From Concord Monitor
The following information was written by George Messenger, DVM, and has some good information and advice.
"Let's talk about money. One of my longtime clients came in the other day and mentioned this pet column. I asked her if she liked it. She just gave me the silent treatment, which is not the way she normally is - she is typically New England in not being afraid to strongly voice her opinions. So, I figured it meant she didn't really like my article but was trying not to hurt my feelings, so I asked her if she had anything she would like me to write about. She said, "How about why it costs so damn much to go to the vet."
So, that's the question. Why does it cost so much? Well, I guess I have to first ask a question in response. What doesn't cost a lot these days? Everything generally costs more than it used to, and it is painfully obvious everywhere. So, I (and my fellow vets) feel your pain and understand why this question is asked often. In fact, I am so acutely aware of this that I do everything I can to try to discount clients - even when my wife, who is my practice manager, gives me grief. Vets are notorious for this, although probably less so than years ago.
Most veterinarians are not getting rich by trying to rip off their clients. They work hard and average around $65,000 in annual income. I started out at $18,500 per year in 1984, after going to school for about 21 years. I was lucky and frugal and rather energetic, so I escaped veterinary school without
any debt, but many new graduates owe in excess of $200,000 when they enter the work force.
Veterinary services and products can be very costly, especially when associated with emergency care or a serious illness or injury. The inflation rate for health care (including veterinary) is higher than the overall inflation rate.
I don't have a lot of boring statistics for you, but let's look at a few. Veterinary fees doubled between 1991 and 2001. In 2001, people spent an average of $99 for a dog visit and $93 for their cat. In 2008, these figures are much higher. The average transaction fee in my practice is around $120. The average varies depending on which part of the country you are in, and which practice you go to. The more "high-powered" practices are going to have higher average transaction fees because they offer more and better services.
It's important to look at why the medical inflation rate is so high because that is why vet bills are becoming so hard to digest. There are two reasons. Overhead is up every year, especially payroll and medical supplies. It is difficult to control these costs if one is to provide good service. Drug companies and medical suppliers are able to set their own prices and they keep going up every year - a lot.
The other reason (and a very big one) is technological advances. I am amazed at what we are doing for our patients now compared to just a few years ago. In order to provide the best medical and surgical services, we need to buy expensive equipment, diagnostic tests and supplies. Just to name a few, and hopefully impress the readers, we are doing our own in-house blood chemistries and CBC's (cost for equipment, $15,000 to $20,000), digital radiographs ($100,000 for an excellent system) and using intricate anesthesia monitoring equipment ($5,000 to $10,000). I bought some microsurgical instruments for use in bird surgery - they cost me $2,300. An ultrasound machine cost me $14,000 last year. These pieces of equipment are great to have and they allow me to do so much more, but I have to have a return on my investment; also I must have cash flow to allow me to pay for it in the first place.
It can be dangerous to shop around for the cheapest vet fees, because sometimes the only way to provide something for cheap is by cutting corners - that is, not keeping up with technological and medical advances.
Briefly, what can you do to help manage the cost of caring for your pet?