Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cheap vet or best vet?

Cairns Pet owners probably read newspaper articles or TV programs declaring outrage at variable vet fees.  These articles really only investigated this situation in the most superficial way.  They compared the prices of desexing, cat vaccinations and dog vaccinations between several vets around a capital city (eg. Brisbane).
What they failed to investigate was the difference in the service levels.  In summary: they weren't comparing apples with apples.
Why are some vets cheap and some vets more expensive?  Often it comes down to patient safety: sometimes you have to choose between a cheap vet and the best vet for your pet.
Eg. check out this article in the Courier Mail.  It is interesting reading the comments... many people seem to understand that Vet care represents good value.
Pet owners face soaring vet bills
Ron Chay and Dr Rod Straw

IN FOCUS: Ron Chay and Dr Rod Straw at Brisbane Veterinary Specialist Centre.

Source: The Courier-Mail

Ron Chay and Dr Rod Straw

IN FOCUS: Ron Chay and Dr Rod Straw at Brisbane Veterinary Specialist Centre.

PET owners are being hit with dramatically different vet bills for the same procedures. And some pet owners claim they were charged more than triple the usual cost for after-hours emergency surgery in the absence of any pricing regulation of the unregulated vet industry.

Veterinarians say climbing fees are the price of technological advancements, putting pet care almost on par with human care for the first time. But owners fear the rising trend of pet specialist referrals is leading to unreasonable fees.

Veterinary costs are unregulated and no price guides are available. Pet owners must rely on shopping around.

Inquiries by The Sunday Mail have found desexing an adult female cat can cost from $144 to $235, depending on the veterinary surgery. Desexing a male dog can range from $157 to $330.

Vaccinating an adult female cat can cost from $54 to $87 and microchipping from $42 to $69.

Jimboomba dog breeder Helma Dressler said her records showed caesarean costs had tripled in a decade.Costs for a caesarean can vary from $660 at Warwick to $1500 in Brisbane and $900 at Redbank Plains, according to breeders.

But Australian Veterinary Association national president Dr Mark Lawrie said while vet fees had risen "dramatically" in the past decade, competition laws made price regulation or issuing price schedules dangerous. He attributed rising costs to advancements such as the rise in MRIs, CAT scans and chemotherapy for animals.

"There have been a lot more services available, such as 24-hour clinics that are very well-equipped and cost a lot of money to run," he said.

Animal specialists now exist for dozens of conditions, with vet surgeries able to refer pet owners to specialists in cancer, dermatology, internal medicine, diagnostic imaging and a range of other fields.

At the Australian Animal Cancer Foundation facility in Albany Creek, north of Brisbane, pet owners pay an average $2500 to $3000 to have cats and dogs treated for cancer by Dr Rod Straw.

Some pet owners have spent six-figure sums on cancer treatment at the facility.

One owner spent almost $100,000 on vet bills over six years to save two 12-year-old pet boxers from cancer.

Government subsidies might have curbed the cost of human medical advances, but pet owners have been left struggling to foot spiralling vet bills.

Some pet owners said they were shocked by bills of more than $4000 for after-hours surgery.

Deception Bay dog breeder Debbie Creagh was hit with a $4400 bill for an emergency after-hours caesarean on her labrador retriever Brooke this month after the 20-month-old swallowed a dog toy.

Among the cost was a $50 fee for a surgical dog gown.

Mrs Creagh said she paid for an emergency caesarean for another dog months earlier costing $2200, but has paid as little as $600 for the same procedure during normal consultation hours.

Another pet owner was shocked at a $954 animal emergency centre bill to save a cat with a blocked bladder.

Sunshine Coast pensioner Ralph Huddy spent close to $7000 to have specialists fix cruciate ligament problems in his cattle dog's hind legs.

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