Why is Veterinary Care so Expensive?

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If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me this question, I’d be a wealthy woman! What most people don’t realize is that, relatively speaking, veterinary care, especially when compared to human healthcare, is actually not at all unreasonable. As a former veterinary hospital manager, I can give you some behind the scenes insight into what makes up the cost of veterinary care.

Your cat’s veterinarian is not just your cat’s “family doctor”

Your cat’s vet is also her surgeon, radiologist, dentist, dermatologist, neurologist, ophthalmologist, psychiatrist, ears/nose/throat doctor, and pharmacist, all rolled into one. I’ve always felt that a veterinarian’s training and schooling is far more rigorous and complex than that of a physician. Not only can their patients not talk to them and tell them what’s wrong, but they have to study more than one species. During the first years of veterinary school, students also have to study large animal medicine, even if they know they’re never going to practice it. And even within the small animal track, there are multiple anatomies and disease processes to learn for each species, be it cats, dogs, ferrets, rabbits, or even scaly critters.

A veterinary clinic is a business

Just like any other business, veterinarians have to deal with overhead. They have to pay rent, utilities, and staff salaries. They have to purchase supplies, medications and equipment. They have to pay for laboratory analysis by an outside lab, or maintain an in house laboratory.

Myth: veterinarians get paid a lot of money

Trust me, nobody goes into veterinary medicine for the money. The average veterinarian graduates with a whopping $150,000 in debt. The average veterinary salary in 2011 was $55,000. By comparison, the average physician salary for the same time period was $300,000. (Figures are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

What goes into a bill for veterinary services

The following are some charges you may see on your veterinary bill, along with the explanation of what these charges really encompass. I’m hoping that this will help provide a better understanding of the value of veterinary care.

Office call/exam fee

This is the most important part of the bill. In that 15-30 minute time period, your vet will perform a complete health exam. You’re paying for the vet’s expertise, training, and experience, as well as his time. This fee also covers the time spent making notes in your cat’s record (which is often done after you’ve already left the clinic).

Lab tests

Whether performed inhouse or sent to an outside lab, the costs for lab tests do not just cover the actual performance of the test, ie., blood draw, urine sample collection, cytology (analysis of cells in fluid or in a growth), etc., but also the cost of running the test, and the cost of interpreting the results. The latter is the most time consuming part, and is both an art and a science. The numbers need to be viewed and analyzed in the bigger context of your cat’s health history as obtained in the exam, as well as her past history.

Ear cleaning

In most cases, a technician or assistant will perform a thorough ear cleaning, if that is required. You’re paying for the technician’s time and experience. Cleaning an infected or inflamed ear takes skill and attention to detail.

Medication

This is probably the most debated item on veterinary bills. The bulk of this charge is for the actual cost of the medications. Pharmaceutical drugs are expensive, especially if no generic version is available. You’re also paying a dispensing fee, which covers labeling the medication correctly and answering any questions a pet guardian may have about it. You may be able to save money using internet pharmacies, but make sure that it’s a pharmacy that is trusted by your cat’s veterinarian. And beware of having your cat’s prescriptions filled at retail pharmacies. Unfortunately, pet prescription errors are far more common that you might think, and pharmacists receive very little training in veterinary pharmacy.

What happens when a client can’t pay?

This is the worst part of the job for any veterinarian. Most veterinarians go into their profession because they care about animals and they want to help them. However, they also have to support themselves and their families, and even if they wanted to, they couldn’t give their services away for free.

Pet insurance can be a good option for cat guardians who are worried about the rising cost of veterinary care. The Humane Society of the United States provides a list of resources for those who have trouble affording veterinary care.

I hope this helps dispel some of the misconceptions about what goes into your cat’s veterinary bill. If you have a specific question about the cost of  veterinary care, leave it in a comment and I’ll do my best to answer it for you.

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69 Comments on Why is Veterinary Care so Expensive?

  1. Me
    October 27, 2016 at 4:03 pm (2 years ago)

    I have another question – then how come veterinary care and procedures are significantly cheaper in some of the other advanced countries around the world like most European countries? They also offer top quality services and medications …

    Reply
  2. Andi
    August 6, 2015 at 3:43 pm (3 years ago)

    It costs me $150 to see a nurse practitioner for a sore throat. (I have insurance, but only rarely meet the annual deductible). An office call at my local veterinary hospital is $52. I do not begrudge the fees for my cats’ health care.

    About pet insurance, the policies that I have looked into, seemed expensive for what you got. And having to cough up the money to pay first then getting reimbursed later sounds impractical to me. $35 per month per cat AND it doesn’t cover annual vaccinations or dental? Not on my budget. What I did instead was to set up a savings account. I deposit $25 out of every paycheck, regular as clockwork. This practice has made it possible to easily budget for both routine care and for unexpected illnesses. Not only that, but every penny will go for their care and none of the money goes to the profit margins of some corporation.

    Reply
    • Susan
      August 8, 2015 at 4:12 pm (3 years ago)

      Regarding insurance, I wish I could find some for $35. A month!! The last time I looked into it, it was over $150.00 Per month… My last vet bill was foa a small sore on my cats foot. It coast $239.00. My vet charges $85.00 the minute you walk in the door, the exam, prescriptions, advice or anything else is extra. My friend just took her dog in for a checkup with a shot update and walked out with a bill over $600.00. I can go to my doctor for a checkup and it is covered by my healthcare which costs about $60.00 a month for both my husband and I. Shots are also covered under that healthcare… $25.00 in an account monthly, accumulated over a year would not cover a checkup foe my cat once a year! When this pet is gone I will not be getting another one ever!

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        August 9, 2015 at 6:17 am (3 years ago)

        I consider pet insurance protection against a “catastrophic” illness, and choose my policy for Allegra and Ruby with that in mind. It only covers illness and accidents, not routine care, I set money aside in a savings account for that each month.

        Reply
      • ReniaCooper
        August 26, 2015 at 10:01 pm (3 years ago)

        Susan there is affordable pet insurance out there less then $150.00 a month pet plan cost me $24.00 dollars a month u must read plan an what it covers it fit my needs they are second best rated out there so look it up and see also was cheaper then others like vpi healthy paws and embrace true panino all expensive except pet plan and they are a great company.

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          August 27, 2015 at 5:57 am (3 years ago)

          In addition to looking at the cost of a plan, make sure you look very closely at what the plan covers.

          Reply
      • angela
        December 19, 2015 at 12:39 pm (3 years ago)

        I use VPI insurance and it is very affordable. They pay quickly also. If your vet charges that much it’s time to find another vet

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          December 19, 2015 at 12:41 pm (3 years ago)

          While price is certainly a consideration when choosing a vet, it should never be the first criteria. Sadly, even in veterinary medicine, sometimes, the old adage of “you get what you pay for” applies. This article may help explain when it’s time to find a new vet: http://consciouscat.net/2014/03/11/know-time-find-new-vet/

          Reply
  3. Angie
    November 13, 2014 at 2:06 pm (4 years ago)

    Dear “Questioner”,

    I have have a tooth pulled at my dentist, and was roughly about 250$ for the visit and extraction. And I work in Veterinary Medicine so I have also pulled teeth out of cat/dog. There is much more to the procedure than one would think. We most of the time don’t have to be sedated for a routine extraction, I sure wasn’t at least —where as a pet has to be it would be quiet amusing to watch this with out sedation. We simply don’t get medications for an extraction because we brush our teeth two times a day to help prevent an infection–I must note though I did get an infection and had to go to my doctor to get an antibiotic. Where as dog/cats can’t do this (brush their teeth) and most of the time owners wont do this either so most likely an Antibiotic injection was done during the dental procedure.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      November 13, 2014 at 2:47 pm (4 years ago)

      Thank you for this, Angie. Most people don’t realize how much human medical care actually costs because so much of it is covered by insurance.

      Reply
  4. Questioner
    July 25, 2014 at 7:25 pm (4 years ago)

    It still doesn’t explain why my dentist charged me $25 to pull my tooth, where the vet charged me $200 to pull my dog’s tooth. Look, I’m really sorry, but I am not convinced. Everything points to vets overcharging the clients to line their pockets by abusing the emotional connection between the client and the pet.

    Reply
    • Heath McNutt
      May 15, 2015 at 9:20 pm (4 years ago)

      Your point of view is valid but you are comparing very different things. You know a tooth is being pulled, you can sit still and follow the instructions. Your dog does not. It requires anesthesia, anesthesia requires monitoring and is far more labor intensive. If your tooth hurts, you will tell your dentist but your pet can’t tell anyone. So we can’t leave anything behind and need to close everything perfectly. This is labor intensive. You are paying a professional to perform a service. It costs money, it’s not an abuse it’s a choice. I wrote more in the subject here: https://heathmcnuttdvm.wordpress.com/2015/04/24/having-pets-is-expensive/

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        May 16, 2015 at 6:50 am (4 years ago)

        Thank you for sharing the link to your article, Dr. McNutt.

        Reply
  5. Jeff Lee
    March 8, 2013 at 11:57 pm (6 years ago)

    Remarkable issues here. I like your pet insurance advice .It is good option for cat guardians who are worried about the rising cost of veterinary care.

    Reply
  6. Emily
    January 31, 2013 at 9:16 pm (6 years ago)

    Ingrid, applause to you once again. I appreciate you breaking this down for me/us because I have often wondered, a lot! how prices are determined. I’ll pay anything for my zoo crew, but I have questioned some quotes. In the end, it’s always been well worth the money :). Keep doing what you’re doing girl!
    Em
    Edie Kidie & Nona Bolongna’s Mom

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 1, 2013 at 6:18 am (6 years ago)

      Thanks, Emily! Give Edie Kidie and Nona Bologna some scritches behind the ears from me!

      Reply
  7. Logan
    January 31, 2013 at 2:43 pm (6 years ago)

    Another valid point is that a vet’s fees are probably also based on the cost of living in the area, so a vet in New Jersey may charge more than a vet out in Kansas or something, kinda like mechanics, they’re hourly fees depend on where they are, even inside a state. I’ve been going to the same vet clinic, which is 5 minutes tops from home, since I was about 5 and luckily there’s a vet now working there whom I adore, she totally gets that cats are obligate carnivores and need raw meat/bones/organs, she even makes her own dog’s food or uses a good fresh food from the store if she’s tired. The best benefit of the raw diet is that I don’t have to take my cats to the vet for anything other than shots and some pre-existing chronic conditions (I didn’t know about raw until a year or two ago), which really helps to keep the vet costs down. My vet clinic also does things like nail trimming and anal glands for free. Thank you for your wonderfully enlightening article.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 31, 2013 at 3:10 pm (6 years ago)

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article, Logan, and I’m glad your cats are doing so well on raw food. We can’t control our cats’ genetic make up, but we can control what we feed them, and species appropriate nutrition can go a long way toward preventing health problems – and vet bills!

      Reply
  8. Nicole
    January 31, 2013 at 2:26 pm (6 years ago)

    Just a note on personal experience. I’ve found that it’s not necessarily the routine, or yearly, care that is expensive (again, personal experience in my region). What gets expensive is waiting until the last minute, needing lab work and other diagnostic testing, hospitilization and medication to pull a pet back from the brink. Unfortunately, many owners forgo routine care, thinking it is not necessary, and only visit the veterinarian when their pet is ill.

    And please, stop to consider this: When your labrador swallows a tennis ball that has to be removed via surgery, you may be paying a couple of thousand dollars. If your son swallows a tennis ball that has to be removed from his stomach, you’re paying thousands more.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 31, 2013 at 3:10 pm (6 years ago)

      You’re absolutely right, Nicole – preventive care is always less expensive than trying to fix an problem when it may be too late.

      Reply
  9. Toni
    January 31, 2013 at 2:16 pm (6 years ago)

    Wow! I am really shocked a veterinary on average does not make more then that. I can see why so many of them have to go into a clinic with several other vets. How could they afford to pay the staff and other expenses and end up with enough money for themselves?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 31, 2013 at 3:11 pm (6 years ago)

      Most people are shocked when they find out how little veterinarians earn, Toni.

      Reply
      • ANNA
        January 31, 2013 at 5:19 pm (6 years ago)

        i wasd completely shocked as well. To me that is very sad. Back in the 1800’s most humans were seen by veterinarians as opposed to MD’s because thee were not many docs out in the rural areas but there were veterinarians. In fact, did you know that Doc Baker from the Laura Ingals Wilder ‘Little House on the prairie” series was actually a veterinarian? This was indicative of the day.

        I love our Vet’s. They are wonderful, are open from 10 am to 10 pm daily without charging more for night visits or Sundays. The bedside manner they provide to both myself and my pets is nothing like I have ever received from a MD. I love them and hope and pray they are making more then 55,000 per year.

        Reply
  10. Jeanette M. Griebel
    January 31, 2013 at 12:24 pm (6 years ago)

    What I have not seen mentioned is that alot of “vet clinics” are owned by corporations. Which cost way more than my vet. My vet has the same overhead, etc and he still charges reasonable prices for my cat’s care. I went to a corporate owned clinic and was paying $158 for cat insulin. My new vet is only charging me $48 for the same medicine. I am all for paying for the care of my furry children. I also don’t want to be robbed for the care.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 31, 2013 at 1:22 pm (6 years ago)

      Corporate ownership of veterinary clinics has certainly changed the landscape over the past two decades, Jeanette.

      Reply
  11. Suzanne
    January 31, 2013 at 11:55 am (6 years ago)

    I no longer have the source article, but I seem to recall ~10 yrs ago there was a study published that stated that veterinarians were undercharging for their services and rates hadn’t changed in many years. Right after that, I saw fees skyrocket. My VCA-certified vet became so expensive I could no longer use them. I couldn’t walk in their door without spending at least $200 (and we’re talking routine things here). There are some vets (and I believe my former vet clinic is one of these) that ARE in it for the money. The specific vet I saw at the clinic left and took a job in Arizona because of this.

    Now, I’ve found a wonderful vet whose office isn’t as nice or as large, but his heart makes up for it. There are times he doesn’t even charge for a minor service. He kept 3 kittens who got a virulent intestinal bug in the clinic for 3 weeks so he could monitor them and it only cost me $300 for all of them. I shudder to think what the bill would have been at my previous vet. He also took a sickly little feral kitten home with him to try to nurse him to health. Unfortunately, he couldn’t be save, but Dr. Sal didn’t charge me a dime. The man is a saint, and even though his office is a little further away, I will continue to patronize his office because he IS in it for the animals.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 31, 2013 at 1:24 pm (6 years ago)

      Veterinarians historically have undercharged for their services, Suzanne. It’s very challenging to strike a balance between keeping services affordable for clients, and making a living. It sounds like you’ve found a wonderful vet.

      Reply
    • Deborah
      May 4, 2016 at 6:39 pm (3 years ago)

      There are still a few left. Sad we are losing them though. I lost one like that.

      Reply
  12. anna
    January 31, 2013 at 10:55 am (6 years ago)

    Excellent artical. I have to agree with person who wrote about the corporate veterinary practices., but for different reasons. These 2 big box practices in So Cal while extremely expensive are also pushing small practices out of business. Our two big box practices in my town are busy busy busy, the care is terrible they upsell loads of stuff not needed for instance my neighbor took her indoor cat there for vaccinations her cat had been on a 2 year protocol of revolution and had no fleas. I know this first hand because I’m the one that applies it monthly and my husband treats her yard for her when we do ours. She is 73 years old came home with over 300.00 in uneeded flea control , vitamins and food all of which she had at home but was convinced what she had was not good enough. Interestingly everything was identical to what she had with the exception of the food. I asked her why she didn’t go to her regular vet who had treated her pets for 15 years. Her answer was I had received a coupon. In the mail for 12.00 fvrcp. Really??? How can a small practice compete with that? They hook them in with discounted vaccine gain their trust and rape them for all other things.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 31, 2013 at 1:27 pm (6 years ago)

      As I said to a commenter above, there’s no doubt that corporate ownership of veterinary clinics has changed things in the profession, Anna. It can be a situation similar to large box stores putting small family owned stores out of business.

      Reply
  13. stephanie
    January 31, 2013 at 10:44 am (6 years ago)

    This may be a stupid question, but why is it for a general exam fee for my cats it’s 30$ but for my ferret it is $150? I do kind of feel like the vet for my ferret price gauges because he can.
    Also some vets wanted to charge as much as 1500$ to have my cat Sasha’s surgery, but we had one vet do it for 300$?
    I do find that while it is true there are vets who care and charge fair prices, there are many vets who overcharge.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 31, 2013 at 1:30 pm (6 years ago)

      Typically, vets who work on exotic animals (and ferrets are considered exotic) charge more than general vets.

      As for the difference in prices for your cat’s surgery, it’s hard to answer that question without seeing your cat’s chart. It could be a difference in the level of care (surgery should always include pre-anesthetic bloodwork, an IV cathether and fluids during the procedure, heart, pulse ox and blood pressure monitoring, etc. Even though this is considered standard of care, not all vets follow these protocols. Some vets heavily discount spay/neuter surgeries.

      Reply
  14. mary knight
    January 31, 2013 at 8:52 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks for posting. I have bookmarked this page. There are also many great cat health advice websites and blogs for first aid and DIY that have proved invaluable. This was just a very timely and excellent source of information on today’s Conscious Cat.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 31, 2013 at 9:00 am (6 years ago)

      I’m glad the article was helpful, Mary.

      Reply
  15. Teri and the cats of Curlz and Swirlz
    January 29, 2013 at 12:35 pm (6 years ago)

    Great post and discussion. Those of us who have ‘worked in the trenches’ do have a different perspective and sound reasoning behind our convictions I think. I used Care Credit for one of my cats knee surgery a year ago and it was an excellent option to be able to pay off her $3000 surgery over 6 months with no interest.

    As to the markup at vets vs online, part of that markup is for case management and answering questions and helping a client maintain the good healthcare for their cat. That is something one shouldn’t be asking of 1800PETMEDS or Walgreens…

    And yes, the overhead especially where I live in the DC metro area is high–building lease, mortgages, property tax…something that in other areas (like Southern Oregon where I came from) is so much lower so the fees are comparabley lower, too…

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 29, 2013 at 1:58 pm (6 years ago)

      Thanks, Teri. There’s definitely a difference in fees by region, for the reasons you mention.

      Reply
  16. Shaunna
    January 29, 2013 at 12:25 pm (6 years ago)

    Ingrid-
    Thank you so much for posting an article like this. I currently work in the field as an assistant with a high level of on the job training. I have been in this business for 8 years and I have to say this article is wonderful from the stand point of someone in the field. Not only do I work for a vet but I work in an emergency clinic that operates 24 hours per day, 365 days a year. Cost is probably one of the biggest battles we fight on a day to day basis. Not only for the general practice procedures, like vaccines, spays, neuters, etc but especially on the emergency services. It does cost more to be seen after hours, to have emergency surgery, etc. It is the same in human medicine, you just don’t see the cost immediately because of insurance, which is offered for pets but payment is still due up front and then the insurance company reimburses the client. Also, vets try very hard to keep prescriptions in the clinic because it brings in more money for the practice instead of giving that revenue to human pharmacies. And the online pharmacies are a huge headache in general. Granted they are cheaper, but when someone buys from them, how do they know for sure where that med is coming from? How do you know it isn’t expired and hasnt been tampered with? And the companies that make the medications do not stand behind any guarantees if the medication is not purchased from a licensed veterinarian, so if something goes wrong they will not provide any assistance. Nutrition is a hard one, and a lot of the practices I work with where I’m from actually have technicians that are well versed in all of the diets that particular practice carries in order to spend time with the clients explaining the foods and what the benefits are, and also to give comparable substitutions. It is always important to remember that these are animals, not people, so the foods and diet plans that are healthy for people may not be the best choice for a pet. Just wanted to share some of my learned wisdom 🙂

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 29, 2013 at 1:56 pm (6 years ago)

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Shaunna.

      Reply
  17. Bonnie
    January 28, 2013 at 3:09 pm (6 years ago)

    Many years ago, about 10 years BC (Before Chey), I worked in a vet clinic. One of the vets that worked there made less than her husband who had foregone college and just went to work at the post office. He was the one who brought the health insurance and the larger salary. Her work was a passion that didn’t bring in much income, despite the length of her schooling and student loans (which were much less back in the day but still a lot).

    Another issue is that a vet is typically a small business–which means they are not getting the best rates from suppliers. They just don’t have the volume, although it may seem like they do to us. I recall anesthetic was a big stickler for us in terms of cost and overhead.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 28, 2013 at 5:21 pm (6 years ago)

      I would imagine that the supply costs issue hasn’t changed much, Bonnie. I’ve been out of the veterinary profession for almost eight years now, but it definitely was an issue back then, and I can only imagine that it’s gotten worse as costs for everything have increased.

      Reply
  18. Connie
    January 28, 2013 at 1:05 pm (6 years ago)

    I hate paying the fees for my vet, because I am very frugal, but I do know that each time I do I am investing in good health care for my pets. With out regular patients, a vet practice could never stay in business. Consider each dollar you spend with your vet a good investment

    Reply
  19. Karen
    January 28, 2013 at 12:44 pm (6 years ago)

    My animals go to a ‘speciality’ animal hospital so they see a specialist for any disease or ailment outside the realm of a general practitioner. They all work right there at the hospital so my vet just needs to do a referral for something she knows can be handled more specifically. I adore my vet and know she is special…most vets have to also deal with people (moms/dads of their four legged ones) so they have to be good with animals and people. They see all types of things all day long and I am sure burn out rate is good…with all they deal with. I feel my vet is worth every penny I spend…and of course so are my critters.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 28, 2013 at 1:13 pm (6 years ago)

      You’re absolutely right, Karen – vets don’t just have to be good with animals, they also have to be good with people, and often with people who are stressed and upset. It sounds like you have a wonderful vet.

      Reply
  20. Gail
    January 28, 2013 at 12:04 pm (6 years ago)

    Thanks Ingrid, great article. I was a vet tech for a year and believe veterinarians are some of the most educated people around.

    As a pharmacist I would like to reassure people that many of the errors listed in article linked are not something that the pharmacist should be doing on purpose (as the article seemed to imply). Changing the drug or dose is something that can’t be done without consulting the prescriber. It’s true that we receive very little training in veterinary pharmacy. I got a short lecture where we were taught that animals metabolized differently, not all human drugs were appropriate for them, they often required larger doses, and that vets were much better trained in medications than physicians. If we weren’t sure about a drug/dose call but follow their lead. There was also a rotation offered with the pharmacist at the veterinary college, but this was not available to all students. That being said errors can, and do, happen. There are an estimated 1.5 million people harmed by drug errors every year. Pharmacists are overworked (many of us work 10 or 12 hour shifts without breaks) and we are human, mistakes happen. If you go to a local pharmacy for your pets medication (whether because it is not available from the vet or because it is cheaper) my advise is this (most of which applies to your own prescriptions as well):
    1) Know what drug was prescribed, what dose, and what the directions are. If the pharmacist questions it ask them to call the vet to confirm it is correct. It is also possible it was written or called in wrong (this happens with startling frequency in prescriptions for people too).
    2) Check the prescription before you leave. If you have a question ask.
    3) Be careful of liquid medications. Some liquids contain sweeteners that are not safe for animals. If the liquid contains an artificial sweetener check it with the vet.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 28, 2013 at 12:27 pm (6 years ago)

      Gail, thank you for this perspective on filling veterinary prescriptions – that’s great information!

      Reply
    • Connie
      January 28, 2013 at 1:01 pm (6 years ago)

      not to mention that mistakes are made with dispensing medication at the vet’s office as well. happens more than one would care to think about. But there is no one keeping track of such things because it is all internal at that point.

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        January 28, 2013 at 1:12 pm (6 years ago)

        Connie, the vet clinic I managed had a system of checks and balances for dispensing medications. Each medication was reviewed by either a veterinarian, or an experienced technician, before it went to the client.

        Reply
      • Nicole
        January 31, 2013 at 2:22 pm (6 years ago)

        At the clinic I work in, the doctor tells us what to fill, we type the label, fill the meds and then hand the original medication bottle, along with the filled prescription, to the doctor. The doctor then initials the label. Mistakes are made, yes, but an exceptional few make it out of the front door.

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          January 31, 2013 at 3:11 pm (6 years ago)

          Thanks for sharing your protocol for filling prescriptions, Nicole. I like the double checks your clinic has.

          Reply
    • Jennifer
      February 6, 2013 at 3:13 pm (6 years ago)

      Thank you for posting this article! I’ve been a veterinary practice manager for 6 years and in total in the business for 22 years.

      Just wanted to mention here that there is a huge difference between the on-line pharmacies and your local pharmacy. On-line pharmacies can be dangerous! And if you are looking for a prescription on-line to please use a pharmacy that is well known for pet medications. The counterfeit market for prescription drugs is all over these days because the drug market is worth billions of dollars. Some medications are being produced in other countries and are being distributed here in the United States and without knowing where the medication is coming from or reading the fine print you may not be able to seek litigation in the event of a problem. Manufacturer’s will stand by their medications as long as they came from an authorized distributor. It’s not worth saving 10-20 bucks!

      I also wanted to touch on something else I read here about clients being at the mercy of the veterinarian in case of a prescription mistake. Being a member of the American Animal Hospital Association we are required to document and report any adverse events including prescription mistakes to the manufacturer and FDA. With that being said, you do have the option to seek legal consul.

      The prescription medication portion of our hospital is so very low that we are able to keep costs reasonable. I feel that any hospital out there trying to make a huge profit on medication is really not doing themselves any favors. Especially with dynamic pricing available these days. Plus you can run the risk of a poor reputation in your community.

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        February 6, 2013 at 5:02 pm (6 years ago)

        Thanks for sharing your perspective, Jennifer. I agree with you that the comfort of knowing that you can trust the medication dispensed at your veterinary clinic is well worth the few extra dollars you may be spending.

        Reply
  21. Amy Sikes
    January 28, 2013 at 10:50 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks for posting this again, Ingrid! I meant to leave a comment before, but I don’t think I ever did.

    I love that my vet office really tries to make things affordable for their clients. When I bring my own fluids in, they don’t charge me anything for helping me give them. (I try to do it on my own, but don’t always succeed.)

    I just became the foster mom to two precious diabetic kitties, and my vet is giving me free insulin for them.

    I love that they really care about animals and try to help out with their pricing as much as possible. They work insane hours, too! I’ve frequently gotten after-hours calls from them to follow up on a cat.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 28, 2013 at 12:27 pm (6 years ago)

      Vets and their staff are some of the hardest working professionals I’ve encountered, Amy. It sounds like you have a wonderful vet office.

      Reply
  22. Pam
    January 28, 2013 at 10:12 am (6 years ago)

    For me, Care Credit is a great option for paying veterinary expenses. For many things they have a six-months no-interest option for payment.

    Fortunately, I feel that my veterinary facility’s fees are reasonable.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 28, 2013 at 12:26 pm (6 years ago)

      Care Credit can be a great option – thanks for mentioning that, Pam.

      Reply
      • Dominique
        January 28, 2013 at 6:59 pm (6 years ago)

        I totally agree. After a lot of crap pouring on my house I decided to drop the health insurance I had for my bunch and instead I opened a bank account where I put money every month.
        For the veterinary care Ingrid, lets agree to disagree. Vets are humans! Yes that’s the breaking news for today. Some are greedy, some are less expensive and it has nothing to do with the services they provide.
        There is no reason for a vet to charge me $120.00 for Prozac for my cat when I can get it from a well known pharmacy for $ 40.00. This is called greed!

        Reply
        • Betsy C.
          January 29, 2013 at 4:03 pm (6 years ago)

          I hear this often (that vets charge too much for prescription medications) and it is a difficult situation. Small animal veterinarians will never be able to compete with the bigger well known pharmacies. Those pharmacies can buy in bulk and get tremendous discounts on their products. Veterinarians will never buy as much Prozac as the human pharmacies will. I think the important thing to remember, though, is the well known pharmacy will very likely not be able to answer any of your questions about using Prozac in a cat. Part of the cost associated with the higher prices at the veterinarian has to do with the veterinary medical advice associated with managing a patient on a longterm medication. If something were to go wrong or need to be adjusted, etc. you will depend on your veterinarian to make recommendations or spend time on the phone problem solving the issues. That said, though, I do think we need to start thinking about ourselves as veterinarians and not pharmacists. I would rather allow my client to get the cheaper price from the human pharmacy and then charge them for my professional services associated with managing the patient. I can already hear the complaints, though. “You’re charging me for what???” Sometimes it feels like we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Ultimately, my experience has been that those in my profession are rarely making exorbitant amounts of money.

          Reply
          • Ingrid
            January 29, 2013 at 5:08 pm (6 years ago)

            Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Betsy.

    • Jennifer
      May 25, 2013 at 12:42 pm (6 years ago)

      Yes CareCredit is a valid option for people who have good credit.

      Just a little warning though. You HAVE to pay off the entire balance of each charge within 6 months (sometimes longer if it’s more than a $600 charge at one go) or you get socked with a 24% – 32% interest rate on the unpaid balance AND all the interest that wasn’t charged for the first 6 months.

      CareCredit is owned by GE Capital Retail Bank and their specialty is store cards (Lane Bryant, GapCard, Old Navy Card, etc) so if you already have a “relationship” with them, you are more likely to get approved for CareCredit.

      Also, CareCredit is accepted by most vets and emergency vets, as well as human dentists, vision places, and cosmetic surgeons. So it does have multiple uses.

      Reply
  23. Dominique
    January 28, 2013 at 9:07 am (6 years ago)

    You are so right Ingrid. The only hard thing in the process is to find the right vet. One you can trust, one who will tell you when he or she knows and when they don’t and realize its ok not to know. I will never discuss the bills. I know the work behind. They have the most difficult job ever and some have the gift to communicate with your animal. Those are gems.
    On the other hand, I do not trust some big facilities where vets receives bonuses every month for the business they brought in. Not every big facility is that way though. I met a great internist last September who was booked solid that day but cancelled all her appointments to stay with us until George passed away.
    In my book she will be the one I will go to if any of my bunch is in trouble. It’s not about money, it’s all about trust.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 28, 2013 at 12:25 pm (6 years ago)

      Dominique, we paid the vets in the practice I managed bonuses (and it was a small practice) – and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Yes, it’s done to bring in business, but it’s also done to encourage vets to practice quality medicine and not cut corners. It also helps non-owner vets to feel that they have a stake in the practice, and that inevitably leads to better patient care and to better client communications. In the end, everybody wins.

      Reply
      • Dominique
        January 28, 2013 at 5:15 pm (6 years ago)

        I guess it just depends where. I had two extremely bad experiences with a big facility in Maryland and I am not the only one. I believe in practices owned by veterinarians not by big companies which are in Maryland spreading like spider webs buying private practices after private practices. It just depends on the context.

        Reply
  24. Sara
    January 28, 2013 at 7:21 am (6 years ago)

    Thank you for this article! I am not personally affiliated with the profession but I *definitely* appreciate the many hats my vet wears. I have a difficult boy to treat (VERY angry and allergic to rabies vaccination) and my vet is just a saint for seeing him.

    I do have a question, though. Why do most vets continue to declaw cats? I have heard a variety of responses from a diverse group of people ranging from “they have to pay their student loans off SOMEhow” to “it saves cats from being abandoned.” Declawing and feline nutrition are my biggest qualms with today’s veterinary schools and practices. I [sort of] get that they don’t do much on nutrition because they are so busy learning about SO many other things. Even so, it’s hard to deal with the vet and staff trying to push a prescription diet on me when I know it’s crap.

    I’d appreciate your input on this. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 28, 2013 at 8:58 am (6 years ago)

      I actually don’t think it’s true that “most” vets will still declaw cats. In fact, I heard from someone in a major metro area recently who was unable to find a vet who would declaw.

      I worked with some vets who would declaw in very rare and special circumstances, and only when everything else had been tried. Usually, these were situations when the cat’s guardian was immunocompromised, and getting scratched presented too big a health risk. While I am adamantly oppposed to declawing, I respected these vets for making these difficult decisions – and also, for making sure that the surgery was done with appropriate pain control. I honestly don’t think there’s a vet out there who considers declawing a profit center – or at least I hope that no vet would!

      As for the nutrition issue – that’s one of my biggest issues with the profession, too. Vets don’t get a whole lot of nutrition training, and what little they get is usually sponsored by major pet food companies, so unless a vet takes the time to educate herself on her own, it’s not surprising that vets would reach for diets they’ve become familiar with in vet school when they start practicing. Veterinary medicine is an ever changing discipline and it takes a lot of time and effort to stay on top of everything and run a practice. It’s why I have a lot of respect for the vets that do take the time to go beyond what they’ve been taught in school.

      Kymythy Schultze wrote an excellent guest post about this topic for me: http://consciouscat.net/2010/08/30/feline-nutrition-who-bears-the-responsibility/

      Reply
      • Dominique
        January 28, 2013 at 11:13 am (6 years ago)

        Yes I agree but even vets who stay up to date in veterinary medicine can still follow blindly the guidelines of the American Board of veterinary Medecine, and they are sold out to the major pet food companies.
        My vet disagreed with the grain free diet everyone has at home – cats and dogs – and told me bluntly that according to the Board raw diet (that my cats hate! ) and grain free are just what’s “in” for the time being but will go away be ause they have no value. I do not even discuss that topic with her!

        Reply
    • Connie
      January 28, 2013 at 12:59 pm (6 years ago)

      the vets in my area still declaw. They out and out dismiss the side effects saying they are anecdotal, and exaggerated. the vet I used to go to said he declawed all his cats and none of them suffered issues.

      The same said vet had a multitude of “caution” cats as patients. Just about all of them were declawed.. why he couldn’t see the correlation I have no idea.

      Until there is a major study to “prove” the problems, there are going to be vets who think that it is all made up.

      Reply
  25. maru
    January 28, 2013 at 7:00 am (6 years ago)

    Well said!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 28, 2013 at 8:51 am (6 years ago)

      Thanks, Maru!

      Reply
    • Valori
      January 31, 2013 at 2:59 pm (6 years ago)

      yes, good information we have a kitten who needs to get spayed soon I’m going to try the humane society

      Reply

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