Are Your Vet Bills Being Padded?

"They charged how much for that?" Vet bills sometimes have not-so-good surprises for unsuspecting pet owners.

Veterinary Exams

Most vets have your pet's best interest in mind. However, some animal doctors may go the extra mile to try to push services or procedures an animal may not need during an examination.

For example, a vet may be examining a kitten's mouth, notice he or she has fishy breath, and states the cat has juvenile gingivitis and should have his or her teeth brushed at the office. What the good doctor may fail to tell a pet owner is that brushing a cat's teeth takes more than kitty toothpaste and a brush. Some animals, like cats, may need to be sedated to have their teeth cleaned. So not only is one paying for the toothbrush and paste, but the medications to sedate the cat, the vet assistant's time and the time it may take a cat to recover at the vet's office from the sedation. In the end, the cat's breath is still fishy and the pet owner learns he or she could have brushed the cat's teeth with products found at the local pet store for a fraction of the cost.

Common Complaints from Pet Owners

A complaint many pet owners have about a visit to the vet is the cost of medications. A vet may sell medications to a pet owner desperate to help their "baby" feel better quickly. What the pet owner may not realize is that this medication could have been purchased at a pet store, a pet pharmaceutical company or distributer or even a local pharmacy, for substantially less money.

Another complaint consumers have reported is paying for unnecessary diagnostic procedures, such as x-rays, which may involve a charge for sedation, the x-ray film and development of the film. A veterinarian should always consent with a pet owner about his or her plan of action. A pet owner always has the right to seek a second opinion.

If a veterinarian suggests a service, test or procedure your pet could benefit from, ask questions.

  • Is the action recommended really necessary?
  • What may happen if it is not done?
  • Can I provide this service to my pet in the comfort of my home?
  • What is involved in the idea the vet is suggesting?
  • How much will this action cost?
  • What other charges will there be?
  • How much will the same thing cost me elsewhere?

Pet Insurance

Pet insurance, which can help pay for an animal's medical expenses, is becoming more and more popular. Is it worth getting pet insurance? Yes and no: it depends on the age and breed of an animal.

It may be cheaper in the long run for some pet owners to set aside a certain amount of money every month, to use in case a pet needs medical attention, rather than pay a monthly premium, a deductible, and co-pays.

Not all veterinarians are out to cheat a pet owner out of his or her money. However, vets do run a business that needs to be maintained. Many vets use the profits of their practice to purchase better equipment for their patients or to pay off medical school debts, which can cost up to $80,000 or more. If charges on a bill seem frivolous, ask about them. When asked, a pet care provider may be willing to negotiate the price of a service with a pet owner to ensure loyalty and customer satisfaction.