Sometimes pet owners wonder about the costs of providing quality veterinary care for their pets. Although each individual case is unique, these questions and answers offer valuable insight.
Why is veterinary care for my pet(s) so expensive these days? Sometimes I believe I’m spending more on my pet’s health care than on my own.
Relatively speaking, veterinary care is a great deal. The cost of veterinary care has actually risen very little during the last 20 to 30 years. When compared to the rising cost of human health care, pet care is not at all unreasonable.
Bear in mind that your veterinarian is not only your pet’s general physician, but also its surgeon, radiologist, dentist, dermatologist, neurologist, ophthalmologist, psychiatrist, ears/nose/throat doctor, and pharmacist.
Your veterinary bill is a reflection of the costs of maintaining suitable facilities, equipment and support personnel to provide the level of care that is expected in animal medicine today. Remember too that the original cost of the animal has no bearing on the cost of services rendered.
Although it may feel as if you are paying more for your pet’s health care than your own, chances are that you probably have adequate health care insurance for your own needs. Consequently, you may never see the total bottom-line figure for your own doctor bills. When human health care costs are added up-including insurance, deductibles, and pharmaceutical costs-there is no comparison to the much lower veterinary care costs.
The American Animal Hospital Association strongly suggests that all pet owning families assess their financial situation and consider their ability to meet unexpected expenses that may be incurred for veterinary care. For some families, these expenses may be met through existing savings. Others may be able to use credit card reserves or medical payment cards. Some families should consider budgeting for these expenses and still others may want to consider protecting themselves through pet health insurance policies.
Today, pet health insurance is available to offset the costs of your furry friends’ medical expenses. The American Animal Hospital Association is not affiliated with any pet health insurance company but for those considering pet health insurance, AAHA offers the following suggestions:
- Be sure you understand what the policy covers. Some policies (but not all) cover some preventative care, such as vaccinations, but there may be additional cost for this coverage.
- Understand the exclusions. Almost all policies exclude pre-existing conditions and some exclude hereditary conditions. Some may exclude certain conditions unique to certain breeds.
- Almost all policies have a deductible and a co-pay requirement. Some pay according to a set schedule of “usual and customary fees” while some pay based on the actual incurred expense. Be sure you understand how expenses will be reimbursed.
- Ask whether or not the policy allows you to seek care from a veterinarian of your own choosing or whether you must go to a veterinarian that participates in the company’s network of providers. When faced with a pet’s serious illness, most pet owners want to be able to obtain care from their regular veterinarian.
- Speak with your veterinarian or someone on her practice team. While veterinarians do not sell insurance, chances are they have had experience with the policy you are considering and can provide helpful advice.
Again, veterinary care can provide your pet with many years of healthy and happy life. Managing the expense of veterinary care can be done in a number of ways; the important advice is to think about it before the need arises.
Isn’t the cost of veterinary medicine ridiculously high? It’s just animal health care, not human health care. I thought my doctor really cared and would go the extra mile for me and help me out with this.
You would never expect your own physician to provide a diagnosis, care and medication free of charge. You cannot ask your veterinarian to do this for your pet. The extent of care given to any animal is ultimately determined by its owner. As a responsible pet owner, you place a high value on your animal and will want to consider what’s best for your pet.
Every pet owner has different ideas about what is acceptable pet care. Veterinarians can only make their clients aware of the services and products that are available and then provide guidance in their choices and decisions. The owner is given options; the owner makes the call and the owner may ask for an estimate of the charges.
Your veterinary bill is a reflection of the cost of maintaining suitable facilities, equipment, and nursing personnel to provide the level of care that is expected in animal medicine today. Ask your veterinarian for an estimate before proceeding with treatment. If you have concerns about fees, AAHA strongly encourages you and the medical director or practice manager of that practice to discuss your concerns.
It’s important to understand that most veterinarians can and will go the extra mile for their clients, but they simply cannot jeopardize the quality of their business by waiving fees. Veterinarians must cover their employees’ salaries, costly equipment, the expense of years of professional training, and the expense of continuing education for staying up-to-date on the latest research. When veterinarians subsidize clients’ bills, they are endangering their practices.