Yes, I’m a Veterinarian. No, I’m Not Trying to Rip You Off.

That bill for your dog’s surgery isn’t going toward new tires for my Jeep. Veterinary costs are no joke, and they pay for the stellar care we give your pet.

Veterinary costs go toward creating the best environment in which professionals can care for your pet. By: evocateur
Veterinary fees go toward creating the best environment in which professionals can care for your pet. By: evocateur

Sometimes people who have pets say the craziest things. Well, crazy probably sums it up for most of us, veterinarians included. And crazy in love with our crazy-infected-with-love pets, right? Could we love them any more than we already do? I don’t think it’s possible.

So why do people say things that make veterinarians feel like we are not worth the services we provide?

I think I know the answer.

People are probably so nervous about the money they might have to spend, or the welfare of their pet, or all of those mangled emotions in between the pet, the outcome and the money that they simply say some odd things, like: “I guess I just paid for your kid’s college tuition.”

Here’s another fave: “I guess I just got that Jeep of yours a new set of tires.”

Reality Strikes

These comments about a veterinarian’s personal vehicles or children’s college bills are not meant to be hurtful, but they also are not based in reality.

Most of us vets were still trying to pay our own veterinary tuition bills off when our kids entered college. And as far as car parts go, my tires were always put on credit cards — along with the rest of my car repairs.

But this is not a “woe is me” story. It’s kind of a “What’s up with that kind of comment?” story.

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Veterinarians want to help your pet live a full, long life. By: 42dreams
Veterinarians want to help your pet live a full, long life. By: 42dreams

Services Rendered

I place myself in the category of service professionals. Like plumbers, mechanics or physicians, we offer a professional service, and veterinary costs are not fixed.

Like a plumber, we can tell you what something is probably going to cost. Estimates are incredibly important. But, also like those of a plumber, our services do not carry an exact price tag, like a set of sheets at T.J.Maxx. Rather than buying dry goods, you are buying our professional service and expertise.

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Show a Little Respect

As with the electrical services I just paid for, the septic engineer who helped me out with a “crappy” problem and the locksmith who got me out of a locked-up jam, I paid for services rendered. I did not tell my respected service personnel that I was paying for their tires and tuition.

When a dog gets hit by a car and a veterinarian performs an extensive hip surgery so that Howler will be out of pain and able to walk again, his people paid for a job well done. But some say they were paying for tires and tuition.

When a raccoon almost ate a cat’s leg off and a veterinarian saved Doobie’s leg and his life, most people would be thankful for a job well done, but some say they were paying for tires and tuition.

This video offers some helpful ways to reduce veterinary costs:

What You’re Really Paying For

So what do veterinary costs cover?

  • You are paying for the equipment that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to diagnose your dog’s kidney failure or your cat’s ketoacidosic diabetic crisis in an hour.
  • You are paying for the IV pump and the IV fluids that got your cat through necrotizing pancreatitis.
  • You are paying for the digital radiography that diagnosed your dog’s intestinal obstruction.
  • You are paying for the staff that cleaned up — after hours, mind you — your animal’s vomit and bloody diarrhea.
  • You are paying for the anesthesia machine that gave your dog relief while removing 1,000 porcupine quills at 4 a.m.
  • You are paying for the cost of veterinary medicine, diagnostics and surgery. We can’t charge you above and beyond the true cost of things. I can’t, at least.

Bad Return on Investment

Veterinary medicine today is considered a bad ROI, financial lingo for “return on investment.” It means if you want to go to veterinary school today, you will have a hard time paying your own school loans back, let alone any of your children’s tuition.

And those children? You’re going to have to find time to have them and raise them since you will be working very, very hard during your childbearing years.

The vast majority of people appreciate the service they receive from their doctors, veterinarians and the service people who help them with their homes and their vehicles. When someone makes a comment about paying for tires and tuition, I don’t believe it’s meant to be nasty. It’s just that the very cost of living a full life today, particularly with pets, costs a lot of money.

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This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was last reviewed Oct. 21, 2015.

Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD

View posts by Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD
Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD, is a small animal and exotics veterinarian who has split her time between a veterinary practice in Pelham, Massachusetts, and her studio in New York City. Dr. Lichtenberg is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine with 30 years of experience. Her special interests are soft tissue surgery and oncology.

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