First of all, I’m not trying to say that Veterinarians are bad people, don’t care about your much beloved fur baby or are only out to take your money. Like your family doctor or primary care physician or whatever healthcare provider you have for yourself, they care about your pet’s health or they wouldn’t be in the field in the first place nor, would they have put in many years of studying, not to mention the money it cost to do so. That’s not my point. However, there are good apples and bad apples in the barrel that we call Veterinary Medicine.
I’ve had pets all of my life. I had them when it wasn’t fashionable to have a pet and women worried about the cleanliness of their homes first and foremost, picturing a dog, cat or other pet as a threat to the sanitary conditions of their homes or even the museum-like look. We had pet fur everywhere in our house while others in the neighbourhood scoffed at us for it. Of course, it goes without saying that back in those days, the majority of people living around us were European and valued having not a speck of dust anywhere, let alone a vomited cat fur ball ground into their carpeting or a dog tearing open the trash can. Pets were for outdoors, on farms and not intended to be part of a house. End of story.
The above story indicates that I’ve had a good majority of my life with pets, including the costs, mess, allergic reactions (which I find almost sadistic in having a love for animals but, Nature or Higher Powers giving me allergies to them) and my more than fair share of veterinarian care visits and bills.
I live in a big city. There’s a plethora of veterinarians to choose from. Some have been fabulous, others mediocre and the remaining, well let’s leave that statement at sub-par. There’s no regulation on fees and will depend upon their overhead costs and how big a house or how many vacations they want to go on in a year. I’m somewhat joking about that but, not wholly.
There’s a few things to keep in mind with your pet’s doctor.
- All vets have overhead. It’s part of doing business. It has to be paid for somehow so their fees reflect that overhead.
- Vets went into practise whether it be their own or as an associate in someone else’s practise and have to draw a salary like everyone else does in this world.
- If they’re in great debt because they’ve redecorated their office to draw in clients as most won’t go into a vet’s office that doesn’t have that modern, clean, sanitary feel to it, they’re going to pass that cost onto every patient that walks through their doors. They have to. The money has to come from somewhere.
- While it feels like highway robbery when you get handed that bill at the front desk or an estimate for your pet’s healthcare, one has to ask themselves if it’s an honest bill or whether it’s been jacked up to pay for the above or simply improve the vet’s lifestyle. It may be both but, we’ll get to that in a moment.
- If your vet is keeping up with the other vets in the area, they want the latest equipment so that not as much has to be done out of clinic like some lab work, monitoring machinery etc.. That all costs money and where is that going to come from? Your bill from them. That’s business and how it operates.
- Not unlike your family doctor or specialist for your healthcare, your pet’s vet is usually a corporation. There’s a profit and loss statement that is generated for them every day, week, month or year, depending on how they want to deal with their business. Make no mistake, veterinarians are business people and run their clinics as a business too. Beyond your pet’s wellbeing, there’s their employees to pay as well as all of their other expenses. Only then can they draw their own salaries if there’s one to be taken that month.
- Not many vets are independently wealth benefactors who can afford to simply pay their bills and not take a salary for themselves. They are human and have the same needs as any of us who go to work every day. Their needs and wants are the same as anyone else’s. Yes, there are exceptions to that idea and some of them live quite well to say the least but, that’s another segment to get to as well.
- Everyone makes mistakes. Even your doctor makes mistakes, like it or not. We are all only human and your pet’s veterinarian is no exception. They are going to screw up somewhere, somehow or at some point. Hopefully, it’s not a life threatening mistake but, it happens as no human being is infallible and always correct. That doesn’t make them bad vets. It only makes them human.
With all of that said, I resent taking my wallet out at a vet’s office when the bill is tallied. That case of seemingly overly priced prescription food they’ve sold me on off of their shelves, the tests that I didn’t feel were necessary to begin with but relented to out of guilt and lack of knowledge, the medicine that I’m going to have to cram down my pet’s throat unwillingly and the examination fee that seems overly inflated for the 10 minutes spent on my pet, has me cringing. I forget all of the above, curse and swear under my breath or inside my head the moment I pull out my overloaded plastic credit card to pay that total each time. I figure I’m doing well when I walk out with only a $100 or less. That’s when I realize that I’m human too and only doing the same thing as they are but, my next vacation is now going into his/her next vacation which is the 4th one in 8 months now. I haven’t had one in over 10 years. However, having pets was my choice. More than anything, beyond the shock of the bill, I’m scared, worried and upset over what might come out of my loved pet’s test results. What if there’s bad news?
If we think we’re being original with anything we can say about the bills that come up, we’re not. There’s nothing we can say that they haven’t heard before. The girls at the front desks, taking our money are used to it. They deserve Battle Pay for the abuse that they take for doing their jobs. They too, are human beings with lives, families and bills as well. Even they don’t get free vet care with their own pets and they have to pay those bills too even if they get a slight discount.
Lest you think that I’m defending your next vet bill or your vet, I’m not. I’m being logical or as logical as I can get in all reality. I wish veterinarian care came free but, it doesn’t. Equally, I wish all vets were regulated like dentists and our doctors generally are. There’s a threshold on which they can charge for services. I think that’s needed even if it’s based on a floating scale dependent upon location. Obviously, a vet based in a small town is going to have less overhead for rent than one in a larger city or a more popular or wealthy area. However, there has to be a cap put on how much they can charge patients for the same procedures.
Vets also know that they have pet lovers over a barrel in a way. They know that every pet parent brings their pets to them because they care about them and honestly, there are more often than not, those who will prey upon that love we have and coax us into possibly everything they can talk us into doing and buying from them. Some are more reasonable than others about it but, for the most part, they are all going to try to “up-sell” us on foods, testings, shots, products and a lot of other things that our pets possibly don’t need and we can’t really afford because they know we are desperate and they need a new car, renovation to their homes, offices, vacation spots, another week off or to pay for a piece of equipment that they’ve purchased for the office. It’s the “up-selling” that gets us both emotionally and therefore, financially. What do we know? We’re lay people. We have to go by what our vet tells us our pets need, right?
There are a few vets who become irked and almost robotic about their patient’s owners/parents. There’s two questions that get asked of them the most, under one former vet of mine’s admittance.
- How are you going to treat it and is it treatable?
- How much is it going to cost me?
Most people don’t want to know what’s wrong with their pets in any detail or what disease or problem they’re having. Though we’re a society of “Googlers” who can look things up on the net to understand better, there’s a whole whack of crap on the net. Searching it all out is not only time consuming but, mind boggling and we’re left more confused than when we started. Unless we’ve got time on our hands, we’re not going to spend the time to find reputable sites to get information so, it’s best that we learn as much as we can from our pet’s vet, ask questions and even learn when we’re being sold a bill of goods that our pets really don’t need and what they do need. Remember, it’s a business for vets too. It’s not just for the love of animals purely. Their bills are there too. It’s up to us to discern what we can figure out too. Otherwise, we’re at their mercy and, they’ve become complacent with people simply asking those above 2 questions, mumbling or grumbling to the girls at the front desk as they take out the plastic credit card to pay. If you’re not going to take the time to figure things out, they aren’t either.
There’s a few things to keep in mind when taking your pet to any vet you choose to take them to.
- If the office is well decorated, modern, fancy furniture and coffee awaits you, wonder what this office is costing you to pay for. You are paying for it. Do you really need those luxuries? If it’s better looking than your own doctor’s office, you can bet that you’re going to pay that vet a pretty penny for anything he/she does and you’re going to get up-sold on stuff your pet possibly doesn’t need.
- Beware of a vet’s office that looks like a designer decorated it but, also looks like a pet store too. Those items are marked up over 100% at the least. There’s profit to the frills that people will dish money out for because it’s cute.
- Vet sold “prescription foods” aren’t always what’s best for your pets in spite of the spiels your vet will give you on them. If your pet is healthy, feeding them food off the vet’s shelves is only going to drain your wallet. Do your research first and remember that vets are courted by the big 3 prescription diet pet food companies, Purina, Royal Canin and especially, Hills. If your pet has no real health issues, you might consider looking into a good commercially available food with the best quality you can afford. Nutrition is part of health as we all know, even for ourselves but, do we need to pay through the nose for healthy foods? Do your research, explain your financial situation to the vet and if they are worth their salt, they won’t push you into one of the prescription formulas. Remember that there’s nothing “prescription” about corn, corn meal, corn gluten, chicken by-products etc. which make up the bulk of most prescription foods that line vet’s shelves. That said, there are times when prescription vet shelf foods are a prayer answered if your pet has a health condition.
- Remember that a vet, like your own doctor, has to tell you everything that something could be, from the least to the worst. They can get sued too for malpractice. They have to offer you everything that they can do to protect their rears legally. Does that mean that you have to do every test known to the veterinary world first and ring up a bill that will take away your house keys? Not necessarily. Be rational and logical in talking this over with your vet. Take the route least invasive, least costly first, unless it’s a life or death situation immediately then, you can only draw your own line as to how far you’re willing to go or not go. Sometimes, just a simple wait and see approach is best while other times, starting at the least and working your way up if needed is best. Figure that out by talking to your vet as to how urgent everything is. Remember that you’re somewhat in control and don’t let yourself be hooked into a pile of unnecessary testings that your vet offers up. Ask him/her which are truly needed right at that moment for your pet’s sake as well as your wallet’s sake. If they’re a good vet, they will tell you. If they tell you it all has to be done to prove the worst case scenario is not the cause first, question it further. If nothing else, for the sake of another examination fee, get another opinion and decide from there.
- Just because something is convenient for you, doesn’t mean it’s better. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or change your mind or even go elsewhere for another opinion. A shot of an antibiotic may be fine for 90% of pet patients but, remember that if they have an allergic reaction and it’s a long lasting shot, you cannot stop it or take it out of their systems like you can a pill or liquid form of the med. That’s perhaps, 10% who have a reaction to an injected form might require a costly, lengthy hospitalization at a 24 HR clinic which will have you banging your head against a wall, wondering why. It may be easier to have the vet give your pet a shot and it may work perfectly well but, is it worth the chance? That’s something only you can decide.
- Keep in mind that few pets love going to the vet’s office or being poked and prodded, handled and kept in a cage unless it’s absolutely necessary. It’s the equivalent to you being locked into jail or being in a hospital yourself. The less that you have to put your pet through, the better for them and you. What needs to be done, needs doing most certainly but, don’t fall victim to an over-sell by a bad apple vet who is out to drain your wallet. There aren’t many of them by comparison to truly caring vets but, they do exist. This is a good time to either get a second opinion or find another vet altogether.
- If your gut is telling you that there’s something wrong with your vet, there likely is. Listen to that feeling and ask questions. Don’t blindly acquiesce to what that vet is telling you if you don’t feel it’s right. Get that second opinion.
- At the other end of the spectrum are the less expensive vets. If they’re way below the costs of the other vets in the area, look at the clinic. Is it clean or does it look like it hasn’t had a coat of paint in 30 years? While that may not be a marker for a bad vet by any means, it may mean that this vet doesn’t care about his/her office. Ask to see the back rooms, cages, cleanliness of the operating facilities and most of all, ask what on site equipment they have to treat your pet. If they are charging much less than everyone else, it could be that they don’t take x-rays of your pet’s teeth before they clean them which is something you want done. Ask if they have monitoring equipment and how much lab work gets sent out. A vet who doesn’t have basic equipment for surgery, shouldn’t be doing it. That’s why your cost is much lower. Be careful there. Run, don’t walk out of that office.
- Do you like the other vets in the practise? If you don’t, your vet is going to have days off and even vacation time away, possibly lots of it too. If you can’t trust the other vet(s) in the practise, it might be time to look elsewhere. Remember that you may have a preference between vets but as long as you’re comfortable with the others too, you’re ok. If you only want one vet in the practise and there are a couple or more that you don’t want to see, you might need to look elsewhere.
- Create a bond with your pet’s vet. You need to click with him/her/them as much as you do anyone else you’d go to for yourself. Your pet can’t do this for themselves so they are relying upon you to find the best care for them that you can. If you can’t talk to your vet or they’re rough around the edges, cold and won’t easily explain things to you, you aren’t going to feel comfortable with that vet when you really need to understand something. Get to know your pet’s vet on a personal basis, their personalities, ethics etc.. If you catch them in what feels like a lie, question them. If they refuse to offer up a reasonable explanation that you can swallow or worse, if they don’t admit to their foibles, it’s time to walk away. You wouldn’t let your own doctor, mechanic or hairstylist away with it, why would you let your pet’s vet do it? Ask yourself that question if you’re doubtful.
All of that said, there’s going to be times when your vet leaves practise and you have to move on anyway. There’s going to be reasons why you have to move and move on too. There’s going to be times when a second opinion is the best thing you can do for the cost of another examination fee and consult. Pick wisely for your mind, peace, wallet and pet’s wellbeing sake. Don’t be sold because a vet can talk a lovely streak and offers free coffee in their waiting room. Discern for yourself and for heaven’s sake, do your own thinking and homework if necessary. Jot down your questions for your vet or instructions of what you don’t want for your pet. Be your pet’s advocate because they can’t do it.
At least, that’s the way that I’m seeing things from my little corner of life right now and through my pet’s eyes as I struggle to find another vet for another opinion right now. Long story that I will share at a future date.
Be well, Blessings, Love and Light.
Have a great day/evening.