Tuesday, August 24, 2010

News flash: Pet care ain't free

Would you believe that there are people who think vets should just give their services away for free? Or at least for a huge discount because "They are supposed to care about the animals". Let's take a look at that logic for a minute.
How much does vet school cost? How much is the cost of living once you are out of vet school? What if you buy a practice and have the costs of running the hospital on your head too? This means buying the equipment, keeping it in working order, paying your staff, (I need to eat too.)purchasing supplies; you know things like vaccines, medications, suture and the like. The product companies certainly don't just send it to the hospital for free "Because they care about pets".
I have had several conversations recently with people who said, "The vets cost to much, they should know people don't have that kind of money. Times are tough." Umm here's the kicker, you chose to own a pet. No one forced you. Yes vet care costs money, but you don't have to be in a position to need it. You could simply not have a pet. I know, radical thinking right? By the same manner of thinking should all pet food be free as well?
Now I'm not suggesting you just give up your pet, I am merely trying to say yes pet care costs money. Just like having a baby, adding a pet to your home isn't going to be free or cheap in the long run. Think of it this way though, pets don't borrow the car or need a college fund. It could be worse.
Here is a another thing that I don't totally understand. Some people leave a vet they know and trust, for a different vet over the cost issue. Now I understand needing (or wanting) to save money when you can. What I don't understand is leaving a vet you know and like and trust for that end. To me trust is worth much more than saving a few dollars. Once I started working at the vet clinic I am at now I was sad to leave my vets behind. I had a great relationship with them! Now that I have been there awhile and know them I am happy to have them taking care of my pets. But it was hard leaving that previous relationship behind. I want a good relationship with my vet because I am trusting them with something very important to me, my family members.
I realize there are people that need the low cost clinics just to get their pet some basic vet care. But to me those should be for the people that clearly need the service. Not people driving around in their fancy Hummers. At the very least if you use low cost clinics for your pets vaccines consider going to your regular vet for a yearly (or bi-yearly if money is an issue) exam to make sure nothing sinister is getting overlooked. Most of those low cost clinics are only providing the vaccines after all without a full exam. (as a way to keep those costs down) Besides if you like your veterinarian, don't you want to show them some loyalty? Maybe I am to idealistic on that count.
I don't know, maybe I am jaded due to the phone calls and clients I deal with. To many people come in expecting us to let them do stuff on credit but do not understand we have been burned to many times in the past by "the sweet old lady" who would never do such a thing. Besides, do we not expect to pay our own doctors when we go for a check up? I know not expecting to pay for services provided would never fly at my Dr's office! (but neither would showing up without an appointment, or expecting one for a non emergency on the day I call but I digress)
I know one vet in my area that is scooping up people (by undercutting) that I wouldn't trust in my home due to a past history of theft at a previous clinic where they worked. There is another one with multiple complaints to the AVMA against them for lack of record keeping. And I won't go into detail about one that doesn't use pain meds during alter surgeries because "Animals don't feel pain the same way we do". Seriously, is saving a few dollars worth dealing with shady characters? Not in my book.
Now so you don't think I am totally heartless I DO understand that sometimes people end up in bad times unexpectedly. But surprisingly most of those people don't expect our service for free because of it. They try to make arrangements the best they can. We appreciate that and do try to help if possible. Let me tell you that attitude is everything.
The bottom line is that veterinary hospitals are a business, not a charity. I'm unsure why people don't realize that. Maybe it's because we take care of animals and not people. Is the expectation of care greater because of that? And for those people that think all vets are racking in the cash simply because they are a vet I can assure you that isn't always the case. I've worked at 3 clinics now and I can vouch for the long hours and lacking paychecks of many of them. (Who needs weekends with the family anyways?) Unless you have a huge interest in all things medical reconsider your dream of vet school if you want to help animals or have a career around them. Trust me there are easier ways to accomplish that task. (and perhaps more glamorous, ref above photo)
There are some very good programs out there for pet owners who are actually in need. Check out this link for information on The Penobscot Pet Pantry. It is a dedicated local group of people trying to help pet owners that cannot afford to buy food for their pets. Hopefully it is only being used by those who truely need it. I think for people in a temporary slump it is a great way to keep pets out of the shelter while they get their feet back under them. Obviously these are the people I expect to be at those low cost clinics.
I dunno, just venting I guess. What say you dear readers on this topic? Am I to close to the subject to see the big picture? What am I missing?


JulieandCaleb said...

You're not missing a thing, in my humble opinion. You should be infuriated. I know people like this and they make me so mad I could...well never mind.

The folks who want things for free are usually the first ones to bail when things get difficult with a pet. Why do so few people understand that owning a pet is a serious commitment?

I couldn't do your job, I'd lose my mind...I'm glad there are folks like you who can!

Anonymous said...

I also don't understand finding the cheapest vet. When I first got my dog a vet was recommended by a friend but when I was sitting in the waiting room I had such a feeling of dread and anxiety that I canceled the appointment. I cried the whole way home I was so frustrated but now I go to a great vet that I love and my dog loves going there. She's not a cheap vet but my dog is treated the way I want (special like a family member) and I will pay extra for that even if it means waiting and saving for a few months before we can go.

Marie said...

I wonder if it's more of a priority issue. WE spend the money because to us it's a priority. Others don't want to spend more than they think is "acceptable" because "it's just an animal". Something they consider replaceable. Those people will never really "get it". Their loss.

Anonymous said...

Many cheap vets I've known have been country vets whose quality of care was every bit as good as most of the high priced suburban vets I've been to. A basic spay/neuter isn't brain surgery. That said, quality of care is still the first priority, and I'd never take my dog to someone I did trust.

Hannah said...

I'm blog friends with several vet techs and they all have the same horror stories, despite being scattered across the U.S. You are a better person than I, Marie, because I don't think I could keep my mouth shut and just wait until I got home to pound out a blog entry. I'd snap at people and get myself fired. oops.

I'll never understand it. We'd eat Ramen for months to be able to afford medical care for the critters. Though thankfully it's never come to that. :]

jess said...

oh boy, i could not agree more! having a pet is a privilege, a luxury and a huge responsibility. you shouldn't have one if you can't afford to care for them, including medical expenses, which are not cheap! and i feel bad saying that, i wish everyone who wanted a pet could afford it, but that's just not the reality.
when people would call and yell at me about the prices and say things like "when i go to the doctor it only costs me 20$" or "my rx is only 10$" i would just try and remind them that if they actually saw what the office/pharmacy charged their insurance company they would be shocked.
then they would usually yell at me some more and hang up.
oh well.
some people just don't understand that as much as we do it because we love animals, we can only do it if we can afford to run the practice.