Why Does Pet Health Care Cost So Much?

Isn’t the cost of veterinary medicine ridiculously high?

It’s just animal health care, not human health care.

I thought my doctor really cared and would go the extra mile for me and help me out with this.

These are a few of the comments posted online from frustrated pet owners about the costs of veterinary health care. Like the cost of an education, the cost of caring for a pet is driven by an increasing expectation for quality. Times once were that when a dog or cat got sick, a trip to the animal clinic included “a shot and some pills”. Fluffy either got better or returned for more shots and pills until she got better or died from her illness. Often, even if the cause of her sickness could be found, the most humane treatment was euthanasia.

What’s changed in recent years is

  • the success of preventive health care
    • Pets are living longer. An aging population needs long-term management of chronic health problems.
  • the expectations of pet owners
    • Pets have moved from the backyard to the sofa.
    • Pet owners now expect medical care for their pets to match medical care for themselves.
  • the state of veterinary medicine
    • Doctors today can offer treatments that were unheard of just a few years ago.
    • Veterinarians are seen as medical professionals rather than naïve animal lovers.
  • the economics of running a veterinary practice
    • Technicians are now highly trained. They expect to be compensated for their skills and education.
    • Pet owners will not pay professional rates for non-professional services or products they can get somewhere else.
    • Inflation, regulation and competition are a reality for any business.

As a result, a day in the hospital today is nothing like a day in the hospital was 10 year or 20 years ago. Veterinarians are now required to

  • provide a safe and sanitary facility for patients and workers
  • keep medical records
  • perform complete physical examinations before providing treatments or anesthesia
  • perform a minimum level of testing to reach a diagnosis
  • monitor the progress of a treatment plan
  • be accountable if the treatment does not go according to plan
  • keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date

Every pet owner has a different idea about what is an acceptable level of pet care beyond what is required by law. Veterinarians are here to inform owners about the services that are available. They should gently guide an owner in choosing the options that are right for them. No one wants a pet to suffer because medical care is out of reach but no veterinarian should be expected to discount the value of the services they provide.

Veterinary Oath: Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.

Limited consultations and procedures are also available in:

Affiliated Veterinary Specialists
9905 South U.S. Highway 17-92
Maitland, FL 32751
Phone: 407-644-1287
Fax: 407-644-9075

Animal Emergency and Referral Center
3984 SO. U.S. 1
Ft. Pierce, FL 34982
Phone: 772-466-3441
Fax: 772-466-0206