Ask Questions & Make Informed Choices
I am writing to you to vent my frustration toward the excessive fees charged by veterinarians. We took our pet for a routine annual physical and were charged $206.01. (For my last physical, I paid $135.75.) Today, we took her to have her teeth cleaned and paid $276.08 including a ten percent senior discount. (Mine cost $100.46.) Why you see fit to charge more than even we humans pay is beyond me. I am, candidly, beginning to question whether all of the new recommended tests are necessary or are just a means of increasing income.
You’re right; medical services a major expense. Research has given us more diagnostic accuracy and some remarkable treatments but it doesn’t come cheap. I’ve struggled with providing state-of-the-art medicine while keeping fees affordable but advanced training, new equipment, and medication, added to the costs of running a business (insurance, rent, and wages) increase every year.
You could shop around for low fees but most committed pet parents would rather maintain a trusting relationship with a veterinarian who explains recommended procedures in plain language and who doesn’t mind discussing a lower cost alternative. It’s part of our job to help our clients make informed decisions.
It’s tempting to cut the expense of diagnostics. Sometimes a doctor’s hunch is correct but if treatment fails the pet gets sicker or the behavior disorder worsens. The best practice, whether for humans or pets, is “evidence-based medicine”. In other words, we should diagnose first and treat second.
Comparing medical expenses between species is difficult. Unlike humans, pets need general anesthesia for dental procedures. It also bears mentioning that dogs and cats can’t complain in a human language. An accurate diagnosis often requires more than a history and physical exam. On the other hand, the costs of surgery and cancer treatment are bargains compared to the human versions.
The business models are different too. Veterinary medicine is subject to the forces of a free-market. Insurance companies have no influence on our decisions. We work directly for a pet’s family. Medical ethics dictate that we recommend the highest standard of care but the choices are all yours.
Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.