It’s fair comment to say I have had more than the average encounter with veterinary services. This is part and parcel of being immersed in the lives of animals, both my own and other people’s as well.
I have two useful tips for your next vet visit in the interests of keeping the bill under control.
Tip 1: Set some ground rules
At the outset of the consultation, ask if you can be advised what services you are being charged for before they happen.
I say this because it is not unusual to find you have been paying for ‘this-n-that’ service during a consultation without being informed. The first you might know of these services is the breakdown in the long bill you pay prior to leaving.
Tip 2: What difference will it make?
Next thing, if you are recommended a certain test/service, ask what it is for and – importantly – how the outcome of the test/service will affect the final treatment plan.
Jacqui’s misadventure – an example
Jacqui was rushed to vet specialists 10 years ago after four days in a country clinic failed to diagnose her problem. I was adamant it was a bone lodged in her throat because I had seen her swallow it and had thought, “Damn!” at the time.
And a bone it was. Under a general anesthetic Melbourne specialists used an endoscope camera with pincers at the end to skillfully grab and extract the sharp bone fragment caught in her food pipe.
The endoscopy (complete with a video to take home) was $400 plus, with the bill around the $700 mark.
I was greatly relieved. The news was not all good, however. They explained that the sharp bit of bone had been scratching the lining of her food pipe and she might heal with constrictions that could affect her ability to swallow.
They routinely booked me in to return in four weeks time for a second endoscopy to see how things had healed. So, another $400 plus – not to mention 8 hours travel from the country to Melbourne.
I asked, “What will we do if the second endoscopy shows scarring?”
They replied there was nothing that could be done. I accordingly said that there wasn’t much point in doing the procedure then, which truly struck them as an interesting proposition and one they conceded to.
Over servicing common ailments
I have two recent examples of a newly acquired 8 week old pup with diahorreah costing one person $74 and another $1200. Same condition. Same presentation.
The first vet charged $60 for his consult and $14 for the usual medication to clear up this common puppy problem.
The other vet ran a battery of diagnostic tests, including genetic ones (!), did ultrasound and xrays and even put the puppy on a drip, which is not a great thing for puppies. Absurd over servicing, when a cheap and simple treatment for diahorreah was all that needed. This not only cost the owner a fortune but put the puppy and owner through unnecessary stress.
So…be a good consumer. Politely ask the reason for any proposed tests/procedures/pathology and if these findings will have a bearing on the treatment plan ahead. It makes sense that a person of science is wanting to be thorough and put to use the ever growing range of diagnostic tests and equipment, but if being thorough makes no difference to the outcome except the size of your bill, then it’s fair enough that you call the shots.