Discounts at Vets: Why Some Veterinarians Dislike Price-Shopping On Veterinary Care

Dr. Patty Khuly

I’m a veterinarian - so it probably makes sense that I’d take issue with the concept of price-shopping pet healthcare. After all, I stand to lose income whenever pet care costs less. But it’s not quite that simple. Let me explain:

At least a few times a week, prospective clients will call our hospital armed with a few simple questions: How much is an office visit? A spay? What do vaccines cost? Do you offer discounts?

After asking what a typical basket of goods and services cost and attempting to discern whether we offer volume-based discounts (among others), the caller will sometimes make an appointment. More often, however, they’ll elect to hang up in a hurry –– too often after making a snarky remark.

Though we’re nowhere near the most expensive hospital in the area, we’re definitely not the cheapest either. We don’t offer the discounts many seek. And yes, we’re annoyed at the rudeness that attends many of these calls. (Though we’re nice about it.) Here’s the reasoning behind this:

Though most of you don’t need to be told, it bears mentioning that a veterinary practice is not like a Wal-Mart. We don’t sell commodities like vegetables, paper goods, and cleaning products. Instead, we sell professional services that can vary widely from our colleagues’ depending of the variety of other goods and services we attach to them.

We veterinarians each do our own thing in our own way and then let you, the consumer, decide whether we’re offering the right price-point based on the good and services we offer, your pet’s outcome, and the overall quality of your experience.

While we believe strongly in a consumer’s right to call about and generally make intelligent, informed choices in every aspect of their financial lives, it does nonetheless grate a bit to have our services disparaged on the basis of price alone — more so when it happens even before the client walks in the door.

Not that I'm talking about you. If you're reading this, you’re unlikely to care more about cost than any other aspect of your veterinary experience. Though we understand that some people absolutely cannot afford our services, we nonetheless object to the notion that our services should all be priced at a rate everyone can afford. If we did, few of us would remain in business for very long. And none would offer the higher quality services many of you demand.

But the worst part of price shopping and discount hunting? It generally doesn’t get you far in terms of finding the least expensive place to take your pets. That’s because all veterinarians know about these consumer practices and, as not to scare away potential clients, we’ll typically price our most "price-shoppable" services well below market prices.

Now, we don’t do it by way of deception. Rather, we’ll price a small dog spay at $250 instead of the $500 it’s really worth because it’s what everyone else sub-charges for this frequently-called-about service. We’d price ourselves out of the market if we didn’t go along with such fee-skewing behavior.

All of which makes it really tough to know what you’ll be getting on the basis of a call-about method of shopping for vet services.

Then there’s also the problem of believing that paying the most will get you the best. That approach, like price-shopping in reverse, tends to be equally ineffective in my experience. Those practices simply tend to cater to people who hold the belief that paying more always gets you farther - which generally isn’t true. Not in veterinary medicine anyway.

Smart consumerism is one thing, but pet owners looking to make decisions about their pet’s care based on cost alone? That’s quite another…

While you can't predict when your pet is going to get sick or injured, you can protect yourself from expensive veterinary bills. Embrace Pet Insurance gives you the freedom to do what’s best for your pet without stressing over the cost. Easily personalize your coverage to fit your budget and your pet’s needs, then visit any vet for nose-to-tail coverage. Check out what the Embrace plan covers or compare pet insurance providers to learn more.

Mind if we pay your vet bills?

Copyright 2005-2018

Pet health insurance is administered by Embrace Pet Insurance Agency, LLC and underwritten by one of the licensed insurers of American Modern Insurance Group, Inc., including American Modern Home Insurance Company d/b/a in CA as American Modern Insurance Company (Lic. No 2222-8), and American Southern Home Insurance Company. Coverage is subject to policy terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions, underwriting review, and approval, and may not be available for all risks or in all states. Rates and discounts vary, are determined by many factors, and are subject to change. Wellness Rewards is offered as a supplementary, non-insurance benefit administered by Embrace Pet Insurance Agency in the United States. © 2016 American Modern Insurance Group, Inc.