On Veterinarians

Why does a visit to the vet sometimes feel like a trip to the used car lot?

Sure, I admit that, although I fancy myself a relatively well-informed pet owner, I do not, in fact, have a degree in Veterinary Medicine or even Biological Sciences.   Perhaps it is this necessitated deference I therefore must pay to the professionals that in turn heightens my doubt and cynicism.

Or perhaps it’s the way everyone in a vet office baby talks to my pets.  It’s uncomfortable to watch.  (We actually visited one vet who baby talked to both Moses and us.  It was jarring. We did not go back.)

At a certain point, I do feel that the average pet owner’s lack of expertise and love for our companions makes an easy target for price gouging and misinformation.  And the increasing popularity of pet insurance should not be a license to charge even more.

Maybe my mistrust comes from clinic shelves stocked with food like this, peddled to trusting clients, unaware that the main ingredient of this very food is corn and not even aware why that's a bad thing. Seriously. Look it up yourself: hillspet.com (Also source of photo.)

Of course, there are exceptions to my complaints and there are lots of good vets out there.  Vets that don’t want to have them overnight for observation for no real reason. Vets that don’t recommend unnecessary blood tests.  Vets that don’t go to lengths to argue wild canines have grain-heavy diets.  If you find or have one, hang on to them!

For us, however, we could nearly fill a recreational kickball team with our team of vets.  Or at least a travelling band.  We seem to collect them like trading cards, noting opinions and specialities, often trading one in for another.

Yes, it is true; we are veterinarily promiscuous.

But I find everything I wanted in one vet, maybe I wouldn’t need to call in a second opinion.  I want a holistic opinion to compare with the one that’s more “western medicine”.  And I want to have that information when we see a specialist.  I want a thorough explanation of the problem, prognosis, and the options for treatment – no sugar-coating.  I want to be able to understand what’s going on and be able to Google it at home later.  And I want to trust that I’m not being taken advantage of, instead of having to compare the price for services across the city, because the realisation that one place can charge you $200 to neuter your dog and another can be upwards of $600 is ridiculous.

Because even though we have pet insurance, I’m not going to put Moses or Alma through unnecessary treatments and I’m not going to pay an exorbitant mark-up on services just because.

So yesterday when Alma was unusually demure and I found the cause in a lower incisor, I was not looking forward to the forthcoming rigamarole.

A dental cleaning with potential extraction is in order.  Let the shopping around begin.

Why can't you just be straight with us?

I better work on my pokerface, too.  “$485 base price for a dental cleaning?  Extraction on top of that?  And post-op meds?  And an additional pre-surgery check-up?   And pre-anestheric bloodwork for the low, low price of $80? No, no, that all seems perfectly reasonable.  Mere pocket change. I assume you can break a $1,000?”

I wish.

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About ThatJenK
Writing from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 90% pictures of my dogs; 10% miscellaneous opinions nobody asked for.

19 Responses to On Veterinarians

  1. 2browndawgs says:

    Yikes! We have been lucky in that the vet’s we use often give us options and discuss cost vs. benefit to the dog. Even with Thunder’s bloat surgery the costs were spelled out and if there were extras, it was explained as to why they were needed and we were asked if we wanted to spend the money. His surgery even came out well under the quote.

    • thatjenk says:

      Actually, you make an excellent point. When it has come to our very serious vet experiences, I have few complaints. Detailed quotes, honest prognosis, and not really an opportunity to shop around even if I were so inclined (especially with an emergency like bloat, where we just got into the closest place and got it taken care of).

      It’s the more run-of-the-mill or everyday care and maintenance costs and inquires that I find the most frustrating and have the most variance across the board – dental care, vaccinations, check-ups, spay/neuter….

  2. barb19 says:

    Vets are the same the world over it seems. The range in price when getting quotes for surgery is ridiculous – how can they be so different for the same surgery? Beats me

  3. Jen says:

    Working at a vet’s office I have to chime in here, there can be many reasons why prices are so different between vet offices. It could be anything from different types of drugs that the clinic uses, what type of equipment is being used, laser vs non laser, digital x-ray vs non, there’s a whole range of variables. However, with that being said there are definitely things that are not necessary and can be declined, I think that vets just need to make this more available to their clients.
    I totally understand what you mean about wanting to have different opinions. I have actually gone to other vets other than the ones I work with for specific things. The vets I worked for just didn’t have the answers or the knowledge that I wanted in a few areas:) I always to have to remind myself that just like doctors, vets are “practicing” medicine.
    Hope Alma’s tooth is ok:)

    • thatjenk says:

      I am so glad you read and commented! I was hoping for your input, since you’ve got the ‘inside track’. I mean, even the simple revelation that different techniques and equipment can affect charges should be more widely acknowledged. You are exactly right – those kinds of realities should be more available.

      Especially when I’m looking at an itemized quote and trying to figure out how it all adds up and why it’s different from one place to the next. I will be very honest and say “this cost is more than I expected”, and I welcome an honest explanation as to why. But last night when I was trying to wrap my head around a quote much higher than I was prepared for, no such conversation was had, beyond “yes, that’s the cost”. I’m not going to be comfortable paying it otherwise, and if I mistrust the cost, it all unravels from there.

  4. Haha, veterinarily promiscuous, I like that. We are that way too. I think it would be different if Pearl did not have any issues, but the fact that we are dealing with allergies has made it even more obvious when vets are prescribing lots of drugs, suggesting diets without being able to explain why, and being unable or unwilling to answer what I think are my reasonable questions (although that is up for debate and my husband is super embarrassed to go to the vet with me… although i am always polite and try hard not to be “difficult”). Good luck with Alma’s tooth- hope she feels better soon.

    • thatjenk says:

      Haha – I have no doubt Google-happy clients with lots of questions like you and myself are probably the most challenging for vets, since we walk in thinking we might know a little bit… but that’s just me – I want to know more and ask intelligent questions. And of course, I’ve got to know a bit about what I’m talking about so I can blog about it later 🙂

  5. Tegan says:

    “Yes, it is true; we are veterinarily promiscuous.” – US TOO! I have a reproductive vet 90 minutes away that I love, but can’t justify going to for ‘run of the mill’ stuff, and can’t drive to in emergencies… I have a vet I use when I know what’s wrong, a vet I use when I don’t know what’s wrong. And I have a vet I use for vaccinations, because no one else uses triennial vaccines in my area. Phew! So I have FOUR regular vets! It’s the only way I can be happy in my dog’s vet work.

  6. lexy3587 says:

    veterinarily promiscuous – love it.
    I’ve had some issues with vets in the past, but with Gwynn, so far, i’ve been pretty lucky. Everyone in my area seems to have a different opinion of who is the best veterinary clinic in the area (and some of them travel nearly an hour to use that ‘nearby vet’), but I think it’s mainly about what you’re comfortable with. If my vet were to start trying to convince me to buy the expensive ‘vet recommended’ brand they have in-house… I would probably let them know that I won’t be using their services again. A holistic vet would be great, though… that’s one thing I would like to shop around for a bit.
    Hope Alma feels better soon!

  7. Leslie says:

    We’ve been very lucky since we moved into our new town back in 2000 as we had a trusted friend recommend a vet to us. We did find there were a couple vets within the practice that we didn’t care for (who have since left so perhaps we weren’t alone?) Now we specify we want to see one of two vets.

    I have found with both my own doctors and Bella’s vets that you have to be informed and you have to be willing to fight for your dog. If I feel the vet is being unclear or leading me down a path I don’t want to take, I will stand up to them – ask questions, get second opinions, Google the hell out of something and return to the vet to challenge their opinion. As I have done this with the two vets I mention we request and they never once got defensive, understanding it is ultimately my responsibility to take care of my dog, I only have great things to say about them.

    As I said, we’ve been lucky. But I would never fault anyone for being ‘veterinarily promiscuous’ if that’s what it took to ensure the good health of their pet.

  8. Kristine says:

    My sympathies. We just switched vets last spring, actually, so I kind of know what you are talking about. So far I really like our new clinic. The staff are kind without being condescending and our vet is thorough without ordering unnecessary tests or being judgmental. They also don’t sell Science Diet. They are also known for being one of the most reasonable clinics price-wise. But I will still drop them in a second if they insult my pets like the last one did.

    I’ll never forget what he said, “oh, an SPCA dog. I had one of those once. Terrible creatures.”

    Can you believe I still went back after that?

    Good luck with your search! I hope the costs are lower than you expect. I’ll have my fingers crossed for you!

  9. I think I’m lucky as I have a great vet – Mum isn’t even this lucky with HER doctor and she’s looking for a new one…..

    My Mum is obsessed with researching everything on the Internet, but our vet is really cool and wiling to discuss it all and help Mum find the best answers for me – PLUS – my vet always plays with me and gives me treats – sorry not everyone has the same experience 😦

    Your pal Snoopy 🙂

    PS – my Mum also has Trupanion Pet Insurance for me as she found it definitely eased the stress when her previous Dogs were sick and at least she didn’t have to worry about the cost – so far we’ve had one claim for me and they were great 🙂

    • thatjenk says:

      Haha – oh yes. Moses is nearly the poster dog for vet insurance (check out the June/July archives for the saga). Both Alma and Moses are covered and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

      But even though insurance may ease some financial burden, that’s not to say I want to be over-charged even though I have compensation for some or all of the costs. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn vet costs have increased given the increasing popularity of pet insurance.

  10. julesmelfi says:

    I think I have seen more than half of the vets in my area looking for the right one. Right now we go between two. Cali has allergies, so we have spent a ridiculous amount of money at the vet over the years. I stuck with my last vet because he didn’t make me “retry” things we had already done, and he was honest and told me that he didn’t have anything else “in his bag of tricks”.

    I hope you find a vet you feel confident going to – good luck with Alma’s tooth (ouch, I hate toothaches!!) feel better Alma!!!

  11. Pingback: I Love My Vet! « Back Alley Soapbox

  12. lauren says:

    seeing as how desmond is my first dog, my vet is my first vet as well. i don’t really have anything to compare her to, but she is the vet who was caring for desmond when he was at the rescue and in foster, so she saw him right after he was pulled from the kill shelter. we decided to stick with her. i have no reference point for prices or anything, but she does at least seem to be hesitant to put desmond through unnecessary…anything. i often wonder about trying a new vet, just to get some experience with that, but i’m afraid my current vet would find out because we’d need his records. i don’t want to insult her.

  13. I’m very happy with our vet, and sometimes price varies with something as silly as location; it costs more to rent office space in some areas of town than in others.

    Our vet has been telling me for years to clean our Best Friend’s teeth, and always says, “You don’t want to pay $350 for an extraction you could prevent!” (Alma’s only been yours a few months, you can’t blame yourself for her teeth.) So I can’t complain that she’s trying to gouge us.

    They do sell Science Diet too. Oh well.

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