And the expense is directly proportional to the number of pets you own.
In the past 20 years, science and technology have advanced much faster than they did in all of the years leading up to the past few decades. You are using the primary engine in that progression right now to read the thoughts of an opinionated and immature veterinarian. You could be using it to watch hilarious animal videos instead. Or accessing all of the known information about the entire universe. These giant leaps in science in technology have lead to incredible advances in the diagnostic and treatment options for your pets. These giant leaps in science and technology also come with some pretty hefty price tags.
Unfortunately I have been using my access to the internet to read an article entitled “Vets are too expensive, and it’s putting pets at risk” you can read it for yourself but I’ll sum it up for you. Veterinary care is expensive. Sometimes people can’t afford the recommendations we make. That makes this author upset. My version is a little different. We as veterinarians are tasked with allowing you to make a decision about the care your pet receives by offering all of the options that make sense. It would help in definitively diagnosing torn ligaments if we did an MRI but that doesn’t usually make sense so I don’t typically recommend it. What we should never be doing is assuming you only want to the cheapest, most basic services. You can tell us this, but we still have to let you know what would be best. The frustrating part from both sides is that due to social and cultural issues that are beyond the control and scope of the veterinary/patient/client relationship, many people feel like they are obligated to do the best option we recommend and they end up feeling pressured into that care by either themselves, the veterinary staff, a mixture of both or just the situation in general. I can’t tell you how much delicate diplomacy is required when dealing with someone who just ran over their own puppy.
It’s true that some veterinarians are not good people. By and large however, veterinarians are kind, compassionate and honest people who went into this profession for all the right reasons and stayed because it is the coolest job we can imagine. We do have veterinarians who run up bills or offer unnecessary treatments and those vets both give the profession a bad name and earn a bit of eye rolling when we see the records if the client changes veterinarians. I don’t typically become incensed at it. At least not in the same manner as I do when I see situations where a client was clearly not given even the option to refuse the best recommendations and was instead forced into a situation where their pet received the most basic often inferior treatment.
About two years ago, I saw a cat that was not walking on his back limbs, at all. He had been seen by another vet who took a single x ray of the back legs correctly diagnosed that there were no fractures, gave an injection of pain medication and sent the cat home. Total cost was about $125. The cat came to me a few days later when it wasn’t getting any better. I discussed options with the owner and while they decided that referral to a specialty facility was not within their budget, sedation for a series of x rays to determine a treatment plan was. On x ray we determined that there were indeed no fractures but both hip joints had been dislocated. I explained this to the clients and again gave them a few options. In time we decided that the best course of action would be removing the heads of both femurs and then suturing the joint back together, a procedure called femoral head and neck incision. The surgery went great and the cat walked into his carrier, rode home and walked into his living room a few days later. I removed the staples two weeks later and the cat was getting along fine. At his last annual exam he was doing incredibly well. Total cost for the ordeal was $1027.10. Was our clinic more expensive, yes by almost 10 times the original visit. But in the end the owner has a cat who can walk and is pain free. She was given her options and determined what was best for her and we supported her decision. Many people reading this will say to themselves, “$1027.10 for a cat! I would never pay that much.” We would find a way to support whatever you were to decide as well.
Yes, veterinary medicine is expensive. Yes, we are always going to let you know what your best options are. No, the decision is not ours to make. No, we aren’t going to judge you for making a particular decision.
Thanks for reading.