85 per cent of vets report that they or a member of their staff has been threatened by customers angry at the cost of treatment. This suggests that many people feel that vets’ fees are unfair. But are they?
There’s no doubt that veterinary treatment can be expensive but that doesn’t make the charges unfair. However, vets fees are not regulated. It’s an open market where competition should, in theory, ensure that prices are kept at a sensible level. If you are not happy with your vet you can simply go elsewhere.
The Dishonest Vet
In reality, the situation is a little more complicated than that. Two vets may be charging around the same amount for any given treatment. But pet owners have to rely on their vets being honest about what treatments are actually required. An unscrupulous vet could recommend all sorts of expensive procedures and tests. How do you know if these are necessary?
You should always question your vet and ask them to explain why they are recommending certain treatments and what the alternatives are. If you suspect that you are being conned, seek a second opinion.
The Costs of Running a Veterinary Practice
The truth is that most vets are perfectly honest and do have the best interests of your pets at heart. Their fees are high because they must cover not just their own time but also the cost of the veterinary nurses, receptionists and other support staff.
Vets also need to fund the cost of the equipment they use and will have the usual business expenses including rent, rates, accountancy fees, payment terminals, heating, light and insurance. 20% of their fees will be handed to straight to the government as VAT.
How Much do Vets Earn?
A vet’s income is generally 20% or less of the fees that they charge. If vets worked for free, pet owners would still have to pay around 80% of what they do now. The cost of healthcare is high. Perhaps because human healthcare in the UK is ostensibly free, we are shielded from the true cost. Of course, healthcare isn’t really free, we pay for it via our taxes.
There’s a myth that vets earn small fortunes. The reality is that even experienced vets generally earn far less than doctors and dentists. Vets have to study for five years at University to gain their qualifications. If the rewards were too low, we would soon have a shortage of vets. It should also be noted that the pressures of running a veterinary practice can be immense. The suicide rate amongst vets is four times the national average.
How to Mitigate Your Costs
If you are concerned about the cost of veterinary treatment for your pet, there are a couple of things that you should consider. Pet insurance will mean that you are not faced with a huge bill should your animal require surgery or any other major treatment. However, most policies will not cover existing conditions or vaccinations. You can also buy most drugs online and these are generally available at much lower prices than your vet will be able to offer. You might still have to pay a small fee for a prescription, but the savings should still be significant.