“Why does it cost so much to go to the vet?” This is a question many of us ask at one point or another. Pet health care costs can add up. Many of us get lucky with a pet who remains healthy and accident-free for the majority of their lives. But even in those cases, pets are often an afterthought, even in households who truly love their fur-baby, annual exams and vaccinations are rarely included in the yearly budget and catch guardians by surprise. There are countless people who have gone deeply into debt over pet care. For some, depending upon the treatment choices and the regional prices for treatment, vet bills can end up being just as much as human health care bills.
Of course, pets are priceless. They provide joy, companionship, entertainment, and a longer life span for those of us who embrace dogs and cats as family. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with thinking about the money. Budgeting and understanding our options for vet services and pricing, is critical. Here are a couple important myths and some sage advice to help pet guardians build realistic and savvy expectations about vet bills and pet health conversations.
All vets overcharge and just want to line their pockets. That’s why veterinary costs have risen over the years.
There are definitely some unscrupulous vet offices out there. Every industry has professionals who are in it for the money. But here are the real reasons vet visits have grown in price over the years:
- Inflation. Many of us can remember when lemonade was $.10 cents and checking accounts were free. The sad truth is, veterinary offices are not immune to the economic changes we all experience. They have to pay wages, overhead, and other standard business expenses. And in order to attract the good vets and vet techs, they need to be able to pay competitive wages. Nobody wants a vet office where it’s everyone’s first day and we never see the same vet or tech twice.
- Better care available. There are more treatment options available for pets than ever before. But the more vet care resembles human care, the more expensive it will be because it is relying on the latest technology and scientific discoveries. Instead of a cancer, and many other diagnoses being a death sentence, we now have incredible options to lengthen and improve quality of life.
- Vets are expected to be comprehensive. In human health care, we have general practice physicians, pediatricians, osteopaths, oncologists, urologists, cardiologists, dentists, surgeons, and many more. Veterinarians, however, are expected to be all of these. There are a few specialists for the more advanced and specialized treatments, but the vast majority of our vets wear all of these hats. It’s no wonder the better clinics and doctors are more expensive. They have to keep up with the latest developments, be able to afford continuing education and conferences across a vast array of medical topics, and be able to add additional resources to their practice to incorporate the latest best practices. These are all just a cost of doing business on their end, but it reflects in an ongoing increase in prices on our end.
All veterinarians shame pet guardians into add-ons and upsells for unnecessary treatments.
Vet offices are a business and need to cover their expenses. Some vet offices can end up taking it too far and causing additional expenses on their clients that may be premature compared to the recommendations of most other vets. However, there are two factors the pet guardian needs to recognize and take responsibility for.
- It’s about our pets. One key factor many pet guardians don’t realize is that any truly good veterinarian is on the side of our pets, not us. They take our needs into account, such as budget and circumstances. But, our pet’s health and well-being is their number one concern. And they have an ethical obligation to present us with all the best options. Many times this is mis-read as shaming us into something we don’t realize is the best option. Our job is weigh the information we are given, do our own research, and get a second opinion for the bigger decisions if we have doubts or concerns.
- Trust is built over time. Many pet guardians just choose the office closest to their home. However, for those of us who feel like we are being pressured or shamed into providing more (or less) care than we feel comfortable with, it may be that the real problem is the relationship. Not all vets are the same and everyone presents information and options differently. Our job is to find a vet with whom we are comfortable communicating and trust.
Veterinary care is no trivial expense, and while pet health care doesn’t cost quite as much as human health care, bills add up. And most pet guardians underestimate what they will need to spend on their cat- and canine-companions. Luckily, there are great ways to significantly save money and still provide the best possible life for our fur-babies. Watch for Part Two of this series on vet bills. In the meantime, consider pet insurance. When we invest in pet insurance, we invest in our pup’s and kitty future well-being.
Here are a few Pet Insurance Myths worth checking out.
And, here is a helpful guide on choosing pet insurance, as well some vetted pet insurance providers to help guardians sift through the confusing info out there.