This is a tough thing to talk about when I have to let alone write about when I really don’t. I’m just going to lay it out there, I don’t think about the financial aspect of what I do when I am coming up with a treatment plan for your pet. For the next five hundred words or so I’m going to try to convince you that you don’t want me to be thinking about money either.
I am trained extensively in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of animal diseases. When you bring an animal to me for a problem or even for an annual examination my job is to formulate a problem list and then come up with the least invasive manner to properly identify and address the source of each problem. There is often a difference between the least invasive manner of diagnosing something compared to the least expensive.
The other major aspect of my job that I feel is lost somewhere in the conversation is that I make recommendations. If I make a recommendation based on a finding during a physical exam and you choose to ignore it, that’s ok. It is your pet and ultimately your decision and I understand that there are a lot of factors that go into deciding on a treatment plan for your pet. Some of them are often personal beliefs about treatments, many owners are not willing to put a pet through chemotherapy for example. Other decisions are going to based on finances. If you are having to decide on treating your pet and paying your mortgage, that isn’t much of a decision is it? It does your pet no good to diagnose an illness and treat it if there is no home to return to when they are well!
There are two problems that happen when your vet starts thinking about the cost of things when he/she is coming up with a treatment plan. The first is kind of obvious to us, if your veterinarian’s salary is directly tied into how much they produce for the practice (many of them are) they may include things that are unnecessary to try to “pad” the bill and increase the amount they will make. I’ve heard of veterinarians that will “pad” a bill but I’ve never actually met one. They are the alligators in the sewer of veterinary medicine. I have met many veterinarians that claim to work for one or have worked with one but I’ve never seen one! The opposite is far more common and most of us often fall into patterns where we are guilty of being too conservative and trying to fix things inexpensively without offering all options. To illustrate what I mean I will share one of my more recent short comings.
One of my favorite patients is a small young canine belonging to an older woman. The dog was brought in to me early in the week because she had vomited a few times and was having bloody diarrhea in the house. Physical exam was fairly straight forward and I ran a small amount of blood work and was able to determine that the dog more than likely had a fair amount of gastroenteritis with a secondary low grade pancreatitis. This is where I dropped the ball. I should have offered my client the option of hospitalizing her pet for several days with intense fluid therapy, pain management and tailored nutritional and pharmaceutical therapy possibly including antibiotics. Instead I treated her in the same manner we often end up treating these patients when the first treatment plan we offer is rejected. I went straight to plan B medicine without giving the owner the option of plan A. I did it in an attempt to keep her bill low without asking her if she needed me to do that. Her dog did ok and in the end fully recovered but needed several out patient treatments and spent longer than was necessary feeling lousy. In the end the treatment plan worked but my patient and my client could have been feeling better sooner and could have healed with less complication, weight loss and damage to the intestinal tract or carpets, had we been more aggressive.
Ultimately I owe it to you and your pet to make you aware of the best treatment options my expertise will allow. You owe it to your pet and yourself to elect a treatment plan that fits your lifestyle and your relationship with your pet. We owe it to each other to keep those lines of communication as open as possible.
Thanks for reading.