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The True Cost of Animal Health Care

Sep 30, 2017

We are all painfully aware of the rising cost of healthcare in the human sector. What many of us don’t see is the true cost associated with our own treatment since these costs are 'hidden" by our system of health insurance and third-party payments. This is in stark contrast to veterinary medicine where less than five percent of all pets are covered by health insurance. Because pet care is still primarily a cash business, the costs of care are more obvious and remain the responsibility of pet owners.

Many of the costs of running a veterinary hospital are identical to the costs of running a human hospital; education, staffing, advanced equipment, and medications are just a few of the costs associated with running a veterinary hospital—repeating this sentence sounds odd since we just said something similar in the first sentence The cost of education for a medical doctor and veterinary doctor are identical and as you can imagine, very costly. In fact, it is harder to gain admission into veterinary school than medical school; there are only 28 schools of veterinary medicine in the entire United States, while there are over 130 medical schools.

In addition, there is the annual cost of continuing education required for all veterinarians. This is mandated by law and includes seminars, conferences, and webinars. Continuing education is critical because it ensures that veterinarians stay current with regard to veterinary medical information.

Most of the equipment used in diagnosing and treating pets is identical to the equipment found in human hospitals. This includes hematology (blood analyzing) equipment, ultrasound machines, EKG monitors, digital radiology, and even linear accelerators used for radiation therapy.

There are also costs that most of us don't even think about—costs for maintaining a safe environment for patients, clients, and the technicians who administer the chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Many of the therapies used are toxic to the environment if used inappropriately or if disposed of improperly. Adhering to all the state and federal regulations is expensive.

Human healthcare costs continue to rise. Business owners are seeing a 17-25% increase in healthcare benefit costs every year. Yet, most veterinarians only increase their fees based upon the cost of living index—if at all. So, while veterinarians and medical doctors share many of the same costs to run their business, veterinarians only charge a fraction of what medical doctors do. Veterinarians are definitely not in this profession for the money.

Medical care for our pets is incredibly important and a very worthwhile investment to help maintain the human-animal bond for as long as possible. While the cost of providing medical care for your pet may seem high, the costs are still less than what we would pay out-of-pocket for the same examinations, diagnostics, and procedures done for ourselves in the human sector.