I have debated about writing an article on this topic for quite a long time. I wasn’t sure how it would be received by pet owners and even my colleagues. It won’t be a touchy, feely story about a pet. It won’t be an informative article about a disease you need to be aware of regarding your pet. It will be an article talking a little bit about the business of owning a veterinary hospital.
When I was a younger veterinarian it used to really bother me when pet owners thought I was just in the profession to make money. This comment most often came after their pet needed a treatment they couldn’t afford. They would get mad and say, “I thought you were supposed to love animals.” Well, it doesn’t really bother me anymore. I would like to announce right now to all of you that I am in this profession to help pet owners take care of their pets and in order to do that I have to make money. In order to run a veterinary hospital, I have to make money.
I can think of a couple obvious reasons pet owners could come to the conclusion that veterinarians are overcharging for products and services. The one that veterinarians get most upset about is the seemingly non-stop commercials by an on-line pharmacy that basically says, “Quit paying your veterinarian so much for products for your pet. Buy them from us. We are less expensive and will send them directly to your house.” Before buying from this company, please check with your veterinarian. The prices through this online pharmacy are usually about the same price as your veterinarian. Plus, when purchased through your veterinarian the manufacturers often have special deals or rebates making it even less expensive.
Believe it or not, this on-line pharmacy is truly just in it for the money. The money made from these products helps enable veterinarians to keep their doors open, pay staff, buy equipment to better care for your pets, and go to continuing education meetings to learn new ways to care for your pet. The price you pay is about the same, it is just a matter of who you want to get the money. Do you want the money to go to your local veterinarian so that they can be there for your pet when there is an emergency or illness? Or do you want the money to go to an on-line pharmacy so they can make money and put even more commercials on television?
Another topic brought up is the fact that pharmacies charge only $4 for prescriptions so veterinarians are obviously charging way too much. Actually, the opposite is true. The big pharmacies are charging too little hoping to get you in the door so you will buy all their other stuff. They are using their pharmacy service to make money by getting traffic through their store. It seems like they are in it for the money too! These prescriptions are for generic medicines developed for people. Veterinarians are being told that if available we are supposed to use medicines specifically developed for and approved for pets. These are medications with studies showing their absorption and effectiveness specifically in pets. If there isn’t a pet approved medication available, then we can use other medications, but it is considered an off-label use. This is a huge challenge for veterinarians as we try to find a way to balance more affordable ways to treat pets with the rules and regulations we are required to follow.
Veterinarians spend a lot of time researching new medications and shopping for the most economical way for our clients to effectively treat their pets. Currently, veterinarians need the money generated from these products to keep our doors open. Without this income, we will be forced to raise other prices on services to make up the difference. I can’t sum things up any better than that.
I am truly sorry this isn’t a warm, fuzzy story about a cute puppy or kitten. That is much more fun to write about. I will try to do better for my next article, but for this week it is just business.
Dr. Chad E. Higgins has owned Amanda Animal Hospital east of Spencerville for the last 16 years. He helps owners care for dogs, cats, ferrets, and anything other furry little critters.