which is also why I work for a small community hospital, rather than the larger systems which are around (I’m an RN.)

    • Lauren says:

      a toe injury diagnosed by ultrasound… weird but I guess we don’t use our ultrasound that way. That would of been more of an xray to see the break, or swelling, or no break at all.
      Some vets will want to do things that are unnecessary..

    • Angry Vet says:

      this is an instance where IMO a veterinarian misused a test to pay for the test. There is NO instance where an ultrasound would be required to diagnose a malignancy in a toe!

  8. Margaret Rancourt says:

    I think the article presents its points well as do the people who have posted thoughtful responses. I am fortunate to have an excellent vet who explains everything to me and answers all of my questions. If she doesn’t know, she consults with the local specialists because she’s a lifelong learner as well. It’s an individual decision as to what care and how much one can afford for their pets. I have a giant breed so everything is exponentially expensive. I’ve made tough decisions along the way but foremost in every single one was the quality of life for my dogs, not what I wanted. Thank you for the dialogue.

  9. Altina says:

    Dr. Rob,
    You said it very well, I try to treat all my patients as if they were my own and all my clients as friends and family. It has come back to bite me when the client takes advantage of my compassion and stiffs me on the bill. I have a very well equiped clinic, which means I have made a lot of investments in equipement and training. I do not recommend anything I do not think is necessay in the diagnosis or treatment, I do not push treatments or food yet I have been acused of all of the above, my advice is practice what you believe and keep on plugging away. A core of good clients will stand by you and support you. I won’t ever be rich in money but I think I can count most of my clients as friends and that is what it is all about!

  10. sally says:

    I see too many caring owners with limited funds of senior or animals with diseases are not offered euthanisia as part of the equation. Owner is pressured to feel the only option is spend money. I understand many people can and do opt for extension.

    The others who cannot afford extras, but diligently went for the yearly exam, have no option but take the pet to the animal shelter. Sad for the animal, sad for the owner and sad for the shelter staff who is now stuck making a difficult decision.

    What happened to …. “A. We can make your pet comfortable for $$. B. You can do that for $$$ or *C. We can euthanize your pet for $.”

    The outcome is the same. The animal is better off with it’s family in the end whether it is in two years or next week.

  11. Lauren says:

    Heres an important thing to remember.. any of you not have health insurance? Well if you have or had not Im sure you remember the prices of any Dr visit or prescription to your human dr. I sure do! And I am still paying off my $2500 root canal! That was discounted!
    Yes there are vets out there that run every test in the book or try to take your money. But most vets do what is best for your dog/cat/animal. Not what they need to do to make a buck. The pharmaceutics are becoming more and more expensive also.
    Most people get a pet not realizing the cost of actually owning it, getting annual or even puppy vaccines. And god forbid if something goes wrong.
    Medicine is expensive human or animal. If you can’t afford to take care of yourself do not get a pet!
    Ask questions, know why your doing it. Don’t skip on things that will actually save you money in the long run, like blood tests, or an xray that is needed.
    Simple things like preventing fleas, keeping your dog a good weight, feeding it a good food (not beneful!), and brushing its teeth, walking everyday, joint supplements, etc. Those things will save everyone money but its just a “DOG” to some people. So you ask why did you bring it to the vet then, and then complain about your bill if its just a dog! Sorry somewhat of a vent but see it everyday. I lost my compassion for people who clearly have the money but won’t spend it on their pet. I do try to help everyone save money in everyway they can. Like buying heartworm prev in bulk or hey brush your dogs teeth and you wont need a dental. Even give people options to return to have another test done if the animal is not better. But when your pet can’t use a little of the money you have when it needs it then thats just wrong.

  12. Elle says:

    Where I live there is only one vet practice and many of the vets there are short termers. They have a new state of the art surgery and some of the best facilities money can buy. They are Pushers of early desexing and over immunising, but that is actually very necessary here due to the amount of Wild and Camp dogs and other animals with huge disease loads in this area. I will question everything they want to test and fight with them over being present for testing (I do not agree with animals being taken out the back for testing or treatment) I also get very tired of their Pushy beliefs. Their Prices are necessary to cover their costs and they need to provide all services as there are no other services available for over 1,000 Km (NOT an exaggeration). I do however drive for 2 days 1,500 km to see my vet who I trust and often come out to have saved money! I do not balk at paying for quality Pet care and help out many pensioners with the care of their dogs. The vet situation in this town is a constant talking point with locals and there is no easy answer to the problems. I would love to hear any suggestions. It is hard to blame the Vet for making costs so high perhaps we need the Insurance to be lower.

  13. Jennifer says:

    Good topic, and one that really needs to be discussed. If you feel your vet is overcharging and pushing unnecessary tests, you need to either sit down and have a long talk with your vet, or switch vets. I believe that the client-vet relationship should be one built on trust, and decisions about a pet’s health care should be based on an open dialogue and cooperative effort between the vet and the owner.

    Just because advanced diagnostics and treatment options are available does not mean they are appropriate for every pet (factors such as age, overall health status, and temperament need to be taken into account), or for every client (who may different in personal beliefs as well as budget). The only reasons to do an expensive diagnostic test are 1) if it is going to change the treatment plan, or 2) if the client needs and answer and just wants to know.

    As a vet, it is my job to discuss all the options with the client, and help them determine which is the best course for their pet and their situation. This includes presenting them with options ranging anywhere from “do everything medically possible” to ” do nothing” (as long as the pet is not suffering, in which case euthanasia may be advised over “do nothing”). It is up to the client to decide what is right for them, and not my job to judge.

    Along these same lines, I wanted to share this blog article:
    http://www.askavetquestion.com/why-are-vets-so-expensive.php

    As well as this article comparing the costs of human medicine vs veterinary medicine. Instead of asking why vet med is getting so expensive, perhaps a better question is why have vets been charging so little for procedures that are essentially identical to ones done in human medicine for significantly more.
    http://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/296461_421464481249317_473694510_n.jpg

  14. Mike says:

    I had a great Vet for years, but when we moved we switched to someone closer.

    We had some bad experiences with the over charging and Vet’s who refused to recommend anything until they did every test in the book. Honestly I started to think it was just the way all Vet’s were where we moved to and was considering driving the 2 hours to our old place.

    Then we found our current practice that has 3 Vet’s, any of which I’m always happy to see. We got really lucky to find them and I’m with the other posters who said if you don’t like your current Vet, if you can – try and find a new one. They’re out there, you just have to find them.

  15. Angry Vet says:

    We are not seeking sycophants. There are many posts that disagree with points that we’ve made. Disagreements are expected. Disrespect is not. Not only are you being disrespectful to us but also our readers as you consider them mindless sycophants.

    • Angry Vet says:

      pearl sadly facebook is now closed entirely thanks to you. There has been an outpouring of support from people who understand what the site is about and want to contribute in a positive way. I cannot, however continue on facebook. There are a few people, like yourself, who have little or no interaction with the human world outside of the facebook bubble and fill their day fighting with people and venting their frustrations with life through a keyboard. Sorry, not for me. I am an extremely busy person with a rich and fulfilling life. I have a beautiful family, three thriving practices, and many friends. Angryvet was started as a service to the public and as a forum where I could help to educate people and to show them the other side of some issues in veterinary medicine to which they might not have been aware. It is a non-profit endeavor. I spend a ton of time on it, for no financial gain, only to be called greedy. Ironic, huh?

  16. British says:

    I agree with most of your points.
    But unfortunately, I also have to agree with people who say that some (!) vets are greedy. I experienced that myself just recently.
    Our cat needed surgery after a broken leg. There was not much time to make a choice, and we were simply referred to a vet, and the bill then came to £2.500 (surgery only, not the emergency visit and consultation, that was another £500). We were told that that included everything – the surgery, x-rays after a few weeks, and removal of an external fixator.
    Immediately after that, several other vets and also RSPCA people told us that that surgery should not have been more than £600, £700. There were no complications during surgery, nothing that would have justified that amount.
    When it was time for the check-up, they charged us £275 only for an x-ray! The same x-ray that our normal vet would have done for £75-90.
    How can prices be justified that are around 4 times higher than only a few miles away? £275 for a simple x-ray? That’s unbelievable.
    And how many people would have chosen amputation or even euthanasia instead of paying £2.500?
    I am sure that this is an exception and not the norm. But only a few bad eggs …

    • Angry Vet says:

      Thank you for your response. The answer to your question is that if you were referred to a referral hospital, all of the fees are higher because they are paying for all of the equipment, staffing (usually 24 hr) etc. and the physical size of the facility (higher energy costs, bigger rents or taxes, bigger expense to build etc). The equipment alone, as stated in the article, is crazy money, several millions for an MRI, for example. A top-notch referral practice has usually MRI, CT, Laser, Endoscopy, oncology and Radiation services, phacoemulsification equipment (along with many other ophtho diagnostics), fluoroscopy….the list goes on and on…

      With all of that said, I have stopped dealing with CERTAIN referral practices because the bills were becoming astronomical. It is a fine line for sure. We are, as general practitioners, sympathetic and empathetic (I couldn’t afford some of these bills either!) to your cause. Best of luck

      • British says:

        Thanks for your response, Angry Vet.
        I would say that with £275 (US$444) for a simple x-ray (one, not several!), the fine line is definitely crossed! And I would call that astronomical. Especially after we had been told that those costs were included in the original fee for the surgery.
        So I would say that his practice is definitely one of your “CERTAIN” referral practices. And it is those practices that give vets a bad name and are the reason for heated discussions and less and less people trusting their vet.

  17. Mary says:

    I go to a great Vet. I drive 8 mi each way to take my dogs there. I drive 20 mi each way to take one of my dogs to a dermatoligist and 20 mi each way to an emergency and specialty clinic when I need to. I worked as a Vet Tech in the 70′s at a very good hospital. Even then they asked for a deposit because so many animals were abandoned at Vet Clinics. One time a woman handed her diamond ring as a deposit until she could get to the bank.

    This year I have spent over $7,000 on my dogs for emergencies, dental specialists, tests and preventative care. There are Vets and emergency clinics closer that I tried over the years and decided they either were not competent or there fees were way to high for the quality of care my pets received. I have been going to my current Vet for 8 years.

    I have two 11 yr olds, so I’m in the geriatric stage with them and one 7 yr old who I adopted with skin and ear problems. Hah, I thought skin and ear problems were easy to treat. And yes, I tried raw, and the one with the skin problems had a pancreatic reaction and ended up in the hospital for three days on fluids.

    Right now I’m sitting here waiting for a phone call on one 11 yr old who is anemic and not eating. I’m dreading the diagnosis. They are doing an ultrasound. This is going to be a tough one. He is actually 11.5. I’m hoping it’s something treatable.

    Yes, owning a pet has gotten expensive. I guess it always was, but our dogs seemed healthier back then or we ignored a lot of problems and didn’t know about heart worms and never worried about yearly vaccinations. It’s just a reality now. If you get a pet, you have to budget for emergencies or buy insurance. I am thankfull for the good Vets out there.

    Great article Dr. Keep the information coming. We do appreciate it.

  18. LauraGr says:

    The cost of care is sometimes too high. My regular, that I have used for almost 20 years charges $500 to $1000 for canine dental cleanings. The lower end of the pricing is no extractions. They quoted me a price of $700 for a chryptorchid neutering of a 14 pound dachshund. A well-puppy visit and vax is over a hundred dollars.

    I am actually looking at changing vets because even though I have used them for decades, a recent problem has shattered my trust in their ability to care for my pets.

  19. Linda says:

    I moved three yrs ago and had to find a new vet. I went thru several before I found a vet I was comfortable with. Last year I had a 2k bill with him and he was kind enough to let me pay it off in three payments. In general, I am happy with his services. However, he never tells me beforehand about all the tests he is going to do. He takes my boy in a back room and just does the different tests and then the receptionist hands me a bill when I am ready to leave. I feel he should discuss with me what he is going to do and approximately how much it is going to cost, before doing it.

    • Angry Vet says:

      You should NEVER have any tests run without understanding why they are being run and you should ALWAYS be able to find out the price ahead of time. We ALWAYS give estimates and will ALWAYS call the owner to discuss if the bill is going to exceed the estimate to explain why.

  20. Julie says:

    This is a great discussion. IMO, the MOST important thing I want from my vet is a GOOD relationship with me. I want my vet to be willing to listen to my concerns and answer my questions and then work together with me to come up with a plan for my animal. If you have a good relationship with your vet, all else should come together just fine. I lost my job three years ago, and although I am lucky that I can freelance, I’m making nowhere near what I used to make. I explained that to my vet, and because we had a good relationship we were able to work things out when expensive treatments might have been needed. For example, the vet practice was willing to get me into a clinical trial for my dog with cancer, and when that fell through (trial closed to new patients the day before my appt at the referral hospital), the referral oncologist was still able to get me meds at no cost to me beyond shipping. (Interestingly, when I finally had ultrasound done at the specialty practice, it cost me $700 vs. the $300 my regular vet charged. I understand I’m paying for a specialist, but in that case, I might well have opted to let my regular vet do it, since we were simply looking for evidence of cancer metastasis.) But you have to be willing to ask and discuss things (and your vet has to be amenable to that). With any vet, I take the approach someone else mentioned here: Will the test change the course of treatment? Will the treatment improve the quality of life? Is a palliative care the best answer? I have had all of these discussions with my vet at one time or another. I have friends who feel they should never question a vet, but in my opinion, as my pet’s advocate, that’s exactly what I should be doing (and by question I don’t mean question motives, etc., but questions about your pet’s care, testing, prognosis, alternatives, etc.).

    I also read with interest the comments from the dairyman. I raise sheep, and by far my best experiences with vets have been with those who also have a large animal practice. I also believe it’s because vets have to be more pragmatic dealing with large animals and so maybe better understand when an owner needs to be pragmatic about a pet’s care. I think it’s a two-way street, though, because obviously the dairyman or the sheep farmer isn’t going to demand expensive diagnostics and procedures for livestock, largely because the tests, etc., are worth more than the animal.

    I have to save money where I can, and I don’t think insurance is useful if you have multiple animals (I have working dogs, including livestock guardians), but I also opted for CareCredit when I ended up going to the oncologist. I appreciate that vets will accept CareCredit (I even had to use it for a root canal for myself!), and also that the vets with whom I’ve been a long time client will let me make payments. I have used a low-cost spay/neuter clinic (and felt guilty about it), but honestly when you money is tight and you worry about paying the bills each month, the difference between a $75 spay and a $300 spay is significant. And I am guilty of buying some meds from less expensive sources (though, in most cases, I have asked my vet to write a prescription so it’s not as if he’s unaware–this is generally for meds that are for chronic conditions, like thyroxine and enalapril, that I can get locally for less from the pharmacy). That said, I think I more than make up for the loss to the vet practice by the sheer volume of business that I bring them because I have so many animals and they tend to need treatments that are not inexpensive. Again, though, these are all things I DISCUSS with my vet.

    It really comes down to developing a trust between you and your vet. I recently moved and have had a hard time finding a vet in my new location. They just don’t measure up to my old vet (but that practice is an hour and a half away and I really can’t afford to continue going there, though I did for about a year after I moved). I have recently changed vets and am working to build a relationship with the new vet. Hopefully I will be able to do that, to both of our satisfaction, and my pets and other animals will get the care I want for them, without breaking the bank!

    But really, getting good, approriate vet care means that both vet and client have to work at it!

    Julie

    • Angry Vet says:

      Very well put. A lot of beautiful points that you make in a very eloquent way. I will post this response on facebook as a representation of the thought and time that some people are putting into angryvet.com

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  26. Giulia says:

    Supply and demand! If I were a supermarket owner, I may consider it perfectly adequate to sell Twinkies for $30 a pop in order to pay for the rental, staff, utilities, etc. of my store. Also, having studied business, I would have to pay off my student loan, too. But customers would consider that price inappropriate. It is animals we are talking about, not humans, for pete’s sake! Totally not worth it. Overpriced. James Herriot treated animals as animals, and would had never though of comparing them to people.

  27. Giulia says:

    Hi again! You chose not to publish my previous comment about the $30-Twinkies, which you probably found too abrasive, but I really wish vets would consider the basic principle of free-market economics; i.e., that of supply and demand. For most people, even the most beloved domestic *animal* is “worth” less than a human being, and most pet insurances are practically useless. So, because of your excessive fees (excessive by market standards; i.e., more expensive than many customers are able/wish to pay), many people have their pets killed instead of having them treated. (See, for instance, the following article: “Expensive vet bills ‘forcing animal lovers to kill pets’” from The Telegraph, 2010.) Anyone who possesses the most rudimentary smattering of basic market economics (which, I hope, you acquired at the overpriced universities you chose to attend) would understand that his fees are excessive, upon seeing that many people would rather let their beloved pet be put down, rather than pay today’s exorbitant vet charges! Each normal business dealing involves two parties negotiating over prices, but vets set and impose their fees exclusively from their perspective, banking on the fact that many people would rather accept to be blackmailed and ripped off, rather than lose their four-legged friend (it is hard to chose death over life, whereas a supermarket customer would simply buy a cheaper snack, instead of a $30-Twinkie). Sadly, although vets manage to blackmail a sufficient number of people to make a good living, many more pet owners are unable/unwilling to be ripped off and choose to let their domestic animals die. This is the craziest, saddest, most infuriating thing I have learnt since getting cats: Vets have (more or less intentionally) created a professional cartel with universally agreed-upon minimum fees, instead of competing fairly on prices like most other professions; because of your cartel, many animals must die, which could easily and cheaply be cured. So, perhaps, you are not just selling Twinkies after all, but you are far more rigid and inflexible in your pricing than trivial supermarket owners are!!! Your blog is otherwise excellent, but this defense of your professional cartel is pathetic and self-indulgent at best.

    • Crittervet says:

      Dear Guilia. Since you are obviously an intellectual giant I suggest that you should either spend 5-6 years of your life studying to be a vet so you can make an informed comment about the subject instead of talking complete drivel.

  28. Giulia says:

    PS: “Recession Squeezing America’s Veterinarians”
    (by Matthew Yglesias, Slate, 2013).

    According to the aforementioned article, your professional cartel is not compact enough to shield you from the recession:

    “Had America’s veterinarians been as effective as America’s doctors at forming an anti-competitive cartel, they’d still be suffering from the drop in demand but would have considerably more protection.”

    However, a cartel is necessarily based on blackmailing, whose effectiveness, in turn, is based on perceived necessity/unavoidability. So, you will never be able to set up as compact and effective a cartel as human doctors.

  29. Mark Proctor says:

    Vets are Dick Turpins and he even wore a mask. They prey on the emotional attachment people have with their pets.
    Yes they have been to college for years and practice from expensive premises but that was their choice.
    It’s a disgrace the vetinary profession!
    My last visit to prove a point was my female Siamese was lethargic and her 3rd eyelids were showing.
    I went to the nearest vets and after he had stuck a thermometer up her bum and weighed her, he didn’t know what was wrong with her.
    So £60 for 20 minutes and some eye drops!
    This is why vets have a bad reputation.
    Disgraceful!

  30. Robert says:

    My current vet is over prescribing way too much
    drugs and injections .
    My dog has in ear infection and itch problem which getting under
    control with vitamans . The problem I have is my dog
    has cushings disorder . the vet gave my dog vetalog,
    injection cefazolin ,injection gentizol injection.
    I was fine with first one but all others I think are too much
    she came home panting for over an hour .
    Should find another vet? it seems the vet just wants
    use almost same drug cocktail on my dog who is 13.
    I feel is not good for her.

  31. JOEMMM says:

    College tuition costs are the biggest tax on society, they need to be brought down. They are at astronomical greed levels now, and all of this student loan debt in the medical sector passes down to the customer. I agree with the writer of this article, college wound up becoming a big scam for profit business for the folks that run the educational complex. College tuition needs to be revamped, maybe take into consideration the model of more mature countries like Europe where the cost is included in everyone’s taxes and there are no upfront tuition fees for folks to attend.

  32. Charlene Pritt says:

    Every vet should make a good living, but this salary of $68, 000, is not really how it is. I live in the Atlanta, Georgia area and the vets here completely rip you off. Most of them have million dollar a year practices. A good vet would never turn an animal away for lack of money. I don’t think they start out that way, but along the way greed gets in the way. And then you are encouraged to go to your local animal shelter and save a life. So sad that most people cannot do that since the vets charge such outrageous prices. I have little respect for most of them, but not all of them. And it use to be that lawyers were considered the crooks. Now it is the vets. There are some that care, but most have $$$ signs in their eyes. I am a dog lover, but no more for me. When they get sick you need thousands to save them all because of the greed of vets. It did not use to be this bad and I could never turn away an animal for lack of money myself. Karma always comes sooner or later to the greedy. Just a matter of what date on the calendar.

    • kathy says:

      This topic really gets me mad. Owners need to take some of the burden of responsibility too. Owning an animal costs money. It is not your vets fault it your animal gets sick. My vets present me with a sliding scale of options from the gold standard to the bare minimum and everything in between. They advise me and I am aware of the costs invoved then it is down to me to weight up cost vs. benefit. My old girl got a bony tumour as she was 11 and very arthritic already I knew radical amputation wasnt a valid option, palliative radiotherapy was offered but the distance to my local centre ruled it out so my vet and I agreed to go for multimodal pain relief and take it day by day. Now is this greedy money grabbing? ‘Saving a life’ is a relative term. It only holds true if you take on board that this ‘life’ may cost you something down the line. The world doesn’t owe you a debt for taking an animal on and you should not take this decision lightly.

  33. Don Nix says:

    OK….50k for an ultrasound machine…..and? Last ultrasound I got cost me 500 bucks!!! So lets do the math….at 500 bucks a pop, thats 100 treatments to pay the whole thing off. Most office with an ultrasound will clear 100 treatments in 1-2 months……that’s what I call exorbitant pricing. The equipment may be expensive, but the treatments are so exorbitantly priced they make a killing off them…sorry not buying it…no sympathy from me. Most doctors dont go through all that schooling because they have compassion, they do it cause its some of the highest paid fields they can get into. Modern day medicine is an attrocious industry. Sure the tech has advanced, but the more it advances, the less people will be able to afford it. Are we better off than we were 20 years ago? Hell no. Cool new techy toys might be more optimal, but that doesnt mean they are necessary. Nothing lives forever, and science will never change that in our lifetime, nor should it ever IMO. A ferrari might be more optimum to drive around, but a kia does the same thing in terms of getting from point a to point b. The medical industry isnt driven by how inexpensively they can do things. Its a giant racket, ruled by a small group of people who actually underwrite all the policies, who do everything in their power to keep competition and a truly free market at bay. The doctors ultimately are just protecting their exorbitantly priced educations, and licenses. Understandably so, they dont make the prices, and arent allowed to truly speak freely without fear of the board or fda revoking them. Screw big pharma in the neck!!!!! Pure greed!!!!

  34. mj says:

    I come from Poland to USA
    and being an animal lover and seeing misery of feral cats of course I quickly end up helping ferals
    but what amazes me is the cost of veterinary care …is just i n s a n e
    somehow in Poland it is affordable for almost everyone …maybe there is no 50 000 usd machines but there are caring highly skilled vets who do not charge arm nad leg ….cost of a feral cat treatment runs as high as buying a car ????….crazyyyy
    and in the end animals are suffering cause they never get to see the vet …ppl just cant afford it …its a luxury….
    similar situation with humans …..health insurance is a luxury for rich people …..others gets almost nothing …few old antibiotics and chicken soup advice……..

  35. Hoots says:

    What I have seen over the past twenty years of owning pets is a sudden proliferation of Porches parked in staff parking at most vet clinics. And while it is true that modern equipment is expensive, the presence of that expensive equipment means that vets now recommend expensive tests on the expensive equipment at the slightest excuse instead of using discretion to decide if such tests are truly necessary.
    When I get quotes from my vet now I always ask if the work they’re recommending is necessary to get the job done or if it is what might be considered more of a “gold standard” in treatment. As much as I love my pets I think modern vets have been trained to maximize the billing potential from every customer now and this truly has a negative effect on the treatment that our pets receive when treatment is beyond a pet owner’s budget.

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  37. Suzanne Cannon says:

    I see that no one has posted on this topic in quite some time, but I just discovered this article and read all the comments with interest. It is this very issue which led me to begin developing a business model that would enable vets to offer in-house payment plans for costly or emergency procedures, but instead of having to manage the administrative burden of the payment plan, my company does it. We have been in business for 27 years providing electronic payment processing services.

    As a dog and horse mom, I have certainly had my share of very expensive veterinary bills, and I do have pet insurance. The insurance has certainly helped, and I bought my first policy after one of my dogs had a bout with pancreatitis that landed her in the emergency animal hospital over a weekend. That was some 15 years ago, when there was only one provider of pet insurance out there (I still have a policy with that provider, VPI.) The bill was over $1,000, and I was reimbursed nearly 80%. However, I still had to pay the bill upfront, which was difficult, and then wait for the reimbursement check, which took about a month.

    Over the years since then, I’ve been at the emergency vet clinic more times than I would like to remember (for some reason, my animals prefer to become acutely ill on Friday nights!) Having schnauzers, many emergency visits have been due to pancreatitis (notwithstanding that they are on special prescription diets and are never fed table scraps.) The most expensive episode was about $4,000. My dog survived, but it was touch and go for several days. She was 8 years old at the time, and I was in the middle of a terrible divorce. I was working only part-time, and therefore I didn’t qualify for Care Credit. However, I most certainly could have made installment payments, even though “on paper” a traditional financing solution didn’t work for me.

    I remember thinking at the time that it would reduce my stress tremendously if there were more payment options in addition to Care Credit. I was already quite overwhelmed with worry for my dog’s health, and then to have a $4,000 bill on top of that — well, that about knocked me flat.

    I have read comments here and elsewhere stating that if one cannot afford care for a pet, they should not own one. Well, that is a bit of a generalization and not quite fair. For me, my animals are my children because I was never fortunate enough to have the human version. From the most reductionist perspective, while I was going through a divorce, I “shouldn’t” have kept my dogs. However, those dogs provided me with a great deal of comfort and support during those dark days. I truly believe they contributed quite a bit to my emotional recovery from that situation. So…no, I didn’t give my dogs away, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I would not dare to judge others who make the same decision. I am not in their shoes, and I don’t know the details of their situation. By the same token, I wouldn’t judge someone who relinquished their animal, nor one who elected euthanasia vs. costly treatment. Again, I am not in their shoes and don’t know their circumstances.

    All this being said….many years after the above incidents occurred, I met the love of my life, and he just happened to own a payment processing business. When I decided to join him in the business — at that time the bulk of our clients were fitness centers for whom we handled monthly billing — I began researching the topic of veterinary payment plans. I wondered if we could develop some sort of helpful solution. Not a perfect one, but truly helpful — something that could benefit both clients and the vet practice, in which we could set up and manage installment payment plans on behalf of the veterinarian. By using automatic drafts and implementing a credit check system (which executes a “soft” credit pull, that doesn’t show on credit reports or affect credit score), I hoped we could help both parties involved in a veterinary transaction. The client could spread out costs, and the veterinarian didn’t have to be out on a limb, offering a makeshift payment plan without being able to make an informed decision about the degree of risk involved in extending such a payment arrangement.

    Obviously, the predominant driving force in this idea came from my own perspective as a veterinary client. However, I love and respect the vets who care for my animals, and I WANT them to get paid. I WANT to be able to pay them. With my equine vet, I set up automatic drafts on my own, from my bank account, after candidly disclosing to her that I was going to have difficulty paying a $3,000 bill all at once. Her response? “No problem. Do you have any idea how many of my clients don’t pay me at all? If they even sent just $5 a month, I’d be happy, because at least I’d know they were trying.” That conversation — which was several years ago — was yet another factor that influenced my decision to work on creating these payment plans.

    So…I do not want my vets to struggle, because I need them. Of course, my veterinary payment plan model was created out of a conviction that most clients want to make good on their bill. (I am well aware that sadly, this is not true of ALL clients, however.) But well-intentioned clients sometimes legitimately need a manageable way to make payments, and they are embarrassed and distressed if they can’t pay in full up front. I didn’t develop this program to enable more “deadbeat clients.” I created it for those of us — vet client and doctor alike –who truly care about these animals and their medical welfare, and who intend to handle a financially challenging situation with integrity and compassion, on both ends.

    I only have about 10 vets using our system at present, and I am encountering resistance because we are NOT “Care Credit” and we don’t provide payment upfront to the vet. We pay the vet as we collect from the client. However, the vet doesn’t pay anything to offer our payment plans…the client pays a small enrollment fee of $25, and an additional $3 is added to each payment. For most transactions, these fees come to less than 5 or 6% of the total invoice, so the client isn’t getting slammed with high interest or fees.

    I am rather passionate about this topic (I’m sure no one can tell), because I feel this payment alternative is necessary – given the present state of veterinary medicine and the associated costs. I also truly believe we can create a win-win situation with our payment plans.

    I would be interested to hear what anyone thinks about what I am trying to do, and I would love to hear from both vets and pet owners.

    Thanks for letting me ramble on here….!

  38. I graduated veterinary college in 1975 and have owned 3 practices over the span of my career. Nothing I do in practice resembles the way it was in 1975. My first job paid me $7,000 at an SPCA hospital with no benefits. There were no “specialists” and no “licensed veterinary technicians.” People love their pets as I do mine and have demanded better care over the last 40 years. But with the high price of rent, electricity, drugs, tests, equipment, worker’s comp, liability insurance, animal food plus regulations, employee salaries, benefits, inspections, online pharmacies and corporate purchases of small, family type businesses, veterinary medicine has become unmanageable. I used to see my clients, order my own supplies, pay my bills at the kitchen table and even raise my children. We overvaccinated because the drug companies told what dose to give and if we went against that, we were liable for not following the manufacturers labels. We were able to do low cost surgery because we could make our profit on selling medications; now that everyone gets their medications online or at Walmart, we muct actually charge a fair price for what we do. Where in human medicine can you get a total hip replacement for $5,000? No where. And realize that when you walk into a veterinary office, it is not a reception desk and a nurse, a blood pressure monitor and and stethascope. It is a FULL service HOSPITAL, with surgery, anesthesia, dental equipment, laboratory testing, a pharmacy of not only vaccinations and antibiotics, but of many many drugs/injections for infection, pain control, x-rays. We have sterilization equipment, patient warmers, IV fluids and drip monitors, blood pressure and EKG. We treat ears, eyes, poisons, wounds, parasites, infections, tumors, teeth, skin, intestinal diseases, right down to broken toe nails. We have to hire people who love animals and yet are strong enough to see the sick, the painful, the saddness of euthanasia and the frustration of people not paying their bills. I love my job, but we cannot control the rising cost of drugs, rent, employees, taxes, regulations and insurance. There is no other business like it in the world.

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  40. Mysty says:

    I’m in Ottawa Ontario Canada. I am on Disability. I was given a cat that was directly rescued off the streets. This was 7 years ago. I feed, brush, clip nails. I don’t believe one bit that Veterinarians are hard done by. Why shouldn’t POOR people be allowed the company of a cat or dog. Street people get free vet care here…but I barely have a roof over my head so I don’t qualify…. I have no veterinarian in this city that will agree to a payment plan. It’s all about money, money, money. I cannot afford to get a Credit Card. I am willing to pay a bill. But I don’t have large amount of money up front! So VETS today guilt poor people saying you can’t have a pet to love you….unless you have a VET!. Farm cats live ferrel… The cat I saved 7 years ago at a friend’s encouragement… has been to a vet twice..and I had to borrow from a friend and pay off in installments that way. I have paid for another cat to be euthanized $300…due to a genetic disorder.
    Shame on your GREED and GUILT TRIPS.. I live alone…unable to work. I feed, groom, clip nails…buy furball treatments etc.
    I gave this cat 7 more years of life. It would have been dead on the streets. When I was a kid…people weren’t guilted into fixing cats. They gave them homes. Now if you don’t go to an Expensive VET..you are made to feel you have no right to a pet. Well guess what, in CHINA they eat cats it’s a stock. My cat has skin problems right now…and one bad tooth. and there is not a damn thing I can do because VETS are so damn expensive. I answer to GOD not YOU.
    i have given this cat a home. Nursed it back to health. keep it’s litter clean. feed it well. give it treats. If my cat turns out to be sick. I will live with that. I gave her all I could. and she gave me company and love back. THIS IS HOW THE POOR FOLK LIVE. AND BELIEVE ME. THERE ARE MANY MANY OF US OUT THERE!

    • Mysty says:

      Update: Dr. Rob. I don’t know the last time you blogged to this site, but, through researching on the internet and at pet stores… I have found a cream to ease my cats skin irritation. I used my last $20 plus tax. It’s called Liverine Unction Cream. I will let you know how it works. See…. and I didn’t need to pay $300 to be told to do the obvious. My cat eats okay (but is finicky about what she eats)..She passes her stool just fine, and despite a vet saying she had one bad tooth…years ago… she doesn’t have bad breath…The first time I though my cat was sick . there wasn’t a damn thing wrong with her… she was just being finicky. Yet VETS guilted me into tests that weren’t necessary. It’s an industry, which just happens to incorporate expensive equipment…..that’s YOUR choice.. and you pass the cost on to us. and Many VETS say I became one because I love animals… guess what…that’s bull…you and them just LOVE the money… Just like the Doctors I worked for… I could tell the ones who were in it for the money and the ones who genuinely care! I discovered VETS are trained in bedside manorisms just like Human Physicians. Boy was that an eye opener.

      So you must be saying…why is this “Mysty” person ranting on? This is my perspective from a POOR PET OWNER, can do a half decent job of taking care of a pet…without going bankrupt or being lonely due to Veterinarian costs.

      ps: I made sure this cream is not toxic to my cat!

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