There Ain’t No Such Thing…

“There ain’t no such thing as good, cheap veterinary medicine”…

There is “Good Veterinary Medicine”. There is “Cheap Veterinary Medicine”. However, just like in human medicine, “good medicine” is more expensive to deliver than “cheap” medicine. So “good, cheap veterinary medicine” is therefore an oxymoron, kind of like male fashion-sense (certainly true in my case anyway).

It wasn’t so long ago that pet dogs and cats were a rarity. Most people kept cats or dogs for rodent-control or for garbage disposal purposes. They had little to no value to the family otherwise. Nowadays of course it is a vastly different story. For many of us our pets are literally members of the family, or at the very least very close friends. For some folks out there they are the single most important thing in their lives. In a recent study of Ontario pet owners conducted by Equifax, 85% of respondents felt that their pets were “members of their family”.

In response to this shift in attitude veterinary medicine has evolved dramatically over the last decades to become what it is today. We as a group have moved away from what we called “fire-engine medicine” and now concentrate on a system of preventive medicine much as they do in human medicine. Many people do not realize that there are actually very few practices or procedures performed in human medicine that are not also available in veterinary medicine. The list runs from chemotherapy for cancer treatment to organ transplants and even cosmetic surgery to name just a few.

Many practices have undergone the same evolution that we have gone through here at Hillcrest Animal Hospital over the last 3 years. We have changed from the old “high volume, low cost” model of practice to a more modern “high quality medicine and surgical” model. These changes are not just cosmetic. Those of you who have been with us through this transition have seen some big changes in our physical plant as well as changes in the time we dedicate to our appointments and the thoroughness of our medical workups. The surgical side is mostly behind the scenes, but the same scale of change has occurred there. We have also gone through changes in our staff and our veterinarians as we continue to train and evolve to meet or exceed the expectations of our clients.

However this all comes at a price. In order to deliver this level of medicine practices need to employ more staff, buy more equipment and expand their physical plants. They need to pay their staff higher wages to retain the best of them, as well as providing other employment benefits. The quality of our staff at Hillcrest takes a back seat to no practice, and I can say the same for the veterinarians who work here. Practices need to purchase more expensive equipment for diagnostics and lab tests to ensure that test results are available as soon as possible to help diagnose illness. They also need to upgrade their facilities to provide cleaner, larger, more modern areas in which to care for their patients.

There are still a number of practices out there who practice the old “high volume, low cost” model. There is certainly a place for these lower-cost, lower-standard-of-care facilities, to care for a segment of the pet population out there that would either receive no care at all otherwise, or whose owners cannot or will not pay for premium care. However these facilities are becoming less common as our governing bodies continue to insist on higher quality of medical and surgical care across the entire profession. As a result things like dedicated Spay/Neuter clinics are growing in popularity in the urban centers of our country and the Unites States. These facilities can profitably perform high-quality routine surgeries at a reduced price as these are the only services they need to be equipped to perform. Many of these facilities in our two countries are actually “attached” to humane societies for obvious reasons.

Like every other responsible veterinary practices out there we have supported and will continue to support the Humane Society and other animal charitable organizations (Fixed for Life to name a local one) by offering them discounted services to help meet their limited budgets as well as offering our time and expertise to them. We do whatever we can to bring attention to the needs of these organizations so the public will continue to support them. Our recent Open House was to benefit the Quinte Humane Society as well as our upcoming Pucks4Paws with the Belleville Bulls. We also support a number of small dog rescue groups which rescue dogs and puppies from puppy mills in the States, Quebec and Ontario. The list of these would be a bit too long to put in this article.

On a daily basis we receive calls from people who are “price shopping”, comparing the prices of procedures at our hospital to those delivered by others. Generally our prices are on a par with other facilities that provide the level of care that we do. However, a word of caution, make sure that you are comparing “apples to apples”. Many practices will offer lower prices by not including essential practices like fluid administration during anaesthesia, or they price their pain control “separately”, or they make it sound as if they deliver cheaper vaccinations when they actually charge separately for important vaccines like canine cough (“kennel cough”) or leptospirosis in dogs, or feline leukemia in cats. They will also charge separately for trimming nails, expressing anal glands or performing fecal (stool) analysis. If you do not do your home-work you may be shocked at what these folks charge when you are leaving.

Like other practices of our calibre our staff are always prepared to discuss what we offer and why at any time. Should you wish to discuss our pricing or procedures please feel free to call our hospital and ask your questions. Or better yet, drop by and we can discuss your concerns and questions face-to-face.

Michael Steen, DVM