I’m a veterinarian so I get breaks on animal care. This I know. I operate under no illusion that the dozen backyard-raised eggs––delicious though they might have been––offered fair and just compensation for an expert ultrasound examination earlier this week.

Tulip’s ultrasound this past Monday was an inexpensive affair for me. Meanwhile, the owner of a diabetic patient spent $300 on the very same day when an ultrasound was performed using the very same machine by the very same veterinarian.

In case it isn’t clear, the point of this post is this: Veterinarians save lots on pet care. But just how much isn’t always clear. But while it may vary somewhat, the case is almost always that non-veterinarians think we save a whole lot more than we actually do.

To illustrate the point, here’s my year-end tally for my pet expenses:

  • Dog food: $150/month = $1,800
  • Dog supplements: $15/month = $180
  • Goat food and supplements: $5/day = $1,825
  • Chicken food: $20/month = $240
  • Goat meds and vaccines: $10/month = $120
  • Chicken litter and supplies: $10/month = $120
  • Chicken coop: $500
  • Fencing repairs: $600
  • Stanchion: $150
  • Dog supplies, misc (X-pen, new crate, new mats, etc.): $300
  • Stray cat expenses (spay, neuter, testing and euthanasia supplies): $250
  • Specialist’s lunches/coffee (gotta suck up nicely to get freebies): $200
  • Staff lunches/coffee (more sucking up): $300
  • Dog veterinary drugs and supplies: $250
  • Veterinary laboratory expenses (bloodwork): $200
  • Comfortis: $160
  • Heartgard: $60
  • Total: $7,255

That’s $7,255. Lots of cash, right? And that’s for mostly healthy animals. OK, so what did I get for “free” this year? Hmmm...

  • One surgery on Slumdog (OK, two if you count the screw removal).
  • Veterinary services on the ultrasound
  • Veterinary services on Slumdog’s recovery from street life (derm consultation, etc.)
  • Discounts on meds and supplies (almost none on foods)

So how much did I save? Given the obvious (that I never would have gone for Slumdog’s surgery unless I had the “in” with the veterinary surgeon boyfriend), I’ll move the surgical procedure off the list, discount the specialist and staff sucking up and estimate I saved about $1,000 to $1,500. No small change, but not the kind of savings you might expect, right? And when you factor in what I still pay for my student loans the "free" on some of those veterinary services is probably not an accurate description.

Here’s where I’m starting to think that getting pet insurance might deserve a slot on my New Year’s resolution list.