care at all costs: the rising cost of vet care

Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Jun 25 2013

There seems to be a common misconception in the general public that veterinary care is overpriced and that veterinarians get rich at the expense of their patients and their patient’s owners. While there are bad apples everywhere, for the vast majority of veterinarians, this is simply the farthest thing from the truth.

It IS expensive to keep a pet healthy, though, and it’s getting more expensive every year, which is one of the reasons pet insurance is becoming so popular in the general public. Today’s blog will explore why this is happening, and what you can do about it.

The amount of money we spend on our dogs has increased nearly 50% in the last ten years, and that number is up 73% in our feline friends. While we can’t put a price on our pet’s health, we can still be left reeling from the rising cost of veterinary care. So, what’s to blame?

The answer, of course, is not a simple one. First thing’s first, though – it is easy to recognize that the human/animal bond is stronger than it has ever been before. For many of us, our pets are considered a part of our family, and we want to keep them healthy so that they can live as long as possible. This often means going to extraordinary lengths to provide medicine that wasn’t possible 50 (or even 10) years ago.

Specialist care is more readily available to us now, with surgical and medical referral centers popping up in even smaller cities. These facilities allow our pets to be treated by board certified dermatologists, neurologists, ophthalmologists, and oncologists (just to name a few) if they have conditions that cannot be managed by general practitioners. Access to advanced care raises the standard of care for all of veterinary medicine, which in turn, raises fees.

Another aspect of the rising cost of veterinary care has to do with the clinic itself. When you go to your family practitioner, you can expect good quality of care, but testing is generally limited. At your veterinarian’s office, you can walk in with your pet and walk out with lab results and x-rays within an hour. At your veterinarian’s office, your pet can get major surgery, complete with the exact same monitoring devices you would get if you were to have surgery at a hospital. All of these things cost money to buy and upkeep. Not to mention the cost of paying highly trained staff members (and their health insurance).

Don’t let the rising cost of veterinary care keep you from visiting the office, though. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Keeping up with regular physical exams and vaccinations can head off illness before it starts, thereby avoiding costly hospital stays.

Finally, develop a good relationship with your vet. Like I said, the vast majority of us are not in this business to make money – we’re in it to help your pet, and we want to offer your pet the very best service that we can. Even though part of the responsibility of taking on a pet is being prepared for the cost of his or her healthcare, we all realize that top-notch veterinary care is not always within reach for some. If you don’t have dog or cat insurance, talk to your vet. Let them know if you have financial constraints and ask if a less expensive alternative is available. It is our job to present you with the best options, but it’s up to you to decide what is right for your family.