High Cost for Pet Care

Are you puzzled by the high cost of pet care? Do you think that your veterinary services are more expensive than they should be? Listen to what this veterinarian has to say.

siamese kitten
Dr. Marks and kitten

“I graduated 24 years ago from veterinary school. I had  school debts and poor excuse for a car and very little hopes of owning a house for quite awhile. My husband, also a veterinarian had graduated a couple of years before me. His school debts were even higher than mine and he lived with his parents until I graduated so that he could decrease the bills. He had a job when he graduated but it was 350  miles  away. His starting salary was 18K.  But we figured it would all be worth it some day.”

In the 90’s veterinarians could still make a decent living. Starting salaries were now about 28K. The goal was to gain experience working for other clinics and start your own clinic some day. We would have never been able to start a clinic if it had not been for a wonderful retiring DVM who was willing to sell us equipment at a bargain . In addition my parents generously gave us some money to get started and cover our expenses until the business could start paying for itself. I don’t mind telling you that first year was  a tough one. The second year  a little better and by the fifth year we could breath a little easier that our income was predicatable, that we had a loyal client base and that we could even start raising a family.  The latter was a sacrifice that many professionals face. Clients never realized all the sacrifices that we made.By the second millenium we were feeling rather secure. Happy and fulfilled. And I was saving lives!!!My gosh, I was living the dream of taking care of companion pets and making them better!

Then September 11th,  a day our country and our economy will never forget.  A tailspin of terror. Our world changed.  My world changed. Businesses began to change. Veterinary businesses began to change. All for the worse. A trust was lost as people began to lookout for themselves.’ Where can I get the cheapest medication or the cheapest surgery’ they asked.  Identifying with your DVM was now a second option, getting a bargain was first. I saw on-line pharmacies that boot-leg products become profit centers from animals that had been our every day customers. And price was the first comment that came out a clients mouth. We had worked so hard, had the best of surgery skills and now were expected to charge next to nothing if we wanted to keep our clients. If you adopted your pet from the Humane Society the spay/neuter reembursement to the DVM was laughable. We saw the first veterinary clinics close their doors due to the economy. We had never seen that before.

Ten years down the road the conditions have not improved. Many businesses have closed their doors.Specialists have closed their doors.  Veterinary care has shifted and been peeled from our hands. Pets are spayed (mostly by undergraduate veterinary students) at a pediatric age before even being released from the Humane Society. At 8 weeks of age the kitten/puppy is spayed, vaccinated and so overly stressed that  when we see them for the “complimentary”exam we have to explain why the pet  is seriously ill with a respiratory infection and needs hospital care.  So, routine surgeries are not that routine. Sick animals are really sick. People wait days to consider treatment because they had hoped the pet might get better on his own. And they may consider euthanasia rather than treatment. Franchises run by CEO ‘s  who don’t speak pet care are trying to dominate the field. I never expected our profession to faulter.

I am well trained and able to treat the full spectrum of diseases but people just don’t take care of their pets as they did 10-15 years ago. I still have to keep excellent equipment, a pharmacy and staff for all occassions. I have to run  a tight ship. For example:  Fewer items on the pharmacy shelf, fewer diets, fewer concurrent staff members and cut back where I can.Overhead costs go up, clientelle make fewer visits and pets get less care. Income is not on an incline. People just don’t have the discretionary income to take good care of their pets.

What about new DVM’s? How do they fair in all this? Well, over 40% of new DVM graduates will not get  a job, they owe 6 times in debt what I did (average 150k) and there are more graduates than ever. Why? Because the veterinary school numbers and class sized have increased. The universities are feeling the numbers crunch, too. So they are willing to take the tuition from students even though they know the field is supersaturated. If a graduate does get a position their starting salary is 40-45K and they will generally work for a franchise. I am so sad for our profession. Mc Donalds for Pets!

In 2013 their is a new excise tax on equipment. Any medical equipment not released specifically for Veterinary industry will have a tax added on. Much of our equipment is human compatible. However, this new rule affects the Veternary practice owner in a negative way. The number of veterinary- only companies can have a little monopoly. Prices won’t be going down at any rate.

So, is it all worth it? From the standpoint of saving lives? Surely. I wonder  though if the benefits have out weighed the declines I have seen. If petcare could be brought back to the veterinary professionals it would make all the difference. What can you do? As a pet owner give the best care you can to your pet (see  http://www.timbervet.com/economy-for-your-pet/ ) , show loyalty to the professionals who have devoted their lives to your pets and keep the spending local. Your Veterinarian will always be happy to give your pet the best of care.