By Frances Wilkerson, DVM
Why is pet health care so expensive?
The cost of veterinary medicine has been steadily rising over the past several years. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, veterinary costs have risen 64 percent from January 1998 to December 2006. This increase is largely due to the technological advances in veterinary medicine over the years. Expensive procedures such as chemotherapy, MRI scans, digital radiography and orthopedic surgery, which were once only found in human medicine, are now common place in veterinary medicine.
These advanced procedures are extremely helpful when diagnosing or treating a pet, but the cost of the materials and equipment used in these procedures is very high. The cost of these procedures for humans is also high, and to expect it to be any different in veterinary medicine is unrealistic..
Another reason for the increase in pet health care costs is the growing use of veterinary specialists. Such specialists spend an extra 3 to 5 years (after graduating from veterinary school) in a rigorous education and training program to become board certified in their field of study. This extra 3 to 5 years is known as a residency program. The concept of board certified specialists in veterinary medicine is the same concept as a residency program and board certification in human medicine. Areas of specialty include cardiology, dentistry, neurology, surgery, ophthalmology, oncology, anesthesiology, and radiology. You would expect to pay more for a specialist in human medicine; there is no reason to expect that to be different in veterinary medicine.
Some attribute the increase in pet health care costs to greed. However, take some time to look up the average income for a veterinarian using the Bureau of Labor and Statistics website and Payscale.com. Then compare this number to the average annual salary of a human physicians practicing primary care and to the average income for the nation. The average income for a veterinarian is not as much as most people think.
What pet health care actually costs?
The truth of the matter is the cost of veterinary medicine varies depending on where you live, the medical condition being treated, and level of care you seek for your pet. The low to mid costs can be anywhere from $250 to $4500. High-end procedures and care can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000.
To get an idea of the type of fees you can expect in your area, ask your vet to help you figure out the low, mid, and high-end bills you could encounter.