Is the Cost of Veterinary Care Expensive?

cost of veterinary care



Some pet owners would give a definitive answer of yes for this question. But the true answer lies behind several factors. If you are a pet owner, you likely will experience the cost of veterinary care sometime during their lifetime.  There are different factors that will affect how your experience will be. Some of these factors may include the area you live in, what your pet is being treated for, your attitude toward your pets, and your economic status. So what affects the cost of veterinary care?  What determines if the cost of veterinary care is expensive? How does the location of the clinic have an impact? How does attitude affect one’s perception toward cost of veterinary care? How does your economic status and what you are having your pet treated for impact one’s view of the cost of veterinary care?

What affects the cost of veterinary care?

The biggest factor determining what a clinic ultimately charges is “overhead”.  What is overhead? Overhead involves building costs, available medical equipment, wages of staff, how much staff is available, and the type of inventory  in the hospital.  So any clinic with a large staff, expensive medical equipment, or is in a fancy building is likely to have a large overhead. A large overhead often translates into increased veterinary care costs. Another factor affecting cost of veterinary care is location. If a clinic is in an area of affluence, then their costs will likely reflect this.

How does a pet owner’s attitude affect perception of the cost of veterinary care?

Perception can play a major role in how one views how expensive veterinary care is. Pet owners who view their pets as property will be more sensitive regarding veterinary costs. Where those who view their pets as family will likely be more accepting of the cost of veterinary care.

Economic status and the cost of veterinary care.

While in some cases a pet owner’s economic status can have a role in perception, based on my experience it is not the most common factor. Though pet owners of a lower economic status are sensitive about the cost of veterinary care, I have seen pet owners who seem well off also share the same sensitivity.

Whether your pet is having a sick visit or well visit for veterinary care

If a pet owner is going to the veterinarian for routine wellness, then cost of veterinary care will be less of a shock for them. If a pet only sees a veterinarian when they are sick that will definitely affect how one views the cost of veterinary care. The cost to take care of an ill pet versus a well pet can be quite different no matter where you go. So if a sick visit is the first exposure to veterinary care, naturally the impression will be that the cost of veterinary care is high.

Miscellaneous factors affecting cost of veterinary care.

Type of facility

The type of veterinary clinic definitely can play a role in how much you will pay for veterinary services. If you take your pet to an emergency clinic, you can expect to pay a higher cost for emergency services when compared to your regular veterinarian. These type of facilities have a higher overhead because they are dealing with more extreme cases of illness.

Specialty practice.

Specialty practices employ board certified veterinarians. These are veterinarians with extra clinical training in a specific field. So these clinics often employ highly trained technicians and have sophisticated equipment as part of their set up. Because of this, the cost of veterinary care will be higher.

Low cost clinics

There are clinics that are low cost clinics for different reasons. Either they rely on donations from the public or are funded by a county or state organization. Because of this their overhead is not as high and these savings are passed on to clients. They can be limited in what care they can provide to pets especially when dealing with severe illnesses.

Can anything be done to reduce the cost of veterinary care?

Some of these issues are discussed in more detail in the previous articles “If You Can’t Afford a Vet, You Can’t Afford a Pet” and “I Don’t Have Money for a Veterinarian Now What?

Veterinarians reduce their costs of veterinary care

This is not a likely option in most cases of existing clinics. Though the development of low cost clinics have been due to the rising concern of the cost of veterinary care.  Remember the biggest factor in costs is overhead. So in most cases a reduction in costs will require a reduction in either staff or wages and also a reduction in services that a clinic can provide. This will force clinics to operate at compromised status versus their full potential.

Offer payment services

Many pet owners who struggle with the cost of veterinary care express the desire that veterinary clinics would offer payment plans. Though there are clinics that do, the reason many don’t is because there are many clients that don’t make good on these plans. For example at the clinic I work at, we may offer payment plans to a very limited amount of people . Even with the limited people there is still a fair amount that don’t make good on these plans. Most clinics especially the smaller ones are not able to sustain those losses and rather not offer anything at all.

Pet Insurance

This is an option  many pet owners haven’t taken advantage of. Either they are not aware of these options are don’t think it would be helpful in the long run. But pet insurance can prove to be very helpful especially in an unexpected emergency.

Put aside money

Though this option may not keep the cost of the veterinary care low, it definitely helps with the initial unexpected costs. This works the best if part of the decision of acquiring a pet includes putting money aside in a separate account for unexpected veterinary costs.

Final Thoughts

Overall you can see  whether the cost of veterinary care is expensive is a subjective and circumstantial issue. If one were to compare the cost of human medicine to veterinary medicine costs, the latter would be relatively inexpensive. But then again if wages of veterinarians and their staff were equivalent to their human counterparts, then so would the  cost of veterinary healthcare.

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