The Cost of Pet Health

Pet Care
Pet owners often underestimate the cost of pet care, and more so when a medical or emergency situation arises.
When the average Canadian sets out on the path of adding a furry friend to their family, they think the typical food, vaccinations, spay or neuter, grooming should be a handful of dollars of an investment at best per year.
In actuality:

Your Dog: The life expectancy of a dog varies by breed, but in North America you can expect your dog to be your companion on average of about 13 years. Based on Ontario Veterinary Medical Association calculations, owning a 40-pound dog for 13 years will cost more than $28,700.

Your Cat: Like dogs, cats’ life spans vary. The average house cat lives for 13 to 17 years. Using OVMA’s statistics, a 10-pound cat that lives to 15-years-old will cost more than $24,000 in vet bills, food and other costs.

Dr. Mitelman and Dr. Samson of Kingston Road Animal Hospital/Vets Toronto have both seen many clients in their years of practice struggling with emotionally charged financial decisions on moving forward with treatments with the actual high costs of quality medical care for their pets. Being business partners and running not only a daytime clinic, but a 24 hour emergency clinic, that is fully equipped as a hospital setting, they have seen the struggle owners face when their pet becomes ill and have been targets to client feedback:

“Vets are only in it to take my money, they don’t care about my pet”

“Why do you charge so much for x-ray’s and ultra sounds, my human Doctor doesn’t charge me like this?”
“Run expensive tests?  You’re a Doctor, just tell me what’s wrong with my pet, without running tests” 
Pet owners need to understand that when it comes to pet medical care, especially emergency care it can’t be compared to human care.  We are fortunate as Canadians to have an outstanding health care system, where we are rarely aware of the costs of MRI’s, Ultra Sounds, X-Ray’s, even blood work.  While human medical costs are covered under our health care system; including hospital overhead, staff, facilities, equipment and maintenance, our pets don’t have that luxury, unless you’ve stayed a step ahead and have purchased pet medical insurance.

It’s also crucial to remember the next time you want to condemn a Veterinarian about the cost of your pets medical care, like human doctors; Veterinarians have invested a lifetime of schooling, as well as facility and equipment expense out of pocket to care for your pets that aren’t funded by any government agencies.

A vet clinic is also like any other for profit business, and must maintain a positive bottom line. Sound harsh to you?  Maybe, but it’s a reality.  Like any other business, vets have bills to pay; clinic mortgage or rent, electricity, gas, equipment (a single x-ray machine alone can range from 40,000 – 100,000), staff to pay (staff in the vet world are typically severely underpaid vs. the quality of work they assist with.  A typical vet tech is paid between 10.00 and 18.00 per hour and carries very similar responsibilities that a human nurse would have, yet nurses range in pay scale from 20.00 to 35.00 per hour).  Why aren’t vet technicians paid more in the industry?  Clinics would have to raise their prices to afford to pay them more.

The Vets must be taking home all the money right?  Wrong!  A Veterinarian can have a salary ranging anywhere from 50,000 per year to upwards of 110,000 depending on years of experience and expertise.  What do comparable professions generate for salary:

Family Doctor: 75,000 – 250,000
Dentist: 60,000 – 200,000
Surgeon: 70,000 – 350,000
Oncologist: 100,000 – 300,000

Let’s add to that that Veterinarians are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than the general person on the street and twice as likely than others in the health industry according to a recent British study and backed up by studies in the USA, Australia and Europe.  Women Veterinarians, and women in general, are at a far higher risk to anxiety and depression, and studies have proven that female Veterinarians are even at a higher rate of suicide than male Veterinarians. Add to that a 14+ hour work day, grief counselling appointment after appointment to clients emotionally distraught over their pets, taking lives daily as clients can not afford treatment, and a severe lack of family and work balance.  A sad reality of the Veterinarian profession.

The next time you want to debate the high cost of your pet’s bill, we urge you to keep some of these facts in mind.  It’s also suggested you be proactive in your pet’s health and consider pet insurance, or put aside an average of 30.00 a month in case of a pet emergency, and establish a relationship with your Veterinarian (though clinics rarely offer payment plans, this may be an option if you know your Vet well through regular visits), speak to family and friends before an emergency and know when to draw the line when it comes to life saving costs for your pet so they can support you through this difficult decision if needed.

In summary, everyone sympathizes with those facing a high vet bill. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if Veterinarians could just save every single life that walked through their door without a concern over ability to pay and not a care in the world about their business bottom line?  Sadly that’s not the world we live in, so please keep all of this in mind the next time you want to scream murder from every rooftop about the cost of your animal care.


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