The “Why do veterinary services cost so much?” is a question that I hear occasionally from friends, clients and even family! This blog will hopefully shed some light on the behind the scenes world of the veterinary practice.
I got an inkling of the perceptual discord between what non-veterinary staff think veterinarians earn and the realty when I was visiting some of my Dartmouth and Halifax friends and chatting over a game of Settlers of Catan. I asked what they thought the average veterinarian makes and they guessed twice my salary! We talked a bit about the business side of Full Circle Vet practice; I have to be able to pay my employees, my rent, for my equipment and supplies and one would hope to do better than break even. Then we talked a bit about the impact of our public health care system and how insulated we are from the true cost of human medicine and perhaps that affects public perception of veterinary costs.
The public demands high quality veterinary service. You want us to consult with specialists on behalf of your pets; you want digital radiography images; you want access to ultrasound; you want your pet to be monitored with an ECG machine during anaesthesia; you want us to have nursing staff and all night support service; you want timely laboratory test reports. And as veterinarians and veterinary technologists, we strive to deliver that along with care and compassion.
There is a cost to providing those services. The entire staff needs to be paid. Staff costs can be 40-50% of the cost to deliver your pet’s care. Rent or property owning is also a huge expense. Equipment is expensive and factors directly into the cost of delivering a service, for instance a basic X-ray machine may cost 30,000$ and upgrading to digital can range from 24 to 50,000$ additional dollars depending on the system. An underwater treadmill is 30 to 50,000$. An ultrasound machine costs 24 to 30,000$ or more. Biochemistry and CBC laboratory testing machines are in the vicinity of 15 to 20,000$ each and these are often obsolete by the time the five year lease is finished. All this equipment must be maintained as well and we have no foundations raising funds for us. The cost of setting up a new practice is becoming prohibitive for individuals and there is huge pressure inside the industry to amalgamate into large business groups.
Beyond the cost and committement of a minimum of 5 years of university tuition, there are also huge costs for every single special interest that your clinic provides. For example : training to use an ultrasound skillfully and interpret images well, acupuncture training, herbal medicine training, Bowtech certification, certification in Canine Rehabilitation. Just about every one of these areas represented at Full Circle Veterinary Alternatives cost at least 10,000$ to get the education and the people who did the training also spent countless unpaid hours studying and practicing.
And did I mention continuing education? The technologists and the veterinarians have a mandatory minimum number of continuing education hours that they must complete every two years. Anyone with an additional specialization takes on additional requirements for continuing education that may not even count toward their basic license.
I hope you have a little better understanding of some of the challenges of veterinary medicine from the business side. Myself, my colleagues and all the great staff that serve you every day, love what we do and there will be a charge… I would argue a very reasonable cost for the support your pet receives!
Your pet deserves the Full Circle of Veterinary Care!
Our dynamic, passionate and dedicated customer care team wants you to experience inspired, integrated veterinary health care. Our broadly educated veterinarians, technologists and support staff meld conventional veterinary medicine and surgery with diverse special interest fields including: nutrition (commercial and home prepared feeding plans), diagnostic ultrasound, acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, canine rehabilitation, feline focused medicine and more. Take the first step and join us.