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Vet Costs: A Former Practicing Veterinarian Reveals His Top 5 Secrets To Dramatically Lower Them

By Dr. Andrew Jones

Veterinary Care is expensive. I should know, for I am a Veterinarian who owned a Veterinary Hospital for nearly 15 years. Veterinary Medicine has changed dramatically in the last 30 years; gone are the days of James Herriot when Veterinarians treated every type of animal, and regularly made house calls. This article will give you an understanding of why veterinary charges have gone up so much, and the top 5 things you can do to lower your vet costs.

As veterinarians can offer more advance diagnostics and treatment, veterinary fees have risen accordingly. Vet visits and surgery cost dog owners almost $800 and cat owners $500 last year, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. If your pet becomes seriously ill, you can easily spend thousands. Knee surgery in dogs can easily cost over $5,000; a pet with cancer can have radiation therapy and chemotherapy costing in excess of $7,000.

Veterinarians are charging more to make their practices profitable, and obviously make more money. Veterinary clinics have escalating costs of staff salaries, higher expenses for the diagnostic equipment, yet also seeing decreases in new clients. For a clinic to financially profit, it means charging more per client, and having the clients come into the practice more often. This combination of higher salaries, expenses, but no real new clients means the only way for most practices to make more money is to charge more per client; hence higher vet costs.

My first suggestion is to price shop. Prices at animal hospitals can vary widely. In my small town of Nelson, I charged the least of all the practices, but many clients didn’t know that. Make sure you get recommendations from other pet owners first. There is a misconception that the higher priced practices give a better quality of care – but this is often not true. Ask about the common procedures, like vaccines, checkups, neutering and spaying. In addition, do not forget to ask for discounts from your vet. If clients ask, they will often get a discount. Some vets offer multiple pet discounts as well as discounts for seniors.

Be wary of the business practice popularized by McDonalds, ‘The Up-sell’. Examples of this include your veterinarian suggesting ‘preventive’ diagnostic tests during a check up, or in many cases advising having a dental cleaning. You should be asking and questioning why? Just how bad are the teeth; is the degree of dental disease really that significant? One of the major veterinary associations is advising that any pet with Grade 1 gingivitis (mild gum inflammation) have a dental scale and polish. This procedure is at least 300 dollars. This has risks for your pet would need to be under general anesthetic. It has high profit margins as the Animal Health Technician or Assistant usually does all the work. However in my opinion, a pet with mild gum disease does not need this done. You can begin preventive care at home. You could begin to brush your pet’s teeth. You could feed a diet designed to break off some of the plaque and tartar.This is only one example, although it is the biggest up-sell in Veterinary Medicine today.

Hospitalization fees are another often avoidable expense. Your Vet will make a lot more money if he (or she) can keep your pet in the veterinary hospital. They can charge a fee for the day of hospitalization, plus a fee for re-examining your pet in the morning. Ask to have the Procedure performed while you are there. Let’s use X-Rays as an example. Get the practice to schedule this while you are there and waiting – it doesn’t take long to perform X-Rays. They will likely comply if you only ask. By being a little bit of a ‘pain in the butt’, you will get better service at a lower price.

Medication is expensive , and it’s marked up a lot at your vet. The markups range from 50% to 125% plus the prescription fee. There are many ways to save money on pet medications. First, ask your vet about a drug’s cost and find out if it is available through pharmacies. Your local drug store may offer it at a much cheaper price. Also, ask your vet about lower-priced generic medications that would be appropriate. In addition to your local pharmacy, check veterinary-medication prices at DrsFosterSmith.com, 1800PetMeds.com, and PetCareRx.com. You have the right to ask your veterinarian for prescriptions that you can fill elsewhere, and save yourself unnecessary expenses.

The biggest key to lowering your veterinary fees is by being an involved and empowered pet owner. Take charge of your pet’s health care. You know your pet better that anyone else. How well do you think a Veterinarian can get to know your pet with a 15 minute visit once a year? Educate yourself on basic at home veterinary care, and use many of the inexpensive natural remedies. Let’s use allergies as an example, for many of you have allergic pets. You can either continue to use expensive prescription medication from your vet, or start with some natural remedies. These include therapeutic doses of essential fatty acids, being 1000mg per 10lbs of body weight daily. Or it can be using a herbal remedy called Licorice to stop the itching. This is only one small example, but do you see how you can take charge of your pet’s health care and have a happier healthier pet?

You should now have an understanding of why veterinary costs are rapidly rising, but more important what you can do about it. You can price shop, avoid the common veterinary up-sells, avoid hospitalization fees, get less expensive prescription medication, and take charge of your pet’s health care by using inexpensive at home remedies. I encourage you to at least use some of these suggestions to start saving money immediately on your vet costs.

Best Wishes

Dr Andrew J

P.S. I suggest that you start with my new Free Book and Video on How to Start Healing Your Dogs and Cats at Home with Natural Remedies here:

http://www.theonlinevet.com

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Topics: Cat Care, Cat Health, Dog Care, Dog Health, Pet Care, Pet health | 8 Comments »

8 Responses to “Vet Costs: A Former Practicing Veterinarian Reveals His Top 5 Secrets To Dramatically Lower Them”


  1. sharon Says:
    December 19th, 2011 at 7:51 am

    Wise words. Humans have been using a preventative approach for their health for years, at least here in Europe. Time now to take control with our pets. Certainly your observations about escalating vet bills are relevant and I found your suggestions for price negotiation helpful. I see vets as my emergency help. They have helped me with diagnosis but I have always worked alternatively with treatments. Many vets are supportive. And for those final times they become the most important people in the world. WE all mustbecome canny shoppers.

  2. Emily Says:
    December 19th, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Hi Dr. Jones. This is the first time I’ve written. I just read your Home Remedy Story email about conjunctivitis. I too tried black tea for my cat a few years ago after reading one of your articles. It worked wonderfully; I have even used it successfully on myself.

    As someone who has spent thousands of dollars on veterinary care over the last few years, I really appreciate your tips for treating certain conditions at home and for dealing with chronic health issues. I also appreciate the information on safe usage of non-conventional treatments. I have not found your newsletters to be denigrating toward other veterinarians, and I’ve never gotten the impression that you discourage regular vet visits. You simply give your audience tools to be more informed and engaged pet owners. I still take my cats to the vet when it is warranted (unfortunately, that is all too often), but it is nice to be able to save money once in a while. Your viewpoints are not extreme and are in line with the holistic vet that I use in Sonoma County, CA. It is sad that you can no longer practice veterinary medicine in your own community.

    Finally, I wanted to thank you for your recent sale on Veterinary Secrets Revealed. I’ve been wanting to buy the e-book for quite some time and finally got myself a copy. My husband and I have spent ridiculous amounts of money on vet care for our cat children (we used to have six of them but are now down to 4), and there have been few months when we weren’t paying off some kind of vet bill on our credit card. Just this month (in the same week, no less), we found out that our FIV+ cat has elevated kidney levels (he’s not doing so well), another cat vomited blood (still assessing that situation), and our diabetic cat had a hypoglycemic event (turns out he’s still diabetic, though); to top it off, our 4th healthy cat disappeared for a day – turns out he was trapped under the neighbor’s house when a plumber finished up a repair job. While I know the information in your book is worth $97, it was hard to justify spending that much on a book when money is tight. But at $27, we could finally afford it. I know it will be an invaluable resource. Thank you!

    Emily
    Healdsburg, CA

  3. Sal Says:
    December 19th, 2011 at 11:28 am

    I just paid 155.00 for a 5 minute exam and the chemical to euthanize my 17 year old sheltie. I paid this vet thousands over the years and was ripped off in a time of utmost grief. I hope the bitch enjoys the money!

  4. Cara Says:
    December 19th, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    When I ask the vet about alternatives (for buying heartworm meds) like 1800 pet meds I am always told that the quality may not be as good or the meds I get may be second rate, expired, etc. What is the truth?

    Further, when I ask about alternatives to the heartworm meds or flea/tick prevention (ticks are quite common here due to the excessive deer population but I don’t like the idea of putting chemicals on my dogs) they blow me off like I’m a crazy client who worries too much about her dogs’ health.

  5. Becki Mildenstein Says:
    December 20th, 2011 at 6:55 am

    Ditto to all of the above. My old vet charged a $10 fee for filling out an Rx to PetMeds. They also gave me the song and dance about them MAYBE not have a good quality product. But the final straw for me, was when I stopped by there to pick up comfortis and interceptor for my three small dogs and was told I couldn’t get the meds because it’s “time for their annual check up, and since these are prescriptions, the docs won’t continue them until they see the dogs”. REALLY?? Again….customer for YEARS!!! Not only brought my own dogs there I also brought foster dogs there. Spent thousands over the years. I did find a “country” vet that has lower prices and will willingly give a prescription order for petmeds. But it’s robbery!!! Makes me very angry. So happy to have YOUR home remedies!!!! Thanks a lot!

  6. Fish Oil for Dogs Says:
    December 20th, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    I also appreciate the information on safe usage of non-conventional treatments. I have not found your newsletters to be denigrating toward other veterinarians, and I’ve never gotten the impression that you discourage regular vet visits.

  7. SA Vet Says:
    April 29th, 2012 at 9:56 am

    More often than not, vets have fees structures that are recommended by a vet board. I think clints do not understand that vets are highly skilled people. I do not think it is proper for people to insult vets because I trust vets only charge for their services. No one is dragged into a vet clinic or hospital. Instead if one feels that their bill is too high, it is perfectly acceptable to request the vet to go through the bill together. Lets not quickly judge vets because we do not understand the intricasies of running a veterinary business

  8. Janice Chadola Says:
    June 10th, 2014 at 11:06 pm

    I highly respect my vet in Abbotsford. He does not have expensive technicians to do a lot of the work for him. He does it himself. And even though it still is expensive, he lets me pay over time and takes extremely good care of my cats. I am sure that a lot of things other vets charge for, like prescriptions, he does not. He will call me back if he needs to, he will email me and will always discuss everything with me that I need to know. I know that people come from quite a ways away to see this particular vet because he is so good and very thoughtful and is especially compassionate when it is the end of your pet’s life. He works extremely hard and I appreciate the care he gives my cats more than I could ever say.

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Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM
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