There are several questions that run through a pet owner’s mind when taking their pet to the vet:
- “What could be wrong with my poor, sweet baby?”
- “Do I need to pick up flea/tick medicine while I’m here?”
- And of course… “How much is this going to cost?”
While we all feel we are paying an arm and a leg for veterinary care, we rarely stop and think WHY the costs seem so high. I know my personal veterinarian isn’t living in a mansion or driving a brand-new luxury vehicle, so where is this money going?
Here are some things you probably didn’t think about when it comes to your vet:
- They receive just as much training and schooling as doctors practicing human medicine – and that’s expensive.
Veterinarians are required to have four years of undergrad education, four years of veterinary school and pass both national and state exams to practice, as well as take continuing education courses each year so they can stay on top of new developments in vet medicine, best practices and treatment options. And, that doesn’t include those veterinarians going into specialized veterinary practice.
All of this schooling and training comes at a cost. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the average student debt for veterinary students expecting to graduate is $151,672. This is quite a chunk of change considering the AVMA reported the starting salary of a veterinarian to be $45,575.
2. It’s a very competitive field.
According to the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), there are only 30 colleges of veterinary medicine in the U.S. Less than 50% of applicants actually get into veterinary school. The AAVMC says the veterinary profession has no trouble attracting animal lovers, but schools are looking for other characteristics in applicants, “They’re also looking for students who know how to run a business, communicate with clients, conduct research, and work in areas that the public doesn’t usually associate with veterinary medicine, such as biomedical research, food supply veterinary medicine, and public health.”
3. They don’t do it for the money; they do it for the love of animals, medicine and science.
Veterinarians get into this field because of their love of animals, but practicing vets must also have a lot of love for medicine and science. Veterinarians must know the anatomy of cats, dogs, horses, cows, pigs, goats, sheep, birds, rabbits, reptiles and more. Not only do they need to know the anatomy of these species, they need to know basic care requirements, common behaviors, parasites and illnesses related to each species, and what type of medicines are available for treatment and how each react to these treatments.
4. The cost of doing business.
The equipment available to the general veterinary practitioner to help him/her in treating and diagnosing their patients is more readily available, and in high demand, and often required, from clients. Everything from ultrasounds, surgical lasers, digital x-ray, dental x-ray machines, flexible endoscopy, anesthetic monitoring equipment, etc. is standard practice now days and those tools aren’t cheap.
We took a look at www.shopmedvet.com to see how much these items could rack up:
- Ultrasound Machine: $5,000 – $25,000
- Digital X-ray: $41,000 – $70,000
- Flexible Endoscopy: $5,000 – $12,000
- Surgical Laser: $4,000 – $16,000
- Anesthesia Machine: $2,000 – $7,000
So, as veterinary medicine continues to evolve and technology allows us to diagnose, treat, or even prevent illnesses in our pets, we will continue paying these high veterinary prices, which really aren’t that high when you look at the same type of care in human healthcare. Here in the U.S., we love our pets and will do almost anything to keep them alive and happy as long as possible.
Still unsure about paying for expensive veterinary care? Here are some tips to lower the cost of veterinary care:
- Check local animal welfare or humane societies for low-cost clinics
- Veterinary schools may run low-cost clinics for limited income clients
- Pet insurance – get a quote from PetFirst Pet Insurance – which can reimburse up to 90% of veterinary expenses