Why Do Pet Veterinarians Cost So Much?

Many pet owners become irate when they get their veterinarian’s medical bill for their pet. There are many reasons why veterinarians are not cheap.

 

Education

A veterinarians education is not free. Just as a human doctor must pay for their education, so too a pet doctor, and in some areas they have nearly as many years of school. While (with a medical plan) you may not be aware of what your human doctor charges, you are certainly aware of what your veterinarian charges. You can be sure the human doctor charges far more than a veterinarian.

Office, Equipment, and Staff

Further more the veterinarian has to pay for their office (building, land, taxes), their equipment (x-ray machines, cages, diagnostic tools, tables, anesthesia machines, monitors, and so forth), and their staff (animal health tech – anesthesiologist, kennel staff, receptionist).

Most people who complain about the high costs of veterinary care have not looked around a veterinarians office to see what all they have, nor are they aware of the excessively high costs of medical equipment.

File:Picture 468.jpg

By self [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons

Medications, and Supplies

There are other ongoing costs such as medicines, and supplies such as needles, and syringes, even office supplies, paper, and so forth. Many veterinarians are now breaking this costs down and indicating them on their bill to help clients understand how expenses can add up. You wouldn’t want your vet using a needle he/she just used on another pet would you?

Other Factors

Keep in mind as well, that your veterinarian requires dependable transportation. They may be called to attend an emergency calving at 2:00 am on a snowy winter day, and must get there quick! In most cases veterinarians also rely on their cell phone for emergencies, and often times put in long hours as a result of these emergencies. Typically vets charge more for after hours calls.

Keep in Mind

Keep in mind that a pet is a luxury item, no different than a car. You might complain about the price of gas, but pay for it every week. How much do you pay for coffee in a week or month? These things all probably add up to a lot less than you pay for veterinarian care in a year.

There are pet insurance options available but some will not pay for all expenses.

Many people fail to recognize preventative measures that will greatly reduce the need for costly veterinarian visits, such measures (mostly for cats and dogs) are:

  • Spaying or Neutering
  • Feeding Properly (good quality food – correct amount)
  • Keeping the Pet Indoors, or in the Yard
  • Regular Vaccinations, and proper Worming

  • Getting Vet attention when needed, rather than “waiting” at which point the situation could be worse.

Remember

A veterinarian is not a charity. He, or she, has every right to be paid for their time, services, and knowledge. If you cannot afford a hefty veterinarian bill (as from an emergency) this is forgivable, but to not be able to afford the basics – is neglect, and such a person should never take on the financial responsibility of pet ownership. In short do not blame the veterinarian if you cannot pay the bill.

Related Reading

Why Most Veterinarians do not allow Pet Owners to “make payments” on Vet Care

Spend a Little to Save a Lot on Veterinary Care

Help me, my Pet Smells Bad

Preventing Cancer in Pets

10 Dangerous Pet Products

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User Comments
  1. N. Sun

    On October 20, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Great article! Thanks for the info.

  2. webseowriters

    On October 20, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Thanks for sharing

  3. albert1jemi

    On October 20, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    great share

  4. Jimmy Shilaho

    On October 20, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    A good one.

  5. Emmie

    On October 20, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Interesting share. When you look at the invoice, usually you cannot believe how much it all comes too, but when you add all of it up and take into account what you have talked about, it makes perfect sense.

  6. giritharanj

    On October 20, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    nice share – gj

  7. CA Johnson

    On October 20, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    This was a very interesting and informative article. I remember when my family had a dog and he was sick, the veterinarian charged a lot of money. I guess they since they have to buy everything they have to charge their customers money to be able to pay for their supplies.

  8. Ruby Hawk

    On October 20, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    True, dogs are a luxury, if they weren’t so expensive to keep many more people would adopt them. My sisters little dog had to have a small tumor taken off it’s mouth and it cost more than a thousand dollars.

  9. The Soul Explorer

    On October 20, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    Good info. Thanks!

  10. Adrn0919

    On October 20, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Thank you for an informative article.

  11. PSingh1990

    On October 20, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    Nice Share.

    :-)

  12. J Anderson

    On October 20, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    Good Post.

  13. GodsGrace

    On October 21, 2010 at 12:07 am

    Good Work

  14. clay hurtubise

    On October 22, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Well done!
    Thanks,
    Clay

  15. pschenck

    On October 28, 2010 at 10:27 am

    This is a very informative article. Sometimes you have to break things down like you did to open peoples eyes and make people say . . . “oh, yeah, I never thought about it that way . . . “

  16. amazed at cost

    On October 30, 2010 at 10:09 am

    my dog had a tumor taken off afwe weeks ago. my vet wanted to see him again after days and said there would be no charge. 3 days after that i got a bill for $14.00 to rerap his paw. why couldn\’t she have at least told me that so i could have brought my own. not cool.

  17. Brenda Nelson

    On October 30, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    to amazed at cost
    I suggest asking the vet why did they say there would be no charge for a check up, and they did charge?

  18. Fool Proof

    On November 5, 2010 at 2:46 am

    Cool.

  19. Mel

    On November 27, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Good article, it has explained some things to me. But I have to say, it is so sad that you refer to animals as items, “no different than a car”. I mean come on. They deserve a bit more respect than that, even if you were giving an example!

  20. Brenda Nelson

    On November 27, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    to Mel I assure you I personally very much value and respect my own pets. I even keep pet sheep, animals that most people eat. One lamb cost me a fortune to raise, and bottle feed from the minute she was born.

  21. Melissa

    On July 16, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    I totally agree with Mel’s comment. I do not like your comparison to animals as luxury ITEMS, even it it’s an example. I think you could have found a better example than that!

  22. toni

    On October 26, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    most people in UK do not appreciate vet job as should be
    Sad But True

  23. lg

    On November 25, 2011 at 4:29 am

    No wonder so many pets end up in the pounds and euthanized.. Sad world we live in. Not saying vets shouldn’t make a good living.. Not at all. However, plenty of people pay a fortune for school and do not make huge amounts of money. It is a very lucrative living. They do not work with you in any way under any circumstances even when you’ve been going to them for years. It is really sad what this world has come to. Now we are in a recession and we have even more euthanasia.. Economic euthanasia. Some people are can’t even afford euthanasia anymore it’s gotten so expensive so their pets are suffering even more, but whatever. It makes you wonder just what is more important in this world and it seems to be money. It is the same with medical doctors. I guess if you get sick in the U.S. and can’t afford to pay then you have should just go throw yourself off a cliff because a doctor will not see you.

  24. Denise

    On February 13, 2012 at 12:49 am

    ‘Amazedatcost’ paid $14 to have a paw re-wrapped. I had to pay $18 recently for 6 pain relief tablets for my small dog with jaundiced liver. I didn’t need to use the tablets in the end as my dog made great improvement on herbal medicine… advice from an online free vet. Where are the vets of yesteryear that could make pretty accurate diagnoses without the $300 blood test etc. and recommend good working old fashioned remedies resorting to the exotic ones only if absolutely necessary. My little dog was virtually written off because of ‘acute liver failure’ yet he improved within a week on Denosyl and milk thistle supplements and is doing fine on these supplements. More people would take their pets to vets if the treatment was more affordable and practical.

  25. A normal person

    On February 27, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    This article was simply ridiculous and biased. I can’t believe that people would even eat it up or support it. A life is NOT a luxury. This is basically making up excuses why they should just have high prices and there isn’t a single sentence in this article that even prevents vets from raising their prices. It’s like saying that a poor family shouldn’t have children because of medical costs. One of the worst articles I’ve read in a long time.

  26. Another Normal Person

    On May 5, 2012 at 10:26 am

    I can’t believe this article either. Brenda sounds like a shill for the veterinary lobby. Since when have pets been a luxury item? They are living creatures, and I was shocked that there weren’t more comments calling her out on this.

  27. Larry Castro

    On May 14, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    The fact about pet medical costs is not the cost of the equipment and the materials that is needed to support a pet medical practice, but the out- raggedness of those costs for the services performed. Certainly the reason for all extreme cost for human, or pet services is called greed (how much is enough of what you already have?). Also, if some poor people do not have a pet, certainly some pets might possibly be dead or abused by some breeder, or by some non-deserving pet owner, or maybe someone with a lot of money.

  28. Mike

    On August 6, 2012 at 1:08 am

    This article is ridiculous, a pet is not an item, they are living beings and they deserve to be given medical treatment if they require it. There is no excuse for the prices of vets, it’s simply capitalism at work.

  29. Jude

    On October 29, 2012 at 4:49 am

    This entire article is nothing but a mega-list of excuses for high vet bills and it doesn’t even come close to the complete TRUTH. This author’s assertion that “Keep in mind that a pet is a luxury item, no different than a car” is truly disgusting. This premise is akin to telling us that having children is also a Luxury and maybe these days, this is now true. But it hasn’t always been like this.
    For years I’ve been a Physician Assistant in rural health clinics… the “town doc” so I am completely aware of my educational debt; the cost of equipment, staff, and general office overhead. My priority has always been to the care of my patients, but I also took the TIME to stay aware of the costs they faced. I even strolled the ailses at Walmart and other stores, comparing prices, so I could tell them what to buy and about how much it would cost. I hoarded drug samples for my patients who “fell between the cracks”– meaning: no insurance and no Medicare. In other words: I cared for the WHOLE PERSON and made it my business to know if they were also suffering financial difficulties. IMHO, ANY practitioner: DVM, MD, DO, who doesn’t doesn’t take the time to know these details is a miserable failure!
    Age has its advantages and at 58 yrs old, I’ve watched this capitalistic-driven evolution over many years. I grew up with all sorts of pets during the time when people of any income bracket could afford a pet. This is no longer the case. Today, only the wealthy can have pets and the HONEST reasons go well beyond the basic excuses of educational expenses and overhead. Bottom line: the vets of today don’t even stop to consider the strain on the pet owner’s finances. Many now order unnecessary pre-op labs… that were never considered necessary in the past. An ongoing needless expense is the same one that is draining our nation’s healthcare resources: Big Pharma reigns just as high for pets as it does for humans. Many of the companies who make drugs for humans also make them for veterinary medicine and with the same higher than reasonable price tags. Yes, they need and deserve patents to cover years of research to develop new treatments, but our government allows them patent time that’s beyond reasonable- in exchange for campaign contributions. What’s even worse is the [still effective] cheaper drugs get phased out of existence in favor of the ones that generate revenue.
    And the public would be appalled if they could see the mega-bucks Pharma spends on these medical conventions, wining, dining, and the fun, but very expensive gifts they dole out, just in hopes their drug(s) will be prescribed. Just look around your vet’s office for things like a pc and/or keyboard with drug advertising on it. An ethical vet (and doctor) won’t take these things. The greedy ones do!
    Examples:
    - In 1989 the flea pills used for my dog and 2 cats ran $4-5/mo, but they are no longer available. And what are we paying now to prevent fleas?!
    - Called a local office for a price for spaying. She rattled off her list: (unnecessary) pre-op labs and an obscene price for “the doctor uses lazer” (making a big deal about this). So what?! The word itself- “lazer” might impress those who don’t know any better, but I know for the purposes of surgery, it is NO different than using cautery or even a scalpel!
    - City vets (at least in my town) have a mutual agreement regarding fees to eliminate any cost related competition. They were furious with my vet, 12 miles away, for not joining them in their scheme. I’ve lived in several locations and learned to stay away from city vets. The best vet you’ll ever find, who is also going to be mindful of your costs, are the country vets and yes, it’s well worth the drive.
    Just 5 days ago I had to have my 11 yr old Yorkie put to sleep and it was mostly because the vets could not prescribe something I could afford to calm him down so he’d stop biting me. The only RX offered was an antidepressant (also used in humans) that would have cost well over $100/mo.
    Why won’t they realize we cannot pay for medication and/or treatments for our pets’ care that we couldn’t afford for ourselves?!

  30. Jude

    On October 29, 2012 at 4:58 am

    This entire article is nothing but a mega-list of excuses for high vet bills and it doesn’t even come close to the complete TRUTH. This author’s assertion that “a pet is a luxury item, no different than a car” is truly disgusting. This premise is akin to telling us that having children is also a Luxury and maybe these days, this is now true. But it has no’t always been like this.
    For years I haveve been a Physician Assistant in rural health clinics… the “town doc” so I am completely aware of my educational debt; the cost of equipment, staff, and general office overhead. My priority has always been to the care of my patients, but I also took the TIME to stay aware of the costs they faced. I even strolled the ailses at Walmart and other stores, comparing prices, so I could tell them what to buy and about how much it would cost. I hoarded drug samples for my patients who “fell between the cracks”– meaning: no insurance and no Medicare. In other words: I cared for the WHOLE PERSON and made it my business to know if they were also suffering financial difficulties. IMHO, ANY practitioner: DVM, MD, DO, who does not take the time to know these details is a miserable failure!
    Age has its advantages and at 58 yrs old, I have watched this capitalistic-driven evolution over many years. I grew up with all sorts of pets during the time when people of any income bracket could afford a pet. This is no longer the case. Today, only the wealthy can have pets and the HONEST reasons go well beyond the basic excuses of educational expenses and overhead. Bottom line: the vets of today don\’t even stop to consider the strain on the pet owner\’s finances. Many now order unnecessary pre-op labs… that were never considered necessary in the past. An ongoing needless expense is the same one that is draining our nation\’s healthcare resources: Big Pharma reigns just as high for pets as it does for humans. Many of the companies who make drugs for humans also make them for veterinary medicine and with the same higher than reasonable price tags. Yes, they need and deserve patents to cover years of research to develop new treatments, but our government allows them patent time that\’s beyond reasonable- in exchange for campaign contributions. What\’s even worse is the [still effective] cheaper drugs get phased out of existence in favor of the ones that generate revenue.
    And the public would be appalled if they could see the mega-bucks Pharma spends on these medical conventions, wining, dining, and the fun, but very expensive gifts they dole out, just in hopes their drug(s) will be prescribed. Just look around your vet\’s office for things like a pc and/or keyboard with drug advertising on it. An ethical vet (and doctor) will not take these things. The greedy ones do and it is pathetic to watch.
    Cost examples:
    - In 1989 the flea pills used for my dog and 2 cats ran $4-5/mo, but they are no longer available. And what are we paying now to prevent fleas?!
    - Called a local office for a price for spaying. She rattled off her list: (unnecessary) pre-op labs and an obscene price for “the doctor uses lazer” (making a big deal about this). So what?! The word itself- “lazer” might impress those who do not know any better, but I know for the purposes of surgery, it is NO different than using cautery or even a scalpel!
    - City vets (at least in my town) have a mutual agreement regarding fees to eliminate any cost related competition. They were furious with my vet, 12 miles away, for not joining them in their scheme. I\’ve lived in several locations and learned to stay away from city vets. The best vet you\’ll ever find, who is also going to be mindful of your costs, are the country vets and yes, it\’s well worth the drive.
    Just 5 days ago I had to have my 11 yr old Yorkie put to sleep and it was mostly because the vets could not prescribe something I could afford to calm him down so he would stop biting me. The only RX offered was an antidepressant (also used in humans) that would have cost at least $200/mo.
    Why do they refuse realize we cannot pay for medication and/or treatments for our pets’ care that we could not afford for ourselves?!

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