Guest Post: my veterinarian is so expensive!

Here's a hot topic - the cost of veterinary medicine. Dr Riggs calls it as it is from his perspective.


Where is the wing with my name on it? Vets are so expensive!

I have always wondered why people think vets should do things cheaply or charge nothing at all for some things. Shouldn’t we make a good living? So where is the wing? Sorry, we wanted to draw up those plans, but the money went to pay for the electric, or phone, or salaries, or benefits, I don’t know which, but sorry no wing.

Veterinary medicine… are you sitting down as this will come as a shock to some, but... veterinary medicine is a business.

Yes… we all love animals, we really do, but we are like any small business, we do need to make money to survive. We need to make money to be able to diagnose and treat your pets in a professional manner. When we pay our bills to the electric company or our mortgage company, I try to tell them we are very nice people, who care for your pets, and they should cut us a break, but, they don’t really care. They just want our money.

Oh, how it would be nice to practice where we do what is necessary to make a correct diagnosis, do the right treatment without worrying about what people can afford or want to spend on their animal. We often need to pick and choose which test to do, based strictly on economics, rather then what is medically prudent. Sometimes we pick correctly and sometimes we don’t. When the tests come back normal (which is what we really want), I often get “I paid all that money for nothing!?” Hmm.

Let’s talk about the economics of veterinary medicine. The average veterinary student left the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine in 2012 with a debt near $200,000. This is after 8 or more years of their life working toward their life goal of being a veterinarian. Ready for the world, here they go, and then reality hits them. The starting salary for a new vet is between $45,000 to $65,000. Contrast that to a dentist $100,000-120,000, a pharmacist $100,000 and a physician $100,000 to 200,000 +. Most young vets will be paying off their debt for 30 years or more.

Does this sound like a way to become wealthy? Is it wrong for vets to be like anyone else and make a decent living, especially after to sacrifices of all those years?

Then comes your pet’s flea and tick and heartworms meds. 1800 Petmeds want you believe vets are money grabbing horrible people, and they assure you their products are just the same as the ones you get at the vets. That would be wrong and wrong.

Vets do make money on the meds they sell. That is true. That is one reason the average vet office visit is $46. The average family practice physician’s office call was $194 in 2009. If vets lose the medication revenue, guess what, our office calls will approach the cost of your physician’s, because our expenses are the same and we need to generate revenue to pay for those expenses, just like any other business. It is just a matter of dollars and cents.  [Oh… btw, the products that 1800PetMeds or any of the other internet companies sell, are not the same, and they do not come from the manufacturers. Surprised? Read up my prior post on the subject]

So in closing, I just want everyone to know vets, as a group are some of the nicest, most caring people you will meet. Please give us a break. We just want what everyone else does, a chance to make a good living doing something we love. I also want to have veterinary medicine continue as a profession, and not just a job. In order to supply the pet owning public with the professional care their pets deserve, a price must be paid. In a business, when the revenue does not meet your expenses, things need to be deleted and that is where professional care suffers. That is where professions convert to jobs, where people are just looking for the cheapest price. After saying all of this, the pet owning public deserves a value for the money spent. “Demand” that from your vet.

Finally we all need to remember owning a pet is a privilege, not a right. A pet owner has the responsibility to care for that pet properly, and if you can’t, then don’t own a pet until you can afford it.

Related Posts

July is hot topics and summer pet dangers month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: my veterinarian is so expensive!

Other posts by Dr Riggs


Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.



July is hot topics and summer pet dangers month at Embrace Pet Insurance

Bailey the patriotic goldendoodleIt's that time of year again with fireworks, loud noises, bee stings, heat strokes, water dangers, snake bites - whoever thought summer was fun!

Well, of course it is fun but certainly for your pets, a certain amount of awareness of simple safety strategies keeps everyone safe and healthy.

We are also going to throw in some "hot topics" for discussion, just to keep it spicy for the month. I'm looking forward to your comments.

In the meantime, tomorrow is July 4th so even though everyone is saying it, it's worth repeating - make sure to keep your pets indoors for the inevitable fireworks displays, and if your dogs are afraid of the noise, a thundershirt (or even one of your t-shirts) can do a world of good to keep things calm while the world goes crazy outside. Add some pheromones to the mix and you'll have a rather chill July 4th.

Have a safe and fun holiday!



Podcast: Dr Patrick Mahaney talking about dog and cat behavior issues

Continuing our discussion about pet behavioral issues this month, Dr Patrick summarizes the most common dog and cat behavior issues he sees in your practice (separation anxiety, aggression (toward people and animals), noise phobia/anxiety,  inappropriate elimination (cats and dogs), excessive barking, eating foreign objects)

He also covers some questions from our Embracers on pet behavior:

  1. Adrienne: When diagnosing a behavioral problem what diagnostics should regularly be run to rule out other potential medical conditions?
  2. Laura: I won’t declaw my cat and she’s pretty well trained not to scratch our furniture but I think she does it on purpose to get attention – she actually looks at me as she’s doing it and seems to think it amusing when I wave my hand at her to get her to stop. What can I do to
    discourage this naughty behavior? 
  3. Katie: Why is my dog fine for extended periods of time, but then every couple of weeks or so, I come home and my blinds look like they were attacked by Kung Fu Panda as a result of his separation anxiety? Is dog Prozac recommended? How long are pheromone collars usually used for before eliminating them as a possible solution? What are other training aids that might help eliminate stress?
  4. Melissa: I'd like to know why one of my dogs likes to eat the other dog's poop.  It's gross! 
  5. Megan: So many struggle with inappropriate elimination/urination with cats.  It’s the top reason for cat euthanasia.  What would your suggestions be for that and can you think of things that are out of the ordinary to try?

 Click on the link below for the audio file.

Laura Bennett & Dr Patrick Mahaney pet behavioral issues

Related Posts
June is Pet Behavior Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: dealing with anxiety and stress in dogs
Podcast: Dr Patrick Mahaney talking about dog and cat behavior issues

Other posts by Dr Patrick Mahaney


Dr Patrick Mahaney Dr. Mahaney is a veterinarian from the University of Pennsylvania and a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, having been inspired by his own chronic pain from Intervertebral Disc Disease to provide accupuncture to his veterinary clients. In addition to Dr Mahaney's house call integrative veterinary medicine business, California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness, he sees patients on an in-clinic basis at Veterinary Cancer Group in Culver City, CA.

Dr Mahaney writes a veterinary column (Patrick's Blog) for www.PatrickMahaney.com and contributes to a variety of media, including Perez Hilton's TeddyHilton.com, Fido Friendly, Veterinary Practice News, Healthy Pets and People with Dr Patrick on OutImpactRadio.com, and MSNBC Sunday with Alex Witt and Career Day. His first book, The Uncomfortable Vet, will be available in 2013 through Havenhurst Books



Guest Post: dealing with anxiety and stress in dogs

Dr Riggs discusses something we all face in our lives - stress. As we continue on our discussion of behavioral issues in cats and dogs, Dr Riggs talks about some solutions to the issues you might be facing.


Anxiety is a part of modern life.  We all have stress, or at least perceived stress, in our daily existence.  We work long hours, often not eating right, don’t get enough exercise and sleep poorly.  Many of us ooze stress.  Dogs are very perceptive of our moods.  They are often a mirror of our feelings.  Dogs can feel our moods.  I have worked for years with Canine Companion for Independence service dogs, and I am amazed of how perceptive and intuitive the dogs can be.  They actually anticipate their owner’s needs.  One of these dogs lives in our local hospice, and I can’t tell you the number of times that dog goes to the person and family dealing with the imminent passing.  Dogs feel our pain.  So it is not hard to see why we are seeing more anxiety issues in our pets.

The most common anxiety issues we see are separation anxiety and thunderstorm/noise anxieties.  These can be debilitating to the animals, as well as the owners.  The dogs many times, can be very destructive and often hurt themselves in the process.  I have had client’s dogs that have chewed
through walls, doors, destroyed cages and ripped up carpets.

So what can you do?

I have had good results in about 85% of my cases with Thundershirts and some medications. Thundershirts are light coats that when put on the dog, can dramatically calm the dog.  This concept has been for years used in the care of Autistic children and also the reason the American Indians swaddled their babies. It can be amazing.  The best things is if it does not work for you, it has a 100% money back guarantee.

Many people ask for medication. Just as in humans, medication in rarely the panacea, and behavior counseling often is needed in conjunction with meds.  For years, the number one medication was
acepromazine, a tranquilizer.  The dogs would become sedated and stop whining. The problem is we have found ace does nothing for the anxiety, it just knocks them out, and so they don’t seem to
react outwardly.  A better choice for me has been trazadone, an antidepressant used in people for sleep issues or alprazolam, both of which actually decreases the anxiety.

Some cases can be difficult to manage, and these need a referral to a behaviorist.  A behaviorist is not the same as a trainer.  A behaviorist is a veterinarian who specializes in the biology of behavior problems and is able to dispense medications if needed, but works to find the root cause of the problem.  Trainers are on the other hand, are for teaching your dog to “behave” in situations. 
There are many good trainers out there, but there are also ones that have no formal training.  Electric shock collars should not be used in any training.  They do not train the dogs, they simply break down the dog to obey.  Look at this YouTube video if you think they don’t hurt.

But I digress… we have a great behavior clinic at The OSU Veterinary Medical Center here in Columbus.  They can help you find a behaviorist in your area.

So, don’t work as hard, get some exercise and get to sleep, and do the same for your dog and you just might be surprised on how much happier you both will be.

Related Posts
June is Pet Behavior Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: dealing with anxiety and stress in dogs

Other posts by Dr Riggs


Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.



June is Pet Behavior Month at Embrace Pet Insurance

OK, confession time.

A few months ago, I found myself pulling my hair out over my nine year old daughter's behavior. What really bothered me was that it was so illogical, starting with crying at the least significant thing, then escalating into full blown door slamming, and drama for the whole family.

While I know she is growing up and this sort of behavior is normal, I realized that it was me that was part of the problem. My behavior and my reaction to the initial trigger were causing the whole thing to escalate. But I couldn't seem to help it! Thank goodness for good parenting books is all I can say.

I only tell that story because I don't have a dog to tell behavior stories about - but I'm sure it would be the same. As owners and pet parents, we are responsible for our charges' behavior and we certainly don't want to accidentally enable the behavior we are trying to stop or at least curtail down to a soft landing.

I was reading some sage advice from Liz Palika, one of the Embrace Pet Community's writers on the topic of dog behavioral issues. She says it’s important to know that dogs repeat actions that are rewarding to them. That is why training techniques that use rewards of praise, petting, food treats, and toys are so effective.

We have a whole section on the Embrace site on Pet Behavior and Training with useful articles that help illustrate how you can change your pet's behavior. I hope you get a chance to check out some of these articles because they are absolutely outstanding. For example, here's one on preventing your dog's door dashing and another on managing destructive chewing. Makes me want a dog to train.

Now if only Embrace had one for us human mothers and fathers...

Related Posts
June is Pet Behavior Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: dealing with anxiety and stress in dogs 

 





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