Rescue Journal

medical care

Carol  ·  May 11, 2009

we get a few animals in every year whose families just cannot afford the costs of their animals acute or chronic health care. sometimes it is a simple choice, like they have the money but they want to spend it on other things and sometimes they truly do not have that kind of money.

vet care is exams are well over $50 a pop, add basic diagnostics like xrays and bloodwork and you are looking at 3 or 4 hundred, add a straight forward surgery and ongoing medications and you could be looking at more than $1000....if you have to hit the specialty clinics for something really tricky and it grows expotentially and really quickly. coming out of canwest or emergency and a bill could be 5 grand or even much more. high tech medical care can be really expensive.
pet insurence can be a really good thing.

but what really pisses me off is out and out price gouging. and there are two ways to gouge the innocent public.

one is thru vets who rely too heavily on all of the diagnostics to find all of the correct answers for them. you might as well skip the whole history taking and physical exams and vet visit all together...just get them to order the bloodwork, xrays, ultrasounds, mri's, ct scans and send them the reports so they can tell you what is possibly going on in every part of the body. these are the newer vets, taught to diagnose only thru technology. they don't get the whole hands on, listen carefully thing, pull in your gut, extensive knowledge of disease and physiology and past experience, narrow down the possibilities and try for some common sense, tried and true and well thought out treatment possibilities that are consistent with what they see.

there are the vets that can feel a hard irregular mass in the abdomen where it doesn't belong, put it together with obvious pain, hear a history of ongoing weight loss and progressive weakness in a 15 year old dog. they will tell you up front, this doesn't look good...and maybe suggest some simple bloodwork and inhouse xray just to confirm what they already is probably cancer. and then tell you what you can expect to see coming next for your friend....and how you can keep them comfortable, for a little while.

so now you know your friend is dying and at a reasonable cost of a couple of hundred dollars....not a few thousand dollars later.

so while the the ones who just have to use every single test and diagnostic available in order to figure things out, annoy me to no end...i get it...they don't know how to diagnose otherwise. different levels of expertise, knowledge and confidence.

but the ones who actively LOOK for every single possible angle to grab an extra buck or two or several hundred...piss me right off. these are the ones who don't care what is wrong with your pet, just how much money can they make because YOU happen to care. these are the ones who after xrays and bloodwork and four office visits tell you your senior 14 yr, 120 pound old dog has arthritis and offer you liquid a cost of more than one hundred and fifty dollars a month with a 25-50% mark up fee vs. melixacam tablets from the pharmacy by script, at less that $40 per month (with no mark up on the drug for them either) and if you happen to ask for the script for the tablets instead...gee, they don't carry them or use that drug (its the same thing) either. really? and why is that doc? you don't see large dogs in your practice?...maybe because you don't make as much money on the cheaper more cost effective drug???

vets are entitled to make a decent living, they do not have to suffer poverty because they happen to like to make sick animals feel well. they have a right to charge for their services and the highly specialized body of knowledge and education they have acquired at great cost over many years. they have a right to cover the costs of their clinics and staffing and insurences and the very expensive medical tools that they need and to use some of that money for ongoing education like conferences and learning opportunities. gee they can even drive nice cars to get to and from their work and the occasional emergency euthanization house call. and vets are obligated by their professional standards to provide safe, intelligent, competent care...that costs money.

i don't use cheap vets or cheap vet clinics...i am not interested in cheap vet care.

i use vets who charge me what they are worth, and they are worth alot...and am very grateful for whatever cost breaks they give to us because A) they value what we do and WANT to help us... B) they CARE about homeless senior animals...C) they recognize that alot of money comes in thru us just by virtue of volume and acuity of illness and due to chronic long term illness AND referrals by us directly to them too. and D) i want top quality care for our animals and so do all fits.

and we negotiate stuff all the time...not by dollars but by need. do we want to do xrays or bloodwork on a stressed , very elderly sick cat with a giant not nice feeling mass in it's gut? do i want to check kidney function thru bloodwork before prescribing an NSAID on a 14 year old dog who can't walk because his hips are so sore? do i want to put thru surgery an 18 yr old cat with horribly rotten teeth with a grade 5 heart murmur?

not really.

so we negotiate the treatment options...not by cost but by need. they use their knowledge and expertise AND common sense to guide me thru the process of responsible decision making.

good vets are not a dime a dozen...they like everyone else...they do not grow on trees just because they have a medical everyone else on the earth, they can be good and kind and smart and caring or stupid or lazy or outright greedy.

our job is to find the ones who match what we seek and then give them the respect and the consideration that they give to our animals and to me.

we try not to take advantage, we try not to be a burden, we try to pay our bills as soon as we can and we don't bug them about each item on the bills. we ask for appointments and we try to keep our time with them if it is a 15 minute appointment, we don't take up 45 minutes of their time.

we have helped to build a couple of clinics, when they first started to very busy clinics now...sometimes so busy that i can't get appointments for our guys for more than a week in advance. that's why we use several different clinics, in the hope that someone can see us quickly if we need to see someone usually works out.

so while the vet has an obligation to offer competent and responsible care and options...we have an obligation seek good and responsible medical care.

it is a trust and an obligation on both parts and it is not always easy on either part too.

so do your your research...know what you are looking for in a good vet and what the vet is looking for in a good client too. the cheapest, the closest, the most convenient clinic to get not always the best.

take the time to find the RIGHT one, take the time to build up the trust and the relationship and take the time to maintain it on both sides, don't take anything for granted.

good medical care and good relationships with vets and clients are alot of hard work. start with reasonable and responsible expectations and respect on both sides and build them from there.

maybe a few less animals will lose their homes due to too high medical care costs IF both parties do their jobs the best that they can and the animal can then stay home.



Ouch, that sounds expensive! Well said Carol! I think it is easier with a nursing background cause you kind of know what is going on or could be going on and what needs to be done from there. Also, experience with palliative clients helps as you know when to stop testing and just syptom treat. I have heard of some not great vets! Vets that don't really know what they are doing can cost big $$$$$ and make people suspicious of other vets.


What a great article! A yearly vet appointment at our local clinic in Vancouver is $1,200 for a dog's check up (claiming the testing is mandatory). Then when they suspect something the price quickly doubles.

Any ways, I love your website and hope to visit you soon!