6 Reasons Why Vet Care Is Getting So Expensive

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Cost of Veterinary Care

It’s the modern pet owner’s common lament: Pet care was never this expensive! I can’t believe how much I spend at the vet’s compared to what I used to. Why is it that veterinarians all seem to cost so much more than ever before?

1. You’re Willing to Pay More

Pets are family. We pet people increasingly count our pets among our dearly beloved. Whether we’re talking about millennials with a pets-before-children mentality, traditional families with young children, or empty nesters and retirees in search of companionship, US pet people are willing to pay more for all kinds of things they need. The disposable income once reserved for children, travel, dining, and other luxuries is increasingly being shifted towards pet feeding, training and healthcare.

Consequently …

2. You Expect More

Some among us remember what veterinary care was like in the 1970s and 1980s. It was way more affordable, to be sure, but basic things like effective parasite prevention, routine pain relief, credentialed veterinary technicians and working therapeutic diets were either unavailable or unimaginable. Specialists were almost unthinkable outside of veterinary school settings.

Since then, the practice of veterinary medicine has rapidly evolved. Fleas and ticks are 99% controllable, chronic pain is considered highly manageable, veterinary technicians can make up to six figures, and therapeutic diets are highly effective. Specialists? They’re plentiful in every major metropolitan area and available even in many far-flung bedroom communities.

All this? It’s there because you’ve told us you want it. So we supplied it. Now you’ve come to expect it. And all that costs more. Which isn’t all bad, of course. After all, pets now live 20% longer than ever before.

3. Drugs Cost More

It’s not your imagination. All those pet meds do cost way more than they used to. Sure, they’re undeniably more effective, but the drug companies have done the math: They’ve learned to price drugs based not just on what it costs to research and develop them but based on how much you’re able to pay too. They know how much you’re willing to spend on vet care and they’re muscling in on that total sum as aggressively as they can.

It’s what big pharma does. (Is anyone surprised?)

4. More Regulations

Those of us who adore our pets are experiencing some of the side effects of wanting to keep them safer. And those who don’t like pets and see them everywhere are pushing back on their increased presence. Both combine into a recipe for greater regulation, which equals greater expense.

For example:

  • Zoning laws on veterinary practices are more restrictive so there are fewer places they can go.

  • Many medical and fire safety laws now apply to pets too, raising building and renovation costs exponentially.

  • Even animal license fees are up.

These are but a few areas where more regulation makes for more expense. And you can thank the human medical industry, safety officials, and our wider pet culture for these expenses. After all, your veterinarian is almost certainly not a fan!

5. Fear of Lawsuits

Doctors are human. They will make mistakes. In human medicine that means that even the most well-intentioned, well-trained doctor has to pay big bucks to liability insurance companies. (In Florida, OB/Gyns pay well over $100,000 a year for these policies.)

Veterinarians, fearing the same now that pet owners are increasingly seeking compensation for potential medical mistakes, are practicing more conservatively. That means more testing, better record keeping, and sometimes more aggressive treatment recommendations. It may not seem rational or fair, given that veterinarians are rarely successfully sued, but that’s how fear affects humans. The good news is that fear like this makes us work harder too.

6. Fewer Veterinarians in Some Geographic Locales

Are you in a rural-ish location or another considered less desirable for millennials? I am. As such, it’s harder to find veterinarians willing to move here for work. Consequently, we have to pay them more to attract and keep them. Which ultimately means you pay more.

Does all that make sense? Some of it may seem one-sided or unjust but it represents the current state of our industry. Changing it so that people who can’t afford animal healthcare as readily as others can do better by their pets may be impossible. Which is why affordability solutions like pet insurance and vet care-specific credit cards are starting to make a lot of sense right about now.