Here's a hot topic - the cost of veterinary medicine. Dr Riggs calls it as it is from his perspective.
Where is the wing with my name on it? Vets are so expensive!
I have always wondered why people think vets should do things cheaply or charge nothing at all for some things. Shouldn’t we make a good living? So where is the wing? Sorry, we wanted to draw up those plans, but the money went to pay for the electric, or phone, or salaries, or benefits, I don’t know which, but sorry no wing.
Veterinary medicine… are you sitting down as this will come as a shock to some, but... veterinary medicine is a business.
Yes… we all love animals, we really do, but we are like any small business, we do need to make money to survive. We need to make money to be able to diagnose and treat your pets in a professional manner. When we pay our bills to the electric company or our mortgage company, I try to tell them we are very nice people, who care for your pets, and they should cut us a break, but, they don’t really care. They just want our money.
Oh, how it would be nice to practice where we do what is necessary to make a correct diagnosis, do the right treatment without worrying about what people can afford or want to spend on their animal. We often need to pick and choose which test to do, based strictly on economics, rather then what is medically prudent. Sometimes we pick correctly and sometimes we don’t. When the tests come back normal (which is what we really want), I often get “I paid all that money for nothing!?” Hmm.
Let’s talk about the economics of veterinary medicine. The average veterinary student left the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine in 2012 with a debt near $200,000. This is after 8 or more years of their life working toward their life goal of being a veterinarian. Ready for the world, here they go, and then reality hits them. The starting salary for a new vet is between $45,000 to $65,000. Contrast that to a dentist $100,000-120,000, a pharmacist $100,000 and a physician $100,000 to 200,000 +. Most young vets will be paying off their debt for 30 years or more.
Does this sound like a way to become wealthy? Is it wrong for vets to be like anyone else and make a decent living, especially after to sacrifices of all those years?
Then comes your pet’s flea and tick and heartworms meds. 1800 Petmeds want you believe vets are money grabbing horrible people, and they assure you their products are just the same as the ones you get at the vets. That would be wrong and wrong.
Vets do make money on the meds they sell. That is true. That is one reason the average vet office visit is $46. The average family practice physician’s office call was $194 in 2009. If vets lose the medication revenue, guess what, our office calls will approach the cost of your physician’s, because our expenses are the same and we need to generate revenue to pay for those expenses, just like any other business. It is just a matter of dollars and cents. [Oh… btw, the products that 1800PetMeds or any of the other internet companies sell, are not the same, and they do not come from the manufacturers. Surprised? Read up my prior post on the subject]
So in closing, I just want everyone to know vets, as a group are some of the nicest, most caring people you will meet. Please give us a break. We just want what everyone else does, a chance to make a good living doing something we love. I also want to have veterinary medicine continue as a profession, and not just a job. In order to supply the pet owning public with the professional care their pets deserve, a price must be paid. In a business, when the revenue does not meet your expenses, things need to be deleted and that is where professional care suffers. That is where professions convert to jobs, where people are just looking for the cheapest price. After saying all of this, the pet owning public deserves a value for the money spent. “Demand” that from your vet.
Finally we all need to remember owning a pet is a privilege, not a right. A pet owner has the responsibility to care for that pet properly, and if you can’t, then don’t own a pet until you can afford it.
Other posts by Dr Riggs
Dr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.
Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.