The worst has happened – your dog ate something while out on your usual morning walk and now he is vomiting and lethargic. You know he ate something toxic but you have no idea what it could be – it was swallowed down before you could get it out of his mouth. You rush him to the vet without even thinking about the cost – he is your best friend and you do not want to risk losing him over a few dollars!
The Animal Health Technicians rush him into the back to assess his vital signs and the vet begins his examination. You wait. And you pace. And you begin to wonder what the cost of this visit will be considering it is now after business hours on a Sunday. Soon the doctor comes to speak to you and confirms your worst suspicions – your pooch ate something toxic and needs medical intervention to survive. He also brings with him a cost estimate of the required treatments and asks you to sign that you understand the associated expenses plus would you please pay fifty percent up front. You mind reels at the price but your heart speaks louder and you hear yourself say “whatever it takes, doctor” while your hand signs away your vacation to Hawaii.
Veterinary medicine is not cheap. The average pet owner pays the price but grumbles under their breath as they leave the hospital. They feel that vets are gouging their clients because ‘how can it possibly cost so much money to get ‘Fluffy’ back on her paws’? Understanding the costs behind veterinary medicine and how best to prepare yourself for any eventualities will make your next trip to the vet less stressful, or at least allow you to focus on the important part of the visit – your pet.
Vets spend the same amount of time – eight years – in med school as human doctors and yet make barely a third of the income throughout their career. Should a vet make less then a human doctor? They are only animals after all so it must be easier medicine, right? Wrong. Veterinarians have to wear many hats –pediatrician, general practitioner, radiologist, anesthesiologist, oncologist, nutritionist, cardiologist, and urologists to only name a few. They also have multiple species come into their practice and their patients can not tell them where it hurts. Instead, they are dependent on their diagnostic abilities and the tools around them. Because of this, it is harder to be accepted into a vet school then it is human medical school and in every graduating class of soon-to-be human doctors, there will be at least one who originally went into pre-med to become a vet but was not capable of earning the necessary grades to be accepted.
What is also hard to understand for the average pet owner is the cost associated with running a full-service veterinary hospital. It is a common misconception that because it is not human medicine, drugs, supplies, equipment and instruments will cost less. Unfortunately, that is incorrect as well. The bottle of anesthetic that is used in a human hospital costs the exact same amount as the bottle of anesthetic used in a veterinary hospital. Same goes for almost everything else.
There are a few differences of course as there is more room in veterinary medicine to not be quite as ‘state-of-the-art’ on big ticket items like radiology and ultrasound machines. However, then the doctor must work harder to read an x-ray or u/s and time is spent versus dollars – catch 22 no matter how you look at it.
The other difference is staffing costs. Human nurses earn over three times that of a veterinary nurse – same as the vet to MD ratio. However, the burn out rate as an Animal Health Technician is much higher – the average career as an AHT is five years. The work is like that of working in a pediatric emergency room since all you see are patients that do not understand what is wrong with them, why they are at the hospital or who and what are these people are going to do to them. Two years of post-secondary education to work in the field for an average of five years demonstrates that something is not balanced between the two nursing fields.
The Bright Side of Veterinary Expenses
Within the last ten years, veterinary health insurance has become more common and many pet owners are opting to budget their veterinary expenses on a monthly basis. Pet insurance comes in a variety of prices and packages to address the needs of every animal and every eventuality. Most companies offer an emergency package for as little as $10 a month that covers the majority of situations your pet may find themselves in. The Cadillac of packages includes unlimited treatment and diagnostics for every condition as well as routine items like vaccines and dental work.
Do your pet a favor and take away the need to look in your wallet every time you face a visit to the vet. Pet insurance is there to take the financial stress out of owning a pet. Now, if only there was some way of removing the emotional stress out of an unexpected visit to the vet!