Why is Veterinary Medicine So Expensive?

Many pet parents today are concerned about the rising cost of veterinary care. It used to be that animal companions were “cheap to keep,” but for folks committed to providing an excellent quality of life for their pets, that’s no longer the case. There are many reasons for increases in veterinary fees. One example is the skyrocketing cost of attending vet school. Upon graduation, new veterinarians must bring in enough income to pay off their student debt (which can be hundreds of thousands of dollars) and also put food on the table.

Another factor in vet care costs is the evolution of pet owners’ relationships with their animal companions. Not so long ago, dogs and cats lived outdoors and were viewed more as property than as sentient beings. Vet visits were few and far between. Sick or injured pets were as likely to be euthanized as treated. These days, however, not only do most pets live indoors with their humans, they are often considered cherished family members who deserve high-quality health care just like the two-legged members of the family. Quality health care in both human and veterinary medicine comes with a corresponding price tag. In Canada, these costs are less apparent but we pay large amounts of taxes to pay our health care costs, as well as monthly health care fees.[/answer]

Veterinary Practice Operating Costs:

The veterinarian who owns the clinic you take your pet to is responsible for all the operating expenses associated with his or her practice. This begins with the building the clinic is located in, which must be in compliance with a never-ending list of government rules and regulations and local ordinances. The lights have to be on and the building warm.

The equipment and supplies in veterinary offices are often leased or purchased from the same companies that supply human hospitals, and the costs are often more in Canada as veterinary products supplement the human medical industry due to government regulated costs in human medicine but not in veterinary medicine . The purchase of a digital x-ray is $80,000 to $100,000 and a dental digital x-ray is $30,000 for the machine and $10,000 for the plate (which last 2-4 years on average). Anesthetic monitoring machines are $8,000-10,000 and surgical instrumentation constituents thousands of dollars.

Another large expense veterinary clinics absorb is their in-house pharmacy. As many of you are aware, prices for both human and veterinary drugs have increased tremendously in recent years. Throughout the years there has been growing concern with writing prescriptions for animals for human medications. There has been discrepancies in dosing actual sent home with the pet and the prescription written. Humans use different dosing regimes. With on line pharmacies we have seen animals actually receiving the incorrect medication all together. The licensing board of veterinarians encourages veterinarians to use animal tested and approved medications first before human medications due to these discrepancies. These drugs often cost more than human medicine due to the lack of buying power in the veterinary market vs human market.

The biggest expense for most practice owners is their veterinary staff, which includes the other veterinarians who work for the clinic, credentialed vet techs, receptionists, kennel attendants and other employees.

In order to attract and retain high-quality veterinary staff, practice owners must offer competitive salaries, health insurance and opportunities for continuing education. Yet compared to other professions with the same or even less responsibility veterinary staff wages are less than they should be.

As pets become increasingly important to their humans, the more and the better care pet parents expect from their veterinary providers. To meet these expectations, vets need to do more and charge more, and pet parents can expect to pay more.

*Some of the statements in this blog post were taken from an article By Dr. Becker



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