Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The high cost of veterinary medicine

If you have a pet and have had a visit to your veterinarian lately, you might have noticed how expensive veterinarians have become.

I'll admit it. We ARE expensive, especially if you want top quality care.

I work in Los Angeles and even I have been surprised by some bills lately.

A very good client of mine was seen at a specialty hospital to remove a foxtail (a type of grass awn) from their dog's chest. The surgery and a five day hospital stay was $13,000!

Another client went to our local emergency clinic for further treatment of their pet who had ingested rat poison. After ten blood transfusions, the cost was $4500!

There is obviously a reason why veterinary care is so expensive. Most clinics are complete hospitals which are costly to operate. At our clinic, we have a surgery suite, a well-stocked pharmacy, a digital xray machine, dental equipment (including a digital dental xray machine) not to mention a full staff including kennel staff, technicians, receptionists and doctors. And nobody in this field is overpaid. For the record, I drive a 12 year old Chrysler and don't buy popcorn at the movie theaters!

But I'm not trying to evoke sympathy here. That's not my point.

The point is this; the cost of veterinary care is going to increase and there is something you can do about it.


I don't care what type of pet you have. A completely indoor two year old cat. A healthy mixed breed dog who only stays by your side ...

There is still the potential for a serious sickness to occur. I don't know how many times I have heard about the "backyard only" dog that escaped after the landscapers left the gate open and was run over. Or the cat who, after years of eating kitty chow, finally decided to eat that long string of dental floss lying around and developed peritonitis. Both these conditions are seriously expensive to treat and pet insurance can definitely ease the pocket book pain.

Unfortunately, not all insurance companies are created equal. I used to be a fan of Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) but I don't like the way they put caps on conditions. In other words, they decide what each condition is worth and they cap the reimbursement to that amount. They don't even vary it from state to state and I can tell you that a cruciate repair will be much more costly in Los Angeles than it would be in Des Moines.

I prefer Pet Plan because they cover hereditary conditions and they will cover chronic illnesses for as long as your pet lives. They will also reimburse you for more natural treatments such as acupuncture. But get this insurance early; if your pet is a senior, he or she may be denied coverage.

The link to their website is http://www.gopetplan.com.

To review all the pet insurance companies, a great website is http://www.petinsurancereview.com.

If you are still undecided about pet insurance, ask yourself this:

If a veterinarian gave me an estimate for $5000 to save my pet, would I have to put him or her to sleep?

If the answer is yes, then clearly it is time to check out the websites above.

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