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Why Vet Care is So Expensive

Why Vet Care is So Expensive

You always take the best possible care of your pet. You keep it up to date with its vaccinations and yearly check-ups. You bring it to the best veterinary clinic, the clinic that cares the most for you and your pet. Along the way, you may have had some emergencies or unexpected events to deal with. There is no question that you want the best care for your pet, but sometimes you wonder why it costs so much.

You are not alone. Many compassionate pet owners out there are struggling with the same problem. It just feels like the economy is down, salaries are down, yet the prices for veterinary care seem to keep going up, or at least are not going down. We never want to put a price on our pets’ lives, but sometimes it feels like we are forced to.

This article will explain the mysteries around the costs of veterinary care. It will talk about what goes into making a decision about prices. But let’s start first with a comparison to human medicine.

In Canada, we have the privilege of having government-paid health care. Yes, some people will argue against this system, but that’s not the point we’re concerned with right now. The point of bringing this up is that the vast majority of Canadians have no clue how much medical care actually costs. We never see a bill for the x-rays, antibiotics, testing, or even the office visit. You may be surprised at how much this all actually costs.

An office visit to the veterinarian may cost you $60-90. X-rays can generally cost $150 and up. In fact, these costs are generally far lower than the cost of your average human medical care. It’s just that you never see the bill for your medical care, so it may be hard to understand that veterinarians are not (for the most part; there will always be dishonest people in any field) ripping you off.

So now you ask; what exactly goes into creating a price for veterinary care? How do they calculate these prices? There are two components involved in the “price” of veterinary care. These same two components are essential to every other service, from tire changes to restaurant food. The first component is called “fixed costs”. This obviously involves the cost of the supplies, such as drugs, catheters, bandage material, needles, or any other item used during the treatment of your pet. It also involves ongoing costs of the clinic such as the building mortgage, salary of non-veterinarians, electricity, internet, and office supplies. The cost of all of these “fixed costs” is calculated into the price of a service.

The second component is labour. For any type of veterinary care, you are charged for the fixed costs, but are also charged for the labour on a dollars per hour basis. This is the money that indirectly goes toward the salary of the veterinarian.

Who does all these calculations? In Ontario, the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) provides an objective fee guide. This is based on the average costs and salaries. The prices (fees) in the OVMA fee guide are designed around the idea of affordable veterinary care for the client and a successful business for the veterinary clinic. It generates the fee guide by calculating all of the fixed costs and an acceptable labour cost. Of course, you must take the location of the veterinary clinic into consideration. A clinic in downtown Toronto will have higher fixed costs than more rural clinics, and will generally charge fees accordingly higher than the OVMA fee guide.

Don’t be shy if you are concerned about the prices at your veterinary clinic. Feel free to ask them how they come up with their prices. Ask them if they follow the OVMA fee guide. The vast majority of veterinary clinics would rather keep you informed about how they come up with their prices than have you upset over high prices.

And of course, don’t forget inflation. As costs of daily living go up, so must veterinary fees. Also, as veterinary medicine advances, we can do more to help our pets live longer, healthy lives. More options may mean more cost, but it also means a healthier life for our pets. If you have questions about any of the costs of veterinary medical treatment, your veterinarian should be more than happy to answer them.

5 Responses to this Article, So Far

  1. Avatar MikeH says:

    It’s not just about how much they charge for a particular service, but more about the emotional blackmail in pushing as many expensive tests as possible. My animal was recently ill and the experience has reinforced my view that there are good and honest vets, and others that are in it for as much money as they can soak from their victims…..oops I mean clients.

  2. Avatar Amber says:

    I don’t mind paying to take care of my Cats. But when they start adding requirements, such as having an expensive exam before they’ll dole out flea medicine. ..So medicine that would normally cost $50 turns into a couple hundred dollar trip is straight up EXTORTION! I’m sick of feeling backed up against a wall, pushed around, guilt tripped and taken advantage of by the people who are supposed to care about your sick pets! I love my animals very much!.. However I work 2 jobs to pay my mortgage and I don’t have hundreds/thousands of dollars to drop on tests & check ups I don’t need just so when something does happen they’ll actually help you! Vet’s these days take full advantage of people’s love & compassion for their furry companions and that makes me sick!

  3. Avatar mhikl says:

    “An office visit to the veterinarian may cost you $60-90.” How about $165 for a fifteen minute appointment. I didn’t mind the drug cost for Medi-something, a pain killer for something torn in her shoulder after a slip on ice, $75 but I did resent that I wasn’t told that for $25 more, I could get another bottle. Now my elderly Corgi Pem has a hurt paw and for three days couldn’t move or walk or take a poo or urinate. Now, six days later she is limping. I am using the Robaxin, an anti-inflamitory prescribed for her shoulder prob. All I would get for another $165 is a feel around and some chemical prescription as before. My dog is on BARF, two years and counting and her health is good. She will never see a vet again and will die with me by her side.

    In a large city or community, a vet is not a real community member so s/he can live off the suffering of others. My vet in a small city, the only vet, is a true community member and his prices were so reasonable I had to ask him if he wasn’t charging too little.

    Disgust and contempt, those are the words I have for the medical and veterinarian systems. Natural health using BARF and good advice from this forum will do more to keep your pet healthy than visits to the vet. Hit by a truck is about the only time a dog or cat needs to see the money-hungry animal practitioner.

    Here’s a question. Why does each animal business need its own x-ray machine and other expensive equipment. In medical services, local clinics do all that work and so fewer machines are needed. Of course we all know why.

  4. Avatar Michael says:

    I would suggest that until the Veterinary Medical Associations start publishing their “members only” fee guideline to the public so that everyone knows what their prices are based on, we will always be vulnerable to exploitation my vets. I assume that it contains the factors that can be assessed for any given location. As long as this guideline remains “members only”, it is of no use to the public, and we have no way to determine whether the fees we are being charged are reasonable. To be fair, the Veterinary Medical Associations are not there for the public’s best interest. They are there to benefit the veterinarians. I suggest that is the reason that they keep their fee schedule secret. Every member can claim compliance, and not be held accountable for their interpretation of those mysterious guidelines.

    It is a shame that the Dentists and even Car Mechanics are professional enough to publish their fee guidelines and veterinarians are not. I wonder if the reluctants of the veterinarians to publish their fee guidelines is an indication of the level of professionalism of their community as opposed to more open professions who do.

  5. Avatar Jennifer Lamondin says:

    I took my dog to the vet today to have a small lump removed from her upper eye lid. I was told that her surgery was pretty simple and it was fairly quick. When I picked her up to bring her home I had to pay the bill before I could even see her. I was completely shocked to find out the final bill was $588. Ouch! Is this an accurate amount?

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