Vets Near Me: Why Are Vets So Expensive

Hey Dr Leigh – “Why are Vet’s So Expensive”
Today my good friend Lisa asked the above question in response to the photo below that shows the poor hourly rates that many vets receive. Often when google searching for ‘vets near me’, you are also looking for the cheapest vets. We thought we would answer why vets seem expensive and what tips you can utilise to ensure that you are prepared.

We can narrow it down to a few things:

1. What do we value?

I know that when my car went in for a service the other day, and I ended up spending $800 on a new radiator, I felt very ripped off. I looked at the invoice and was shocked to see that the mechanic was charging his time out at $110/hr. Did I feel value…not at all. I instantly compared his job with mine :( how was he worth more than me? I save lives god damnit! At half the cost!
When we think of value many of us like to see a tangible product or service. Can we see the result? Do we have instant gratification?

How much value do we place on our animals? Do we feel that their health is important, or as long as they are getting along and seem well, then that’s ok?

Do we feel better when we buy them the nice treats, the flash clothing/beds? Is that better for us than spending money on preventative health care?

Perceived value is a biggie. Unfortunately, if you really get to the nitty, gritty many people would prefer to spend money on themselves, or money on things for their animals that make THEM feel good. It’s not that you don’t care, it’s just that it is easier to see what you are spending money on.

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If you are concerned, ask for an itemised invoice. So you can see how the charges have been determined. Query anything that is confusing.

2. Don’t compare vet charges with Doctor’s charges.

There is no medicare. There is no comparison. Vets are not subsidised by the government. Vets also don’t make even remotely the same salary as a doctor!

Remember that vets do it all. There is no clipping the ticket at the gp, then having to pop over the road for an xray, to then go to a chemist to get your drugs. Vets do it all. (We are amazing)

Sick animals are seen immediately. How long do you wait to get an appointment with your gp? How long is the wait at a human Emergency clinic? Mmmmmmmmmm

3. The equipment vets use is essentially the same as human equipment

Even though our equipment is essentially the same as human medical equipment (some of course have modifications), the government doesn’t buy it, or subsidise it for us.

We don’t have massive charities collecting donations on our behalf. Good ol’ peeps just like you, have saved hard, gone to the bank, remortgaged their home (if they own one), got a loan (hopefully) and started a service.

The cost to fully kit out a fully functioning GP clinic is looking at a minimum investment of around $500k (probably more). That isn’t taking into consideration rent, wages etc. It truly is a million dollar investment.

4. Increased Standard Of Care

Over the years standard of care and client expectations have skyrocketed. This means that vets must keep upskilled (courses cost money) and litigation has increased….oh boy.

Insurance fees for public liability (yes if you get hurt because you can’t control your horse when a vet is jabbing it….we get sued!) and professional indemnity are substantial. I used to work on a horse that was $30M….imagine the insurance for that???

5. Communication

This is a big problem. Many people are not honest about their financial situation….no we don’t need to know the nitty gritty….but your vet will always offer the best, highest standard of treatment. Is that necessarily what you have to do? NO WAY! Speak up if you are worried about cost.

Tell your vet what your budget is. The vet will then try and work around what the animal needs and what your budget is. For example: If your dog broke his leg badly. There are often some options that may include internal stabilisation (may require a specialist), confinement and casting (not all can have this), or you could amputate. Three perfectly viable options, all have different risks and they all have greatly differing costs.

All treatment that a vet gives an animal requires the owner to OK it.
It is OK to ask the vet plenty of questions.
It is OK to ask for a second opinion.

Remember if you have signed that it is OK to treat an animal at the price quoted, don’t change your story later. This is a huge cause of stress for many vets. It is not okay to go to social media and complain about what you paid when you ok’d it.

6. Get insurance.

Keeping an animal is a privilege. The benefits of pet ownership are huge. But we need to be able to provide for our pets and animals when they are sick. It’s not ok to let them suffer. Insurance is one way that can ease that financial burden. Other options include Vet Pay, Ezy Money, Zip Money. We know that accidents happen, animals get sick. It’s a given. If it doesn’t happen….well you’ve been extremely lucky.

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Ask for an itemised estimate in writing.
Ask for options for payment i.e. Vet Pay, Ezy Pay or Zip Money.
Purchase insurance

So Why Are Vet Wages So Low?

Because the overheads are just too high.
Because vets are notoriously bad at giving away our services at discounted rates because surprisingly we care about the animal and want to see it get better more than the bottom line.
Because many people don’t see the value in health care for their pets. So vets are sitting in a clinic with huge overheads and not utilising all their equipment and skills.
Without people using a vet, we don’t survive.

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Next time when looking for a “Vet Near Me” and wondering why costs of services are different between clinics, look at the equipment the clinic has, where they are located, the number of staff they employ. Not all vet clinics are the same. Some clinics include things like blood testing as an extra fee, while others include it in the price. Ask the questions, compare apples with apples.

What are your thoughts?

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