Veterinary Care is expensive. I should know, for I am a Veterinarian who owned a Veterinary Hospital for nearly 15 years. Veterinary Medicine has changed dramatically in the last 30 years; gone are the days of James Herriot when vets treated every type of animal, and regularly made house calls. This article will give you an understanding of why veterinary charges have gone up so much, and the top 5 things you can do to lower your vet costs.
As veterinarians can offer more advance diagnostics and treatment, veterinary fees have risen accordingly. Vet visits and surgery cost dog owners almost $800 and cat owners $500 last year, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. If your pet becomes seriously ill, you can easily spend thousands. Knee surgery in dogs can easily cost over $5,000; a pet with cancer can have radiation therapy and chemotherapy costing in excess of $7,000.
Veterinarians are charging more to make their practices profitable, and obviously make more money. Veterinary clinics have escalating costs of staff salaries, higher expenses for the diagnostic equipment, yet also seeing decreases in new clients. For a clinic to financially profit, it means charging more per client, and having the clients come into the practice more often. This combination of higher salaries, expenses, but no real new clients means the only way for most practices to make more money is to charge more per client; hence higher vet costs.
My first suggestion is to price shop. Prices at animal hospitals can vary widely. In my small town of Nelson, I charged the least of all the practices, but many clients didn’t know that. Make sure you get recommendations from other pet owners first. There is a misconception that the higher priced practices give a better quality of care – but this is often not true. Ask about the common procedures, like vaccines, checkups, neutering and spaying. In addition, do not forget to ask for discounts from your vet. If clients ask, they will often get a discount. Some vets offer multiple pet discounts as well as discounts for seniors.
Be wary of the business practice popularized by McDonald’s, ‘The Upsell’. Examples of this include your veterinarian suggesting ‘preventive’ diagnostic tests during a check up, or in many cases advising having a dental cleaning. You should be asking and questioning why? Just how bad are the teeth; is the degree of dental disease really that significant? One of the major veterinary associations is advising that any pet with Grade 1 gingivitis (mild gum inflammation) have a dental scale and polish. This procedure is at least 300 dollars. This has risks for your pet would need to be under general anesthetic. It has high profit margins as the Animal Health Technician or Assistant usually does all the work. However in my opinion, a pet with mild gum disease does not need this done. You can begin preventive care at home. You could begin to brush your pet’s teeth. You could feed a diet designed to break off some of the plaque and tartar.This is only one example, although it is the biggest up-sell in Veterinary Medicine today.
Hospitalization fees are another often avoidable expense. Your Vet will make a lot more money if he (or she) can keep your pet in the veterinary hospital. They can charge a fee for the day of hospitalization, plus a fee for re-examining your pet in the morning. Ask to have the Procedure performed while you are there. Let’s use X-Rays as an example. Get the practice to schedule this while you are there and waiting – it doesn’t take long to perform X-Rays. They will likely comply if you only ask. By being a little bit of a ‘pain in the butt’, you will get better service at a lower price.
Medication is expensive, and it’s marked up a lot at your vet. The markups range from 50% to 125% plus the prescription fee. There are many ways to save money on pet medications. First, ask your vet about a drug’s cost and find out if it is available through pharmacies. Your local drug store may offer it at a much cheaper price. Also, ask your vet about lower-priced generic medications that would be appropriate. In addition to your local pharmacy, check veterinary-medication prices at DrsFosterSmith.com, 1800PetMeds.com, and PetCareRx.com. You have the right to ask your veterinarian for prescriptions that you can fill elsewhere, and save yourself unnecessary expenses.
The biggest key to lowering your veterinary fees is by being an involved and empowered pet owner. Take charge of your pet’s health care. You know your pet better that anyone else. How well do you think a Veterinarian can get to know your pet with a 15 minute visit once a year? Educate yourself on basic at home veterinary care, and use many of the inexpensive natural remedies. Let’s use allergies as an example, for many of you have allergic pets. You can either continue to use expensive prescription medication from your vet, or start with some natural remedies. These include therapeutic doses of essential fatty acids, being 1000mg per 10lbs of body weight daily. Or it can be using a herbal remedy called Licorice to stop the itching. This is only one small example, but do you see how you can take charge of your pet’s health care and have a happier healthier pet?
You should now have an understanding of why veterinary costs are rapidly rising, but more important what you can do about it. You can price shop, avoid the common veterinary up-sells, avoid hospitalization fees, get less expensive prescription medication, and take charge of your pet’s health care by using inexpensive at home remedies. I encourage you to at least use some of these suggestions to start saving money immediately on your vet costs.