Why Is My Vet Bill So Expensive?

Posted by Stacey Venzel

By comparing human and animal doctor visits, we reach a better understanding of why the vet bill can be so high.

The total price of a trip to the vet can add up quickly, which is why many owners these days are opting to invest in pet insurance. Most people treat their pets like children, and so it's disconcerting when they scoff at the vet bill, considering the individualized care that just went into treating their loved one. And considering pets are receiving the same type of care humans get, but still at a pocket price compared to human doctor visits.

But money is money, and no one likes to have to pay for things.

You're not alone if you've ever stared at a veterinary estimate and crossed things off left and right. In the world of animal care, the client has the right to a signed estimate before proceeding with the appointment. But before you start declining things simply due to cost, let's break down why your vet bill might be high.

 1. Veterinarian Credentials

How many plaques are on the wall at your veterinarian's office? Are there a lot of letters after the vet's name? If so, your pay is helping cover tremendous schooling debt, along with training that got your practitioner to the point he or she is at today.

Your money is going toward the knowledge and experience of the veterinarian you choose. Quality care will cost more.


 2. State-of-the-Art Facility

A grungy clinic is no place for any one to be, human or pet. Not only is cleanliness important, but the equipment should also be taken into account when choosing a veterinarian.

Do you want your animal to have available the most modern treatment options? You can usually get an idea of whether or not your vet bill will be on the upper end by your first impression of the building itself.

As an example, digital x-ray machines take years to pay off compared to old school radiology machines. Add in an ultrasound and dental suite and, whoa, hello loans.

 3. Services Offered

Does the practice offer just preventative care? How about reactive care? Is an emergency service available? House calls? In-house diagnostics? Specialists? The more options for you in one place, the higher the bill will be.

Most veterinary hospitals don't have an oncologist, cardiologist, ophthalmologist, dermatologist, and acupuncturist in the same practice, so when they do, expect the best. And for your wallet to be significantly lighter.

Brian Walker/Flickr
Brian Walker/Flickr

 4. Emergency Care

In an emergency situation, staff are often called in after hours to assist with trauma. When the case involves a life or death response, risks are at stake which means fast-paced, smart decision-making, a skill that deserves to have a fee in and of itself. Even when the pet doesn't make it in the end, you can be assured that your animal's best interest was at heart, and, most often, the vet team did all they could.

Many owners expect a discount on their bill when they don't see the outcome they hoped for. No one wants to talk about money at a time of death, but you don't get out of paying for someone's funeral, so you're not going to get out of paying the vet bill.

It sucks, but medicine doesn't always turn out in your favor.

 5. Size of the Practice

Corporate veterinary practices can usually offer cheaper prices than a private practice. One simple explanation for this is because small entrepreneurial businesses get taxed much higher. Also take into account how many employees are at the clinic. Remember, the bill has to pay everyone's salary.

Additionally, more doctors and technicians means more opportunity to bounce ideas off of co-workers. A lot of teamwork happens behind closed doors, so the more minds involved at a practice, the more knowledge in the bucket--and the higher the vet bill.

Stacey Venzel
Stacey Venzel

 6. Public Perception

What is the clinic's image in the eyes of its clients? Does it have good reviews? Positive feedback goes a long way in setting a standard, ensuring the client is paying for quality care--and, therefore, can expect a higher pet bill.

All that being said, pets are expensive. Puppies eat things, lots of things. Cats get in cat fights. Exotic animals contract exotic diseases.

If you're thinking about bringing an animal family member into the household, it's important to first prioritize your finances. You might already have an emergency fund saved up for everyone under the roof, but now you'll have one more lovable companion that could need a back-up plan.

People love pets, and pets love their people. And we all want the best for our pets. But as much as you might want a loyal creature by your side, it could just not be in the cards financially. If this is the case, you have other options.

Make your co-workers bring their dogs to the office. Use your friends for their pets (we've all done it). Petsit as frequently as possible. Or have a career change so that you get to play with animals all day!

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Why Is My Vet Bill So Expensive?