Q: It costs $400 to neuter my dog at my vet’s. I remember it used to cost only $100 at the vet 20 years ago, and at the shelter it only costs about $40. I’d rather have my vet do it, but at that price it makes no sense. Why the difference?
A: Vet care isn’t just expensive for you, it’s expensive for veterinarians too. Until I owned a practice and started analyzing its expenses I hadn’t realized just how much it costs to provide the level of veterinary care my clients demand. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Veterinary staff is expensive. The biggest chunk of our budget goes to paying employees. Technicians who help with surgery, anesthesia, radiology and laboratory work are now more a) educated, b) experienced, c) talented and d) hard to find.
2. Then there’s the salary of veterinarians to consider: Experienced veterinarians who can communicate with a trilingual clientele command a premium. And hiring young veterinarians requires a lot of time-intensive mentorship as well as an understanding that they have up to $300,000 in student loan debt to pay off.
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3. Veterinarians outsource a lot of specialty services these days. X-rays get sent to veterinary radiologists, tissue and blood samples go to veterinary pathologists and phone calls get placed to nutritionists and toxicologists. It’s better medicine, but it costs more.
4. Drug prices are steep. If you think you spend a lot of money on pet drugs, you should check out our drug bills. The prices for all drugs have climbed so steeply in recent years it’s proved something of a shock to the veterinary industry. How do we pass these prices on to you without shocking you as well?
5. Equipment and supplies often come from the same companies human hospitals use. Which, unfortunately, means they share the same price tags, too.
6. It costs a lot to rent or build and maintain a veterinary facility. We have to a) abide by all the same rules as human hospitals b) satisfy stringent local zoning ordinances that regulate pet business, and c) pay for high visibility retail settings.
7. Then there’s today’s higher standard of care to consider. As pets become increasingly important to their people, they demand higher-quality care. You want lab work before anesthesia and human-grade surgical equipment, right? You also want personal attention. Which is probably why you’d rather have us neuter your dog than the shelter.
I get that $400 is a lot of money. But you do get what you pay for.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.