Why Does My Dog's Vet Charge So Much? (5 Good Reasons)
Why Are Vet Visits So Expensive?
Ever gone to a low-cost vaccine clinic with your dog or taken your pet in for a discount spay or neuter? No matter what dog owners do, the cost of taking our pets to the vet seems way too expensive. And no matter what vets do, we hear complaints when the bill comes.
It is out of control and there does not seem to be a good way to control it. A lot of people end up asking this question: Why is my dog's vet so expensive, anyway?
1. Vet Techs, Nurses, and Receptionists
Do you want your pet handled by a high-school dropout who was fired from the local burger chain because they were sleeping on the job? Probably not.
A well-trained veterinary technician works a demanding (and sometimes dangerous) job and is going to demand a good salary with fringe benefits. If the vet is not going to pay for that person, he or she will shop around and find a better spot, and the vet will end up with kids fired from the local burger shop.
We also have to spend quite a bit on receptionists. A good receptionist will get people seen on time and make the whole visit seem less stressful; they too deserve a good salary, health care, a retirement plan, etc.
Having any employees is expensive. Having good employees to handle your dog costs even more.
2. Rent and Land Value
Anyone that has run a small business can understand this problem. Rent in the poorer parts of town are a lot less; rent in shopping centers with lots of parking and next to major roads is a lot more.
For those vets who bought their land in a great location and have built their own clinics, there is always the chance to avoid taxes and sell that land for a profit, then retire or move somewhere else.
This is not something you see on your bill, but it is there. If your vet bills are too high, one alternative is to load your dogs up in the car and drive away from the urban area you live in. Vets that live further out in the country, where land values are low, are more likely to be less expensive.
3. Medications and Materials
Big pharma is everywhere, and that includes your local vet clinic. Some of the medications available at your veterinary clinic are generic and inexpensive, but most of the newer medications are still under exclusive license and the pharmaceutical company that owns the patent charges a lot.
The big drug companies come by with free note pads, mugs, pens, and other things to remind the vets about their new products and encourage them to prescribe them. This is only one of the reasons they are more expensive.
Guess who gets to pay for those “freebies”?
Besides keeping a supply of drugs on hand, your vet also needs to have supplies. Some of them are simple and inexpensive, but dogs come in all sizes, and even something as inexpensive as a tracheal tube has to be available in sizes large enough for a mastiff and small enough for a Chihuahua.
If your vet takes care of exotics, the situation is even worse. Tracheal tubes have to be available in odd sizes, special catheters have to be ready to use, and there are also some medications that a vet will need to keep on hand.
Large instruments are also expensive and if your dog has special needs it pays to go to an expensive clinic that has what she needs. A cast might be enough for most broken bones, but for some internal fixation is what the dog really needs. A laparoscope, an ultrasound, and many other instruments are expensive.
4. Veterinary Education
To earn their doctorate a vet must complete four years of veterinary college after attending 2 to 4 years at an undergraduate university. (It is usually 4, and the vast majority of veterinary students have already completed a degree in animal science, biology, chemistry, or some other related field before starting at the veterinary college.) Going to college all of those years costs a lot, about $40-60,000 a year. Most vets do not have that money so they take out student loans that have to be paid back after graduation.
5. Loans and Corporate Practice
All vets need to attend six to eight years of college before gaining their veterinary degree. Some of the colleges cost a lot less than others, but the median price range for a college in 2006 was between $15,000 and $30,000. That was 10 years ago, when the latest figures were available, so of course it is a lot more now.
Most students have to take out loans to afford vet school. When they are finished, of course, those loans need to be paid back. If the local clinic does not pay enough, there are some corporate practices that are willing to pay more to new graduates.
The local clinics need to pay more to attract young vets. Their prices have to go up to do so, and when the corporate practices are able to attract less young vets their wages go up to.
Those expensive employees I mentioned? Young veterinary graduates also need to be paid. Their salaries are also figured into the bill that is given to you as you leave with your dog.
Are You Paying Too Much at the Vet?
As this video explains, sometimes you really do pay too much.
Most of the vets I have met over the years work for the benefit of their patients and are not worried about making much money. Not all vets are concerned about keeping your costs down, however, and there are a lot of ways to save money that you won't find out about during the visit to your dog's clinic. If you feel you are paying too much for your dog's health care, call some other clinics in your area and ask about prices.
Learn how to brush your dog's teeth and feed a raw diet to avoid excessive costs on dental care. Read about the research being done in vaccines, and do not waste money on vaccinating your dog every year. Find out about yearly heartworm testing. And, if your dog is on a daily or monthly medication, you should consider ordering it or buying alternatives from a feed store or from some of the less expensive pharmacies on the internet.
And remember, call around if you really need the lowest cost office call and services. This does not mean that the vet you visit will have all of the materials that the more expensive veterinarian will have, but he may be just as good.
Veterinarians do not need to be so expensive. They could charge a lot less if they followed the practices used by your local pediatrician. All they need to do is schedule 10 appointments per hour, have most of the visit performed by their staff, and order a lot of lab tests that are not really necessary.
Does that sound like a good idea to you?
Is your vet too expensive?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2016 Dr Mark