Frequently Asked Questions about the Costs of Veterinary Care:
Why is veterinary care for my pet(s) so expensive nowadays? Sometimes I believe I’m spending more on my pet’s health care than on my own!
Relatively speaking, veterinary care is a great deal! Actually, the cost of veterinary care has risen very little over the last 20 to 30 years, especially when compared to the cost of human health care or almost any other services.
Your veterinarian is not only your pet’s general physician, but also their surgeon, radiologist, dermatologist, neurologist, psychiatrist, ENT and their pharmacist. Your veterinary bill is a reflection of the costs of maintaining suitable facilities, equipment and support personnel to provide the level of care that is expected in animal medicine today. That means your veterinary bill includes the hospital and nursing expenses, also. Remember, too, the original cost of the animal has no bearing on the cost of services delivered. The question is: "Can all people afford a pet?" If they can’t, who should subsidize them? The veterinarians?
One reason you sometimes feel you are paying more for your pet’s health care than for your own, is that you probably have adequate health insurance for your own health care needs; thus, you’re never hit with a true bottom-line figure. If you sat down and added up your insurance costs, deductibles, and pharmaceutical costs (as veterinary drugs are usually included in your veterinary bill), you will find that the figures are actually nowhere close.
Isn’t the cost of veterinary medicine out of sight and unreasonable? I mean we’re "just" talking animal care. I thought my doctor really cared a and would go the extra mile for me.
The extent of care given to any animal is determined ultimately by its owner. If you place a low value on the worth of a pet yourself, then you should probably not accept the responsibility for owning a pet.
Every pet owner has different ideas as to what is acceptable care. Veterinarians can only make their clients aware of products and services that are available to owners. Then, we guide them in their choices regarding the most important health options for their pet. It is up to them to make the choice. Veterinarians are willing and do go the extra mile for pet owners, but expenses need to be covered. This includes salaries for assistants and technicians, costly equipment such as X-ray machines and, of course, the expense of years of professional training.
Should I be wary of "bargain basement" veterinary care? If so, why?
Yes. Generally, you get what you pay for. If the price is too low, your expectations may not be met. You are entitled to a full explanation of any service that you are paying for. We endorse the best possible care for each and every animal to the extent that the owners can afford. Veterinary care is a family medical service, not a commodity to be shopped! Further, it is a relationship – to be maintained.
Aren’t there any really low-cost spay and neuter clinics in NY? I want to do the responsible thing, but it’ll cost an arm and a leg.
Veterinarians are doing their part to control the pet population by offering spay and neuter surgery at approximately half the actual cost.
Spay and neuter procedures are major surgery for your pet. The average spay or neuter costs less than an automobile tune-up. Not a bad price for a procedure that requires the time of a veterinarian and a surgical technician, newly-sterilized surgical instruments, general anesthesia, drapes, suture material, etc. and hospitalization. A comparable procedure in a human (i.e., hysterectomy) would cost approximately $10,000.
When measured against the cost of feeding and nurturing a litter of unwanted kittens or puppies, spaying/neutering is much more cost-effective. Also, since a spay or neuter is not an emergency procedure, it can be performed at any time that is convenient.
If my veterinarian doesn’t clear up my pet’s problem, can I get a refund?
Fees cover what is done for the animal including an examination, administration of tests, treatments and medications. Some problems can be long-term or involve multiple and/or changing causes. Treatment may be ongoing.
To effect a cure is not always possible. You are paying for an honest attempt to diagnose and treat a problem. There is no implied guarantee.
My veterinarian says my pet’s office visit/shots/ surgery/medication, etc. adds up to a couple hundred dollars or more! I just don’t have that kind of money all at once. What about terms . . . a payment plan that’s fair to both parties?
Your best course of action is to call your veterinary hospital ahead of time and inquire about various payment methods. The hospital manager or business manager will be happy to clarify the payment policy of the individual clinic. There are veterinary practices which can work with you regarding payment plans.
Many veterinary preventive health care services can be staggered over a period of time, rather than doing everything in one visit. Discussing the pet’s health care needs on a spread out over time basis is one way to diffuse the costs over the year. The pet owner should not expect the veterinary practice to be the banker and/or loan officer for the pet’s health care and needs.
Generally, payment for all elective services is expected at the time of the visit. In the case of urgent veterinary care, oftentimes payment plans can be arranged. Remember, however, the lowest-priced veterinarian is not necessarily the best for your requirements.
Why is there such a wide range of prices for the same procedure(s) among veterinarians?
Prices are set by each individual veterinary practice and each has different expenses that are covered by the fees charged (i.e., salaries, rent, utilities). Often, the different prices do not reflect the same set of services, although there may be certain basic procedures in common. Make sure you get complete details before scheduling a procedure.
Each veterinarian sets the fees for services based on varying criteria, such as different drugs, anesthetics, antibiotics, which may have a bearing on the cost of the services; also, different techniques are used, as well as different products, overhead and philosophy.
I’ve heard that there may be pet health insurance available. Is my pet eligible and what is covered?
In certain areas, third party health insurance is available for pets. As with human health insurance, different companies offer various levels of coverage which have a wide range of deductibles and premiums. There are also certain restrictions on which conditions, injuries and procedures are covered.
Concord Veterinary Center recommends VPI Pet Insurance.
My injured (sick) pet needs to be seen by a veterinarian for prompt attention, but... I just lost my job... I don’t get my next paycheck for another two weeks ... I barely have enough money to put food on the table ...etc.
If there were no satisfactory financial arrangements made for payment, veterinary practices would end up operating at a loss, eventually to the point of having to close down. Most veterinary practices accept major credit cards. If you don’t have any major credit cards, perhaps you could ask a relative or a friend for a loan.
Most responsible pet owners have a regular veterinarian with whom they have an established relationship. The problem arises with people who have pets that do not get regular veterinary care, but demand and seek services in an emergency situation without guaranteeing payment.
I’ve only been able to pay a portion of my bill and my veterinarian won’t release my pet until full payment is received. What are my rights? Can he/she do that?
We cannot give legal advice. It would be better to approach the veterinarian personally and discuss the problems involved and then set up some mutually acceptable arrangement. This will cost both parties less in the long run.
I recently took in a stray that appeared injured, possibly hit by a car. I took him to a veterinarian and paid the initial bill. I am unable to afford further treatment. Is this my reward for trying to do the right thing?
If you "adopt" the animal, you become the owner and therefore are responsible for the animal’s care. Hopefully, a healthy animal is your reward for trying to do the right thing.
We understand the emotions that we can get caught up in when we see an animal that is homeless and needs help. However, making the decision to take in a stray should only be done with the same careful consideration that is involved in purchasing or adopting a new pet.
The veterinary expenses are not assessed based on the method by which a pet is acquired. If you are not willing to accept financial responsibility for a stray animal, it should be taken to Animal Services.
Defining the financial commitment for the animal at the initial visit can help avoid financial problems later on.
Veterinarians are routinely faced with these cases. Most will work out a satisfactory arrangement with the person who wants to pursue treatment for the animal.
Why can’t veterinarians advise, diagnose and/or prescribe over the phone and save me a whole lot of time and money?
Not only is it unethical and illegal to prescribe for an animal that hasn’t been physically examined by a veterinarian, it is also impossible to come up with an accurate diagnosis and rational plan of treatment.
A veterinarian can’t make a diagnosis based on symptoms only as observed by an owner. The outward signs may be an indication of any number of internal causes with a wide variety of clinical treatments. A complete physical examination is required to determine the cause of the symptoms and best course of treatment.
Asking your veterinarian to advise, diagnose and/or prescribe over the phone is the same as having your physician prescribe over the phone. If you were to take an antacid for what was, in actuality, a heart attack, the results would be disastrous!
How much should I anticipate spending for veterinary care for a new puppy or kitten initially? On an annual basis thereafter?
Puppies and kittens need basic health examinations, worm checks and micro- chipping. Depending on their age and health status, they need a variety of vaccines. The cost would therefore vary tremendously. The Foundation does not have access to what individual veterinarians charge. Prices for similar services do not vary that much. Therefore, when requesting an estimate you need to be sure exactly what you are getting for the money, and whether there are additional charges for anything else. The same holds true for annual vaccines and other diagnostic tests recommended by your veterinarian. The key to preventive medicine is to always inform yourself ahead of time
Does my pet have to get a full set of inoculations to get a rabies tag and license? What shot(s) are absolutely necessary for my dog/cat and how much do they cost?
To get a rabies tag and license, only a rabies vaccine is needed according to law. It is in the best interest of your pet to get a complete physical exam plus any of the necessary vaccines, as determined by your veterinarian so that your pet remains healthy and is a good companion to you. There are many diseases of animals around, many of them fatal. An annual physical exam and administering necessary vaccines are easy ways to prevent pain, suffering and death. Prices do vary.
Why shouldn't I just buy vaccines, needles, syringes, etc. from the catalogs or online and save money in the process?
The dangers of owner-administered vaccines are far greater than any potential cost-saving benefits:
- Instructions included with pre-packaged vaccination kits may be sketchy at best regarding injection technique.
- vaccinations are easily rendered ineffective if handled improperly during shipping or usage. Pharmaceutical companies take extra precautions when packaging and, as authorized vendors of those products, will guarantee them. In the case of heartworm and flea medications, there are counterfeit products out there, and what effect they will have when administered to your pet are unknown. That is a risk many are not willing to take. Also, many items from those companies are drop-shipped. This means you will wait an indefinite amount of time for them.
- most pets do not like to be "stuck with a needle" and yours may strike out at you or jump. This can cause a needle to break, or worse, end up stuck in you or a child.
- allergic reactions are possible whenever a vaccine is administered. If your pet reacted badly to a vaccination, would you know how to treat it and prevent it from dying?
Would you purchase medicine from a catalog and give it to your child? Especially without consulting with your pediatrician first? No. Neither should you assume responsibility for diagnosing and and administering vaccines or other medications to your family pet.
Responsible pet owners who love their pets want only the best care and treatment for them. Your veterinarian is educated and trained to care for your pet. Have him or her professionally examine your pet and vaccinate it with the proper series of vaccinations as an infant and keep him or her protected annually thereafter.
for the compilation of this useful information.