Friday, October 23, 2009

You get what you pay for - pet health care is no exception

Transcript of personal comment of this episode of The Web-DVM:

In my personal comment today, I want to touch on a recent clearly evident shift in veterinary medicine, where we are finding ourselves increasingly less involved in preventive health care, with the paradigm having moved to where sick patients are representing a much greater percentage of our overall caseload. In a still troubling economic climate, many pet owners have either foregone preventive health care altogether, or have chosen to go to so called discount clinics, where they can get spays, neuters, and vaccines at bargain basement prices.

It is the latter that I want to focus on today, where health care is just like anything else: you usually get what you pay for. With regard to vaccines, inside anonymous sources have indicated that many of these discount clinics do not select their vaccines based on their being the best and safest, but instead coerce the veterinary pharmaceuticals into bidding wars, where the lowest bidder wins their account. As one may expect, the lowest bidder often tends to be a company that has a less than stellar track records with vaccine effectiveness, quality control, and safety.

Regarding spays and neuters, I have been informed by former staff of some of these places, that they save money by using one surgical instrument pack for multiple patients, rather than have a freshly cleaned, sterilized pack for each individual patient. I have been informed that they use outdated and less tolerated anesthetics and stitching materials because they are cheap, do not utilize the best quality and safest pain management medications, or even forgo pain medication altogether.

Finally, because the doctors of these clinics work with such volume, there are reports that some do not take the time to scrub between surgeries, nor cap, mask, or gown for each surgery, opting instead to simply change gloves.

I can clearly sympathize with people wishing to save money wherever they can in these trying economic times, but if you consider your pet a cherished family member as most of our subscribers and viewers do, saving by utilizing discount spay/neuter/vaccine clinics may not be the best place to save a buck.
Reputable full service veterinary clinics do not skimp on anesthetics, suture materials, advanced monitoring equipment, and quality vaccines. We utilize the gold standard pain management protocols and medicines, have a freshly sterilized surgical pack for each individual patient, and scrub, cap, mask, and gown for each surgery.
For me, compromising this standard of care to slash costs in order to get greater volume in my practice is not worth the price that my patients could pay, and the degree to which my conscience would suffer.

So I caution that the next time you may consider using a discount spay/neuter/vaccine clinic, that if it seems to good to be true, it probably is. Good medicine costs more, and for me, good medicine is not negotiable.


pw1974 said...

One year I was strapped for cash and used one of those places - man, what a mistake! My dogs got their vaccines, hearworm test, and stool tests, but no veterinarian even examined them! Technicians did everything methodically and barely even spoke to me. I felt like my dogs and I were just a number, shuffled in, shuffled out, take your money, see you later. It was like a fast food place for pet health care. I always thought it was illegal for techs to give vaccines or for a pet to get vaccine without even being examined by a vet.

Anyway, never went there again. You really do get what you pay for.

catgirl said...

Oh, I ave been to one of "those places" as well. The prices were rediculously low, about half the cost of my regular vet. BUT . . . my animals were actually seen by a vet, but she gave the most brief and uninvolved exams I have ever seen, barely glanced up to acknowlege that I was even in the room, gave the vaccines, said have a nice day and walked out. No coments as to whether or not me pets were healthy, no notes written down, just "see ya later."

THEN . . . 3 months later, one of my cats got a tooth abscess because his teeth were in horrible condition. Now teeth do not get infected overnight. But because that vet's goal to to gets my pets in, get their vaccines done, then get me out, she miss the nasty teeth and as a result my animal suffered. Had I been told that my kitty's teeth were in bad shape, I would have scheduled a dental IMMEDIATELY, and prevented what he ended up having to go throught.

LESSON HARD LEARNED! I am so glad you exposed these palces for what they are, Doc!

Anonymous said...

Well, you can;t have it both ways. If we don't have our pets spayed and neutered or keep them up to date on vaccines, then we are being irresponsible pet owners. Now, apparently, if we get them spayed, neutered, and vaccinated at discount clinics because they are the only places many of us can afford to have this work done, we are being irresponsible pet owner???

Basically, we just can't win either way!

Roger L. Welton, DVM said...

In my personal comment, I never once insinuated that people that utilize these clinics are irresponsible pet owners. The point I was making was that people should just not expect the same level of care at a so called discount clinic, than they would at a reputable general practice.

If all you can afford is the level of care discount clinics offer, then by all means, pursue that level of care. It is better than leaving your pets unsterilized, unvacinated altogether, and not on preventive medicine.

But for those who are not in a position where it is bargain basemnet pet health care or nothing and the extra money spent at a reputable general practice will not break you financially, then you would likely do best for your pet to opt for what would likely be a higher standard of care at a general practice.