What you get with that $50 office visit at the vet's

Patty Khuly, DVM
By Patty Khuly, DVM on Sep. 28, 2009
What you get with that $50 office visit at the vet's

The average price of a veterinary office visit in the US is right around $50. I’ve seen them as high as $250 for specialists and emergency hospitals and as low as $0 at places where the office visit is beside the point (as when vaccines, drugs, tests and procedures are all that get priced).

Most general practitioners like me, however, tend to price themselves somewhere between $25 and $75 for the basic visit. Here in Miami, my practice of employment charges $48 for a regular visit and $25 for follow-ups or “brief” exams. I’ll also charge $65 for a lengthier consultation (such as for a second opinion). And I think that’s fair. But not everyone agrees.

Before walking into our office, plenty of prospective clients like to call around and determine the price of the basic exam. For some, it’s a metric of what they might expect to spend in years to come should they avail themselves of your services. Makes sense...but not always.

Interestingly, the price of the office visit is sometimes a low-ball figure, one specifically designed to get you in the door. I happen to think it’s a disingenuous marketing ploy in most cases, but I get why some low-income veterinary service providers might want to lower the barriers to entry for economically disadvantaged owners who might otherwise balk at the high price for a “simple look-see.”

But that gets me to my next point: An office visit should not be a “simple look-see.” Rather, it should always come with a full physical attached. If we don’t perform a full physical, it should be because 1) the pet has been seen in recent weeks, 2) is well known to us, and 3) the exam consists of a simple, isolated issue. Should all these criteria be met, I would hardly expect the owner to shoulder the full exam fee. I call these “brief” exams, as for recurrent checks on chronic ear infections or simple lump checks for frequent visitors.

For the elements of a “full physical exam,” check out this post on today’s PetMD DailyVet blog.

Moreover, the exam should also involve a history-taking. In other words, the veterinarian should be asking you questions about the pet’s status. As in, “any coughing, sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, inappetance?” etc., along with “What does your pet eat? How are her bowel movements? What’s her exercise routine? Does she take any medications? Has she been taking her heartworm meds?” Deeper probing should accompany any abnormalities and deviations from what your vet recommends.

These elements are what warrant an exam fee. And I would always expect you to demand the full physical and history-taking along with having your questions satisfactorily answered. Anything less and you might think about seeing another vet...IMNSHO.

What does your vet charge? Is it fair?...And are YOU getting what your pet deserves?

Patty Khuly, DVM


Patty Khuly, DVM


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