I got sucked in by one of those really BAD videos produced [and embarrassingly narrated] by C-grade Wall Street Journal (WSJ) staff for its SmartMoney online affiliate. Geared to telling you how to avoid money traps set by a variety of industries, this one was billed as "What Your Veterinarian Won’t Tell You."
Now, ordinarily I’m all over this kind of thing. The point of this blog, after all, is to tell you what your veterinarian doesn’t have the time or wherewithal to get into during your twenty-minute exam slot. Nonetheless, I’ve got to readily confess to watching most of this SmartMoney video clip with mounting horror.
No, it wasn’t the accent or the poor production quality. It was more the message. Curious? Here are the top three things they say your vet won’t tell you with respect to money:
1. This will cost you
SmartMoney: "…Because we have more elderly pets, we’re spending more on 'high tech procedures.'"
Me: As if your veterinarian wouldn’t provide an estimate. As if it's end of life care that is at the root of the issue. Among other reasons, kidney transplants are cited as one of the reasons for why your vet bill is higher. Never met one yet. And the WSJ is affiliated with this "well researched" crap how?
2. Vaccinations may cause harm
SM: "Some veterinarians believe vaccinations are unnecessary."
Me: Sure, some veterinarians believe vaccinations are unnecessary. But that’s no way to introduce this topic. To do so is irresponsible and smacks of shock journalism. What follows is an increasingly watered down discussion of why your pet’s vaccines should be tailored to your pet’s needs and only very loosely referencing the money issues in question.
3. Skip cosmetic procedures
SM: "Animal activists are against declawing cats and cropping ears."
Me: This is a money-saving tip?
You want a reasonable version of three money-saving tips your veterinarian usually won’t offer you? Here they are:
1. You can buy your drugs and "vet only" products for less, elsewhere. (Just stick to VIPPS-certified pharmacies when you do so.) Drugs and product price increases account for much of the reason your veterinary costs have gone up over the past decade. They’ve grown signficantly faster than vet service costs have.
2. There’s little financial accountability for my negligence. This is a big issue, seeing as lots of the reason you’re paying for complete X-rays and full labwork every time your pet hits the emergency hospital is because we’re stressed into practicing defensive medicine by our profession’s legal fearmongers. Meanwhile, the price of your pet and the cost for the services we’ve rendered is pretty much all that you can collect if we’re derelict in our duties.
All of which is why it's crucial to know how to read between the lines and ask the right questions before signing off on care you might not be able to afford — or worse, euthanizing a pet on the basis of one sky-high estimate. (I've planned a post on this next week, so stay tuned.)
3. Prescription pet foods are "prescription" in name only. Yes, really. It's a marketing ploy designed to keep the veterinarian front and center in the food chain's cloud of middle men.
If the SmartMoney folks were truly going for "smart money" ideas that would really help pet owners, I think they need to strongly consider hiring me the next time. For now, they can consider my three tips a freebie.
Dr. Patty Khuly