by Gigi McWhirter
One of the hardest things for those of us in the veterinary field happens when an owner says he or she cannot afford health care for their pets — and then gets angry and say things like, “All you think about is the money!” To be honest, we do think about the money, but not in the way we are being accused of.
We, just like those of you who own your own business or go to work as an employee, do want to get paid. Also, like our customers, we want to get paid for the same reasons they do. Money received for the care of animals is dispersed to pay for the building, utilities, the products we use for treatment, doctors and staff, food, gas, rent, health insurance — just to name a few.
Veterinarians just coming out of vet school, which by the way is about eight years of college, are usually bound to pay student loans from $144,000-$200,000. Most vets do not enter the field expecting to get “rich” as far as money is concerned; they get their “riches” by being able to help take care of animals through all stages of life or in specialty fields. The average wage for a vet coming out of school is about $70,000. It doesn’t take a financial genius to figure the math on that debt-to-earnings ratio.
Those of us on the support side of an animal practice are not only trained in our area but are also cross-trained to work in different parts of the hospital or clinic. We often use our time to help clients find financial options or assistance.
Once a doctor has completed a physical exam on your pet, he or she will, if needed, develop a treatment plan. Plans can also be an estimate of future costs and are designed to be flexible enough to work with your budget.
A lot of veterinary practices have developed annual pet care packages to help with the cost of care for animals. There are packages for puppies and kittens that include all the vaccinations needed during the first year of life; exams, fecal testing, spay or neuter, and skin or ear cytologies. Owners may elect to put their adult or senior pets on packages that include dental and lab work like a Valley fever test or a basic CBC.
The nice thing about these packages, is that, in the case of dental, the owner may not have to pay the cost of the dental on dental day because the payments are spread throughout the year. Please consult with your favorite vet office to see if it has plans available for your pets.
Most offices do not have in-house billing or insurance departments so payment is due at the time of service. Talk to the doctor’s office staff, technicians or assistants about credit options including CareCredit or Scratchpay. If you can, call a friend or family member to see if they can help. Should your pet have insurance, you more than likely will have to submit the claim yourself for direct reimbursement. Once again, have this discussion with your vet’s office staff.
Veterinarian hospitals and clinics do not receive public assistance, and there are not indigent care plans available for animals. And even though pets are considered family, unfortunately, they cannot be written off our individual taxes – the exception may be a certified service animal – however, you should have that discussion with a tax specialist.
Remember, having a loving pet makes you rich, no matter how much or how little money and stuff you have.
Happy Tails to you!