Why Is Veterinary Medicine So Expensive?

Clients often express their concerns to me about why veterinary medicine is so expensive.  And you know what, I agree with them, it is expensive.  However, in this article, I hope to tell you why it is so expensive, and in actuality, I think you may see that veterinary medicine can actually be considered a bargain.

Veterinary hospitals function just like regular human hospitals.  We are available to treat just about any type of problem a pet might have.  We have outpatient clinics (for wellness exams and minor health issues), yet we also maintain a full service hospital facility, enabling animals to be admitted as inpatients.  Therefore, we need the same equipment that is maintained at a human hospital.  We maintain a full surgical suite, a radiology department, a fully stocked pharmacy, and a laboratory to run blood samples at a moment’s notice.  We even have a dental practice within our hospital.  Unfortunately, all this cutting edge equipment costs money (lots of it), and we are only able to acquire and maintain this equipment by the fees we charge. 

Veterinary medicine, like human medicine, is a rapidly changing and growing field.  As professionals, we  have spent at least eight years in undergraduate and veterinary school, and oftentimes internships and residencies have extended our education as well.  Because the public demands the very best for their pets, we must keep abreast of new developments and technologies in veterinary medicine.   Not only are we constantly upgrading our diagnostic equipment, but we must continue to expand our knowledge as well.  We regularly attend seminars, lectures, and continuing education meetings so that we can learn about these new developments and continue providing cutting edge care for your pets.   Again, these needs are met solely by the fees we charge.

How many of you have actually seen a bill from a human hospital stay?  Hospital bills often run into thousands of dollars, and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars.  However, most of us who have health insurance only pay a small copayment to receive service.  You could literally have  your broken leg fixed for just a $15 copayment.  In veterinary medicine, the cost to provide these services are almost exactly the same as it is for human medicine.  We perform the same procedures, use the same equipment, run the same blood tests, and use the same drugs, yet it cost about 10-100 times less in animals than it does in people.  Although it may seem expensive to fix your pet’s broken leg, it is a real bargain compared to the costs in people.

Do you remember the last time you hired a plumber or electrician, had some home improvement work done, or took your car into the shop for some needed repairs?  When they gave you their bill,  I’m sure you didn’t realize how expensive these services were.  Yet, they provided a much needed service to  you, and charged appropriately for that service.  Now imagine that same fee being paid to care for your beloved pet, a family member that brings such joy to you.  I’d say that was a real bargain.  And did you know that  an experienced licensed plumber or electrician have approximately the same income as a veterinarian? 

Lastly, one of the hard truths is that a veterinary hospital is a business, and to remain available to properly care for your pets, we must run a successful business.  Just like any other business, we have many costs to pay, such as rent, utilities, taxes, licensing fees, and insurance, to name a few.  We must hire competent staff to care for your pets, and we must pay competitive salaries, health insurance and other benefits, so that we can attract a high quality staff to care for your pets.  And because we are a full-service hospital, the overhead costs to equip, maintain, and staff the facility is much greater than other small businesses.  The only way  that we can stay in business, allowing us to expertly care for your pets, is to charge an appropriate fee.

So you are correct, veterinary medicine is expensive.  But I think in many ways, it is a real bargain.  There is real value to the fees that you pay.  Our pets are living creatures that give so much to us, and are important  members of our families.  They are invaluable to us.  They are priceless.  For the love and joy they give to us – they are worth every penny!