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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

The Cost of Veterinary Care

Dec 05, 2016 03:14AM ● By Mary Oquendo

In 2015, the American Pet Productions Association found that routine vet care cost cat owners $196 and dog owners $235. This is consistent with other research done by Consumer Reports, which found that wellness veterinary visits can range anywhere between $140 and $340. However, pet injuries and chronic conditions can easily reach thousands of dollars in veterinary bills and if you have multiple pets, care can become even more costly.

Why is veterinarian care so expensive?

Let’s look at what it takes to run a veterinarian business.

Quality staff. Certified veterinary technicians (CVT) receive more specialized training than veterinarian technicians and, therefore, command a higher wage. On average, CVTs earn anywhere from $30,000-60,000 a year depending on their specialties and geographic location. Even a small practice needs a couple of CVTs. Costs increase when receptionists, vet techs, kennel attendants and the office manager are added in.

Student debt. Upon graduating from school, the average debt of a veterinarian is around $300,000. Education doesn’t stop at graduation; continuing education to keep current with new breakthroughs can add several thousands of dollars a year to that debt, especially if the practice also sends their employees to educational conferences.

Equipment and supplies. The equipment and supplies needed for a modern veterinary practice are the same as a human hospital. The equipment is sourced from the same companies that supply the human-focused medical industry. As consumers, we are now demanding that our veterinarians be able to make quick diagnosis. In order to so, this equipment is seen as mandatory, not optional, for modern veterinary practices.

Location, location. Is the veterinarian conveniently located on a main road or tucked away off the beaten path? Location determines rent and many commercial rentals require tenant maintenance.

Other business expenses. Other expenses associated with a medical business include malpractice and workmen compensation insurance, employee health benefits, accountants, payroll, lawyers, snow removal, building maintenance and lawn services, to name just a few.

Medications. Prescription drugs are sourced from the same pharmaceutical companies as people. Many of these drugs are the exact same formulation as people and are as costly. Factor in expirations dates, and veterinarians are legally bound to discard hundreds of dollars of supplies on a regular basis.

Specialist opinions. Most veterinarians are not specialized and are similar to a human general practitioner. Our general practitioners may diagnose a chronic condition, but usually send us to a specialist for treatment. It is the same process with veterinarians. They frequently use the services—and incur the cost—of specialists when making a diagnosis.

Laboratory tests. The veterinarian may be able to run common blood tests. However, for more detailed lab work, they will have to contract an outside laboratory that can employ skilled technicians as well as the specialized equipment.

Rescue service. Many veterinarians work with shelters and rescues to provide their services at a significantly reduced price or even at no charge.

Fostering. When an owner cannot afford or simply does not want to pay for services, they may surrender or abandon their pet at the hospital. Many veterinarians elect to care for this pet until they can re-home them.

Make a sustainable living. Long gone are the days when you had to travel several hours to receive critical care and routine diagnostics which is a blessing when time is critical. The flip side is that our local veterinarians have incurred these costs so beloved pets can receive timely, life-saving and quality intervention. There are no federal agencies to offset or underwrite these expenses such as we have for the human medical industry. So for now at least, veterinary care costs are all on us.

Mary Oquendo is a Reiki master, advanced crystal master and certified master pet tech pet first aid instructor. She is the owner of Hands and Paws-Reiki for All. She can be reached at See ad, page 46.