Friday, February 23, 2007

How To Avoid Getting Overcharged By Your Vet.. Part 1

Veterinary Care is expensive. I should know, for I am Veterinarian who owns a Veterinary Hospital. In fact, Veterinary Medicine has changed dramatically in the last 30 years… gone are the days of James Harriot when Veterinarians treated every type of animal, and regularly made house calls. This is the 21st Century, where a dog may be man's best friend, but that pet has a price tag. Vet visits and surgery cost dog owners almost $800 and cat owners $500 last year, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association.

If your pet becomes seriously ill, you can easily spend thousands. For example, each year about 400 pets, mostly dogs, undergo pacemaker surgery costing $3,000. Cats with renal failure, a common ailment, can now get an $8,000 to $10,000 kidney transplant, followed by $600-a-year regimens of immunosuppressive drugs. We can do wonderful advanced life saving procedures…but folks, it ain’t cheap.

Costly Practices:

The costs of operating a veterinary practice are huge.
Veterinary Salaries have risen, and newer Veterinarians are demanding higher starting salaries before they even walk in the door. A new graduate will start at 60,000 dollars a year. Higher end corporate practices will pay even more. Those practice owners earn in excess of 100,000 dollars a year.

Veterinary Clinics have extremely high overhead costs. You need a lot of specialized equipment to perform exams, X-rays, Ultrasound and surgery… monitoring equipment, anesthetic equipment, kennels and cages, ventilation…the list is big.
You need a high number of staff to give quality patient care. Veterinary support staff members are now demanding higher salaries… gone are the days when you could pay a receptionist 8 dollars an hour.

No New Pets:

Most of you reading this live in or near a city. In fact, that is where most Veterinary practices are located. The problem with that is that most cities have MORE veterinarians than they NEED. The Pet Population is increasing, but it’s not keeping pace with the number of Veterinary practices. This means that for a Veterinary practice to grow, it cannot rely on just increasing the number of patients, because there are not enough patients to go around for all the existing practices.

SO what’s a Practice owner to do? Charge more per client. Do MORE things with the existing clients. It is called the UP-SELL and I know that you have all experienced it. Go to Macdonald’s, and after you place your order, what to they ask? Would you like fries with that?


Dr Andrew Jones’ Top 10 Tips on Avoiding “Excess Charges” at the Vet
Now that you have the background, here are my Top 10 Tips on how to Avoid Getting Charged TOO MUCH At The Vet…

1. Price Shop:

Prices at animal hospitals can vary widely. In my small town of Nelson, I charge the least of all the practices, but many clients do not know that. Make sure you get recommendations from other pet owners first. There is a misconception that the higher priced practices give a better quality of care - but this is NOT True.

To ensure that you are saving money, plus getting quality care for your pet, you have to ask some specific questions. Does the practice have an animal health technician? They should. Does the practice have up-to-date anesthetic and monitoring equipment?

A must have:

Does the practice have all pets monitored after anesthesia until they are fully awake?
This will give you an idea about staff level - you need adequate staff to give the quality patient care that your pet deserves. However, having up to date equipment and well-trained staff still does not mean that you have to pay through the roof.

Ask about the common procedures, like vaccines, checkups, neutering and spaying.
Plan on going to at least three vets before you decide on one. Make a mental note of just how clean the environment is when you look around. In addition, do not forget to ask for discounts from your vet. If clients ASK, they will often get a discount. Some vets offer multiple pet discounts as well as discounts for seniors.

2. Beware The Up-sell.

Now that you have some background, such as escalating veterinary costs, No New Pets, and that the ONLY way to increase profits is by doing MORE with the existing clients... when your pet is being examined by your vet, and they advise having a dental cleaning,

Just how bad are the teeth – is the degree of dental disease really that significant? One of the major veterinary associations is advising that ANY pet with Grade 1 Gingivitis (mild gum inflammation) have a dental scale and polish. This procedure is at least 300 dollars.
It has risks - your pet would need to be under general anesthetic.
It has high profit margins - the Animal Health Technician or Assistant usually does all the work.

However, a pet with mild gum disease does NOT need this done. You can begin preventive care at home. You could begin to brush your pet’s teeth. You could feed a diet designed to break off some of the plaque and tartar.
This is only one example – although it is the BIGGEST up-sell in Veterinary Medicine today.
Question any recommendation!
Ask if it is absolutely necessary.
Ask about alternate - less costly and sometimes safer - options.

3. Hospitalization Fees:

Your Vet will make A LOT more money if he (or she) can keep your pet in the veterinary hospital. They can charge a fee for the day of hospitalization, plus a fee for re-examining your pet in the morning. Ask to have the Procedure performed while you are there.
Let’s use X-Rays as an example. You and your Vet suspect an arthritic knee, but you want to confirm with X-Rays.

Get the practice to schedule this while you are there and waiting - it doesn’t take long to perform X-Rays. They will likely comply if you only ASK.
And, by being a little bit of a ‘pain in the butt’, you will get better service at a lower price. Your pet will have to spend less time away from you, and you will save money.
Now, doesn’t that sound good to you?

If you haven’t yet checked out my book, you can go to veterinary Secrets Revealed and read about all that it can do to improve your dog or cat’s health.
It's Your Pet - Heal Them At Home!

This article was made possible courtesy of Dr Andrew Jones..

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