Emergency Veterinary Hospitals Are Not Charity Clinics

Emergency Veterinary Hospitals Are Not Charity Clinics

I see this topic discussed all of the time about how the big bad mean Emergency Veterinary Clinic refused to treat a sick or injured pet for free or should allow the owners to pay on a monthly basis a little at a time. There are very few other topics that make me want to get up on a soap box and rant in the veterinary world but this is one of them.

Old Bull Dog It was an Emergency Veterinary Hospital that saved Davinia’s life after she was attacked. During the days and weeks of her recovery I witnessed some pretty horrible things from other people. There Davinia was needing one on one specialized care. In fact in the beginning she required every member of the staff to help and the estimates kept piling up and I just kept swiping my credit card. It wasn’t a question, it wasn’t a debate she needed emergency treatment and that was the end of the story. After letting me in the door they ran Davinia to the back room and started work on her. They saw it was a true emergency and went to work trying to help her. It took some time before they came out with the first estimate for me to sign – meaning they had started to treat her before asking for a single dollar. In the first few hours they did everything humanly possible to give Davinia a fighting chance and for that I am extremely grateful. Sure their prices were expensive but it was the day after Christmas and late at night but they were open and prepared to deal with anything. You don’t go to an emergency hospital or call your vet after hours if it isn’t an emergency.

Emergency hospitals need to be staffed with the best of the best veterinarians that can perform literal miracles on very sick animals. They have to be filled with staff 24 hours a day 365 days a year to assist the vet and ensure the well-being of all of the animals in their care. No, it is not cheap but you get the service you pay for.

There I was sitting in the lobby of the Veterinary Hospital waiting to be able to see Davinia and get an update on her condition from the Vet on duty and a family comes running in. The dog could barely take a breath and actually stopped breathing by the time the family handed the dog over to the staff begging them to save the dog. By then the dog had stopped breathing and so the staff they did their best to perform CPR and resuscitate the dog. While the family was waiting for news about their dog it came out that the dog had been having breathing problems for several days but they couldn’t really afford treatment so they waited. Well they waited too long and even though the Hospital used all of the latest technology they couldn’t save the dog. When the family heard that the dog was dead they walked out the door instead of speaking with the vet.

Floppy eared dogThe receptionist tried to get them to discuss what they wanted to do for the dog but they walked out the door and basically said to throw away the dog and that they were not going to pay for any treatment the dog received while the staff that could have been caring for other critically ill or injured patients tried to bring their dog back to life. As the father was rounding up his family to walk out there door he said he wasn’t going to pay for a dead dog. The dog might still have died but they never gave the dog a fighting chance to pull through whatever it was that was going on. They waited too long and there was nothing that could be done. But it became the Veterinarian’s fault for not saving the dog and therefore they refused to pay.

Or what about the family that walks in with a very sick dog or cat and when the estimate comes out they say they can’t pay and can’t put it on their credit card and got denied Care Credit (it is basically a loan you can get through a company to help treat a sick person or pet). They tell the Emergency Hospital to treat the pet for free and they will pay a little at a time when they can. The family made the choice to go to the Emergency Hospital in the middle of the night and they knew it was going to be more expensive just to walk in the door and diagnose the sick animal. They should have spoken to family or friends before they walked in the door or tried to make arrangements while the animal was being diagnosed so that they could pay for treatment. Instead they tell the Vet to save the pet for free or kill it. So now it is up to the Veterinarian to make a gut wrenching decision. He or she knows that with their training and years of schooling that they can help or at least try to help but he can’t do it for free.

Mad Kitten

The decision is made and the next day the Emergency Hospital and Veterinarian find themselves in the paper or bashed across Social Media because they didn’t give free emergency care to the family and the pet is dead. People say that the Veterinarian should have provided care if he or she really cared about animals and not just money. Really? Someone comes into an Emergency Veterinary Hospital after hours with a critically ill animal and demands free treatment. They are not a charity and they do not have to do charity work though they likely do when it is something per-arranged and for local rescues or shelters and probably even any active K9 units in the area.

Emergency Veterinary Hospitals Are Not Charity Clinics

Why is it that people say that a Veterinarian is only in it for the money if they refuse treatment for lack of payment or lack of ability to pay?

Think about that for a minute!

This is the same person that probably helped 10 – 15 maybe more other animals that day. They did everything in their power to help each of their patients and then someone comes along and accuses them of being heartless. No actually they probably go home that night and cry because they could have helped but they can’t make their staff donate their time, or ask the electric company to chip in their part, or say sorry equipment provider I can’t make payment on the Ultrasound or X-Ray machine this month because we treated half of our patients for free (but used your equipment to diagnose many of them). The entire staff want to help you and help your pet but they need the resources to do so.

The solution? Get Pet Insurance or start a Savings Account for your pet specifically for emergencies. This way the next time there is an emergency the owners of the pet will not be running to social media or the newspaper to share their story of the of the big bad Emergency Veterinary Hospital they can share their story of how their Insurance really paid off or how everyone should have an emergency savings account.

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  1. Brutus Duffy says

    Do you mind if i copy this and hand in o our bulletein board at work? I hear cour clients bash Our ER’s all the time because of money (they do us too, even thought we are resonably priced). thanks.

    • Absolutely. I think it is an important discussion that needs to be out there.
      Felissa Elfenbein recently posted..Emergency Veterinary Hospitals Are Not Charity ClinicsMy Profile

      • Thank you for highlighting our plight. I should not have ranted the way I did. Most pet owners are lovely and respectful it unfortunately is the few that ruin our perceptions and force us into the predicament of not being able to extend credit.

        • This post has clearly touched a nerve for a lot of Veterinarians. You all clearly have a lot of pent up stress that you have no outlet to let it out in. I am glad I could provide that outlet for all of you and that you know that there are pet owners out there that are on your side. We know how hard you work and that your job isn’t all playing with healthy puppies and kittens everyday (even if that is what your 10 year old self imagined the job to be).

          I honestly think that a lot of the blame that people put on Veterinarians and Vet Hospital comes from the warped sense of their and their families medical bills after insurance kicks in. If Pet Health Insurance was anything like people insurance a routine wellness visit would be a $20 copay. While Emergency Care and all of the diagnostic tools needed wouldn’t be completely covered by Insurance it wouldn’t nearly be as costly as it is today. But that isn’t how things work, at least in the US. With Veterinary care people have to pay out of pocket and when you don’t have a savings account for your pet and didn’t plan ahead with Pet Insurance and the credit card is already maxed out the begging and pleading and downright anger start.

    • That would be so ridiculously inappropriate to do…

      • BostonTerrierFriend says

        I agree, that’s inappropriate if it is a bulletin board that clients can see. Staff only, ok.

    • Yeah but if it was a human and they went to the emergency room they can’t refuse to treat cause the person can’t afford to pay so what is the difference a kitten or a dog’s life isn’t worth much that is bullshit an animals life is worth just as much a a humans

  2. This makes sense a lot. Pet insurance is indeed important if one really values his or her pet. There are unforseeable instances that might happen in the future so it is best to be ready. Good article! This may serve as a lesson for pet lovers out there.
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    • Sue Walker says

      Bullshit, sorry but we went to emergency vet paid the $3,500 on the day with no complaints. Money was saved for one of my kids to receive a therapy to help with his learning this year. That fine he goes without started saving again out the dog first. But we can’t afford people insurance why would we get pet for our 1 cat and 2 dogs and put the kids last again? Some people dimly their bills on time! We do pay the dentist off have for years over 6 weeks every visit. But please, not everyone can afford insurance and at no stage did I expect the vet or the emergency vet to foot the bill! What a pathetic comment don’t care about pets!!!

      • Then don’t get a pet or have kids if you can’t afford it.

        • And shelters would be 30 times the size if only those who could drop $3500 at the drop of a hat could have a pet. What a truly ignorant and insulting statement. A pet has x issue and needs y service. That y service can be a few hundred, or if your pet is unlucky enough to need x service after vet hours, its 5-6 times as much. That problem needs a solution.

          • Staffing alone is more expensive at an emergency vet. Who would want to work those hours if you don’t get paid more? Plus they must have items on hand for a variety of emergencies. Of course the emergency vet is more expensive. Just like an emergency visit for humans is more expensive than a doctor’s office visit.

  3. I have two opinions on this, both from personal experience. When I took Riley to the emergency vet, I knew it was going to cost and went with credit card in hand. In fact, I maxed it out on her care and didn’t care.

    I understood that it would cost me and they were clear immediately about the cost.

    The reason I think some vets are in it for the money is because when our neighbor rushed a very much alive Blue to the vet, they refused to treat him, because they couldn’t be sure that they would be paid. This is a dog they’ve seen in the past, they knew us, and they still refused to see him. So our neighbor comforted him while he died in the back of her car.

    For that, I think some vets are very much in it for the money. Not all, but some. I’m certain that they didn’t start out this way, but that gives me little solice when I think about our Blue. We know from his injuries that he wouldn’t have survived, but we know that because our new vet examined his body. The vet who refused to see him had no way of knowing. Because he refused to see him.
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    • This is exactly what the article is about. Yes he is suffering but that doesnt mean that it is free to put him to sleep or evaluate him. It is the most heartbreaking to deal with, but remember euthanasia is a serious procedure, with lethal drugs and a veterinarians license is on the line. An exam is needed, time is needed, catheters and a technician are needed. Possibly more so than many other cases coming in the door.

    • BostonTerrierFriend says

      Well, if they couldn’t even afford the exam fee, then that is what happens. Not a charity, re-read the article.

      • There is a degree of empathy that really seems to be lacking both in this article and your reponses. If i could not afford further care for a child, would you be so cold in your reaction?

        • Thank you Bri for pointing out the lack of empathy. I think no one read or responded to my comment because it was way too long, but I think this is really a 2-way street that calls for empathy & making the best efforts to find a solution on both sides.

        • Bri, it’s not a lack of empathy. Vets care. That’s why they suffer so much from compassion fatigue and suicides (the highest rate of any health professional). It’s a completely different scenario with children and for you to even suggest that it’s not tells me you don’t know what you’re talking about. If you take a child in for care and have no coverage, they will treat. However, the hospitals get funds from the government as well as being large enough to absorb a few unpaid bills. This is NOT true for vet hospitals. You’re comparing apples to oranges. If you can’t be prepared for an emergency/illness, then perhaps you shouldn’t take on the responsibility of a pet, knowing that YOU are the ONLY one who will be paying for its care.

          • Actually, as a Licenced Veterinary Technician in an emergency/specialty hospital, as well as a volunteer tech for 2 animal rescues, I know PRECISELY what I am talking about. These are their pets. For most, they are family members. Do you know how it feels to not be able to help them? These animals have trusted them and relied on them and been loyal to them their whole lives, as ever long as those lives may have been, and they are powerless to help them. It’s probably one of the hardest moments in their lives. Of course they are angry. Of course they want to beg and plead. What kind of pet owners would they be if they didnt?

          • Additionaly, before saying theyou shouldn’t have a pet in the first place, don’t forget that circumstances change. Maybe 5 years ago they were much better off, but something happened. They lost a job. Or had a housefire. Or a death in the family. Who can say. What, are they supposed to reboot or give up that animal? I don’t think so.

          • Your statement about a hospital being able to absorb three cost of not getting paid is so false. A local hospital closed a few years ago, why, in 2014 the emergency room had $2 million of unpaid bills from non-insured people. That does not include any procedures, surgery, labs our doctors that were not paid.

        • Pets are a luxury, not a necessity.

        • I agree so much with your comments.

    • Honestly, this was probably WAY more due to lack of owner consent than money. Typically if an actual owner cannot be reached, and has not IN WRITING specified what types of treatment they want for their pet in that case, a vet’s hands are tied. They will generally engage in life-saving treatment if it is truly a critical case but they can’t do anything beyond that – I’m not sure why this wasn’t done in your case but I’m guessing there is at least one other side to the story.

      It seems crazy to many of us who would do anything for our pets, but time and again vets have been successfully sued for initiating treatment on a pet in their owners’ absence. The owners come back and say, “Well I wouldn’t have authorized any of this!”

      Needing to make a living and expecting to be paid for doing our very hard, very exhausting, very emotional job is not the same thing as “being in it for the money” and twiddling our evil thumbs while we score thousands of dollars off of you. I imagine you expect payment from your clients too? Vets have ENORMOUS student loans to pay off, most are still driving their college cars, and they have all of the practice expenses too, so that they can be there for you whenever you need. As the article mentioned, the building landlord, the utility company, the staff and the bloodwork lab require payment whether you pay your vet or not.

      • Hmm, someone did not study their Veterinary Professional Ethics Code handbook. I do believe is states vets have an ethical responsibility in an emergency situation to relieve pain, suffering and fear. Whether it is stabilize or euthanize. I also recall that a vet is not to ethically refuse treatment for lack of monatary gain.

        Google it people!! The handbook is online that is part of the veterinary curriculum. It’s sad that vets put their student loans and building costs above a LIFE….

    • What money? Working in the field for a while now and all I see is debt. Veterinarians and technicians do not make much money at all.

      • Dolphyngyrl says

        Thank you for saying this because it is so true, vets and vet techs do not make a lot of money at all so no they are not in it for the money, there is actually little money in the industry. People just assume this when they have a large bill a TPLO on a person 15000 a TPLO on a dog 2500 tell me where are they in it for the money. they use the same drugs, equipment and require staff to do the procedure. I agree with people thinking just because its an animal it should be cheap/free. Many vets get burned on payment plans when people do not follow through yeah that might make it difficult for good customers who pay but that is just what it really boils down to.

        • Eventually vets will make plenty. I know two and they’re doing more than fine. I can just imagine them saying “I don’t make a lot of money,” yeah with a 4000 square foot house and two Harley’s in the garage, next to the Merc lol.

          It’s funny how everybody claims that they’re not making much money, oil companies say the same thing too.

          • They must be older vets, owners, or havr nen working 80-100 hrs a week for a few years. The younger ones will live like college students for most of the rest of their lives because their debt to income ratio is too high to pay off their loans. Sincerely, a veterinarian who drives cars that are older than some high school students.

          • Vet Tech in VA says

            Things are also not always as they appear on the surface. The vet I work for has a small horse farm and 3 older Porsches plus a variety of other vehicles. He is the main owner of the vet practice. He must be rolling in the money, right? In reality he received an inheritance when his parents passed away. Before that he lived in a typical suburban house and drove older cars.

            The associate vets drive older cars. None of us LIcensed Vet Techs in the practice have ever bought a brand new car and most of us drive 6-10 yr old cars. My husband is also an LVT and we have put off repairs on our house for many years due to finances. Now we have multiple things that need fixing at once. I have lots of stress over that.

    • But we dont make the money. No one understands that, the money does not go to us and in fact many of us would lose our jobs for not charging you.

    • A dog they’ve seen in the past and refused to treat because they couldn’t be sure they would be paid – sounds like someone skipped out on a bill before…

  4. This is a great post! Emergency hospitals usually have the best staff working for them. The technicians are paid very well and usually need at least 2 years experience, in my experiences job searching in the past. Even if people may not think so, a lot of these hospitals ARE doing charity work still. I’ve spent a day here and there at some EC’s and have seen it. The people who walk out like that a lot of times are just going through a hard time. They just lost their pet in a traumatic experience and just need someone to blame. Vets get uptight about payment sometimes because they have to deal with people not paying them all the time.
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    • I agree that the ER hospitals usually have the best technicians, but I won’t agree that they are paid very well. They may get paid better than a day practice, but for the long hour and night shift, they are not paid well at all (maybe $1-2more/ hr). However, they are there because they like the animals and the jobs. Dealing the difficult people are some of the most common reasons that they quits.

      • Or because they have to work the night shift to still care for their family…..and still the pay sucks. I have been at my hospital for 10 years, acculumlating raises. I couldnt get the money I make now by starting a new job, at a new place. Plus I worked 16 hours shifts, holidays and weekends. Yet a lady accused me of killing her dog because I took it from her, when in fact after 4 days of respiratory distress it arrived in respiratory fatigue. Despite our efforts to help her…..I killed the dog. #compassionfatigue

  5. We have a clinic here in Jacksonville that DOES have lower cost After Hours Emergency Services. And they DO offer payment plans. It’s a wonderful place. St. Francis Animal Hospital (http://www.saintfrancisanimalhospital.org/) does a lot for our community.
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    • I am familiar with St Francis and they are, in part supported by donations and a charity thrift store. They do offer wonderful care and have a great staff, but do have limitations on the care they can provide. Don’t get me wrong, I love St Francis and the medical care they provide to the community. I think there need to be more like them out there. But they are different from most Veterinary ERs out there.

  6. There are always two (or more) sides to such issues. You are correct that emergency veterinary hospitals perform heroic life-saving feats, and that they have a very high fixed overhead due to having to run a 24/7/365 specialty & critical care facility.

    While I think it is appalling that a client would refuse to pay because their animal died, there are many more of us out here who have integrity, are willing to pay, but need a WAY to pay.

    Unfortunately, the only alternative to payment in full upfront in cash or by credit card, is Care Credit (or another third-party financing company, sometimes Wells Fargo CitiHealth or others, but Care Credit is offered by probably 95% of vets.)

    Only about 1/3 of applicants are approved by Care Credit, meaning that leaves A LOT of pet owners out there with nowhere to go, nothing to do except make a horrible decision to euthanize because they may not have $7,000 in reserve funds to deal with a life-threatening emergency.

    Even if you are a saver, it is difficult to accumulate several thousands of dollars a year to set aside for emergency veterinary treatment. Also, what if your car transmission dropped out 2 days before your neighbor ran over your dog in the driveway? That reserve fund might have had to go to your car, and now your dog is at death’s door. What is a responsible, willing-to-pay-but-doesn’t-have-it-all-right now pet owner to do?

    I DO believe payment plan alternatives to Care Credit are the answer. However, such payment plans should be contract-based installment payments that are set up as automatic deductions from a client’s checking, savings or credit card account. This increases the chances of payment compliance, and when these types of payment plans are managed by a third-party provider, any problem transactions are handled by them, rather than veterinary staff.

    I fervently believe there IS a middle ground. Companies like mine, as well as another excellent company – PaymentBanc based in TN – are providing this middle ground and we work very hard to make this solution work in favor of both the vet AND the pet owner.

    It is not a perfect solution, but neither is Care Credit, because people who actually CAN and WILL pay are often declined by Care Credit.

    Pet insurance helps, and I am a staunch advocate of it, being a policyholder myself. However, the way my insurance works (and I think most others, please correct me if I’m mistaken), I must pay the vet in full upfront, and then wait for my reimbursement.

    What an installment payment plan allows is for the pet owner to defer paying in full for say, perhaps 6 – 8 weeks until they receive their benefit check. In the meantime, using a contract-based installment payment plan, they would put down up to 50% and agree to automatic withdrawals until they receive their pet insurance payment. At that point they can pay off the balance, with no penalty for doing so early.

    Yes, installment payment plans mean that payment to the ER is deferred for a little while. However, our data indicates that the total percentage of clients needing such payment plans is still very small. The likelihood of 90+% of clients needing installment payment plans is low. Also, the vet can create restrictions around these plans. For example, eligibility on balances of $500 – $1000 minimum. It makes little sense (from the vet’s perspective) to offer clients a payment plan for less than this. On the other hand, for many people $250 of unexpected expense is a lot of money and it hits them hard.

    As I said, there isn’t a perfect solution but I believe more could be done to address this growing problem. And I am talking about helping RESPONSIBLE pet owners, not people who are looking to get something for free or who never have any intention of paying. Those people are deadbeats, and unfortunately we cannot rid the world of them. But to rule out offering alternative payment scenarios to responsible pet parents – due to fear of “The Deadbeats” – well, that doesn’t seem quite fair to me either.

    And by the way, I don’t take this position because my company offers these plans. For 27 years we have worked with other industries handling payments (health clubs, management consulting, etc.) I am the dog-and-horse-mom who married the company owner, and I was determined to persuade him that this was a much-needed service.

    We researched the topic for over a year, tested and developed it with a handful of local vets, and our progress has been slow but gradually more and more vets are warming to the idea because until now, there haven’t been any viable alternatives.

    My passion for this is fueled by my love of my own animals. I am not wealthy by any means, but I am not broke, either. But if I were suddenly facing a several-thousand-dollar vet bill, that would be a tremendous financial challenge to face. In the past (when going through a divorce and working part-time), I did not qualify for CareCredit (credit history damaged by being tied to ex-husband), but I earned enough income that I was certainly able to make payments.

    That wasn’t an option for me back then, because if Care Credit said I was no good, then the assumption about me was that I was a deadbeat. That wasn’t true then, and isn’t true now. And I certainly don’t think I’m the exception here. Many, many others have been in a similar situation.

    I hate to see people have to prematurely part with a pet due to the cost barrier. If we can do anything to reduce economic euthanasias and owner surrenders, then I will be satisfied that we have made a difference.

    If in doing so we can also provide a reliable, consistent, means of making sure vets get compensated in full and we can reduce client delinquencies, that’s even better. That is the icing on the cake.

    Thank you for letting me get on MY soapbox! Getting off now. I really appreciate you encouraging discussion on this topic, it is needed.

    • BostonTerrierFriend says

      You have several very good & well-stated points. We tried that PaymentBanc at the emergency hospital where I work. Unfortunately it was unsuccessful. The clients who really needed it were mostly not approved with their basic credit check, or (claimed they) didn’t have any bank account to use for the automatic withdrawals. THe very few who we did process through PaymentBanc all ended up immediatly having insuffucient funds & going into collections anyway. Every, Single. One. So, after 6 months we did away with that option, It is unfortunate, but people did not take it seriously or were not interested. Not a good experience with that.

    • Here’s the thing. If you don’t qualify for Care Credit there is a reason. And that reason is that you didn’t pay you bills at some point. It may not have been your fault, maybe you had a spouse or boyfriend that ruined your credit. But the fact remains, your credit history speaks to whether you are going to pay your bill or not.

      I have people on a regular basis approve treatment and then not have the money to pay. Treatment has already been done so the bill is what it is. We are left with only one option and that is to write out a promisary note. It does exactly what you propose. Sets up payments to either auto draft or auto charge over a period of weeks. 90% of these promisary notes are never paid on. The accounts end up being closed, the credit cards maxed out. We never recoup our losses and that bill then comes out of the doctors salary (not the hospital overhead, the actual doctor who treated the pets salary).

      So you the client come to see me in the middle of the night and your pet needs life saving care. You are declined for Care Credit because something in your credit history suggests that you aren’t going to pay your bill. You then want me, a complete stranger, to offer you what equates to a personal loan based on the promise that you are going to pay it back. When your credit history already suggests that you won’t. Sorry, I’m not going to do that. I have to support my family and my children. You will need to find another option (friend or family member to help with the bill).

      All that said, I would never refuse to euthanize a suffering animal for free. If your animal is suffering and you can’t pay for anything, I will relieve that suffering for free. But most people don’t appreciate this offer. Believe me, it weighs heavy on my soul and there have been many nights I’ve cried myself to sleep because I have the skills and the resources to save a pet but couldn’t because no one could pay for treatment. It cost me $175,000 to go to vet school. I just can’t afford to pay for anyone else’s pets.

      • I’m sorry you have had such terrible experiences with your clients, and it’s really upsetting to me to hear how ER vets & staff are treated.

        Given the stress you are under I understand that it’s just much easier to lump those who’ve been denied CareCredit into the deadbeat category. Your experiences seem to validate your opinion. And since I am a deadbeat who runs a company that provides payment processing services to veterinary practices (both day & emergency), it makes sense that you would disagree with me.

        I don’t know the specifics of the situations in which your clients signed promissory notes & didn’t pay & then “disappeared.” I only know that we haven’t yet seen this trend in our area, with the vet practices we serve. If our record in maintaining payment compliance were as bad as it apparently is where you work, then I agree no one should even bother using the services we provide.

        Maybe it works better here precisely because it is outsourced & we have the staff & the means to keep clients on track with their payments – the vet practice doesn’t have to do any of
        that part. Or maybe the socioeconomic / demographic differences would account for more successful fulfillment of payment plan obligations with the accounts we manage.

        I don’t know. It is really discouraging to hear all of this. Angry pet owners, bitter & distrusting vets – sounds like there isn’t really anything that can mend that rift. And I find that so disheartening.

        I appreciate – beyond what words can describe – what you, and all of my, emergency vets do. I knew before I started working with vet practices that being a veterinarian is difficult & stressful. However, I now have a more in-depth awareness of how utterly demoralizing and exhausting it is to work in this field. You go into it for love of the animals, not for money. And then all that admirable idealism and goodwill is drained away by tragic cases, and unappreciative & unsympathetic pet owners who don’t know the first thing about you but call you “greedy.”

        But if you are going to ask for pet owners to be more understanding of your limitations (things that are beyond your control), then please also remember that there are those of us out here who 1)need a payment plan and 2)are honest & willing to fulfill our financial obligations (despite what a credit report says, it doesn’t define a person or negate their integrity in all cases.) 3) We also understand & have empathy for our vets, and deeply appreciate how many times they have given everything they have to try and save or cure our pets.

        It’s so sad that there is such animosity on both sides of this discussion.

        • Suzanne maybe more vets would take advantage of the services you offer if they know what your payment success rate is. On the other hand if you require a retainer or payment up from that is just one more payment the Veterinarian has to cover out of pocket until the payment can be collected. If you wait until the end to take out your payment for work completed that is money the Vet needed to keep their practice running especially because it has now been several months or more since services were rendered and they already had to pay those bills. Yes, they were able to recoup some of what would have been lost but why should that come out of their pocket?

          I would love to learn more about what you have to offer and if it is something the client can initiate on their end! If a client walked into the Emergency Vet Hospital or Clinic and said here is what I have in a saving account that I can use today to pay and I can call XYZ company to set up payment plans on the rest. I think that would take the stress off of everyone and make the Veterinarian treating the pet know that the owner is serious about payment because they have a plan in place. While it does not help the Vet get payment into their account that day which does not help them cover their immediate costs associated with treating that animal they might be willing to extend this offer to some of their more long time clients.
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          • Felissa, there is no cost to the vet to offer our payment plans. When we were researching & formulating our business model we came to the conclusion that, since it isn’t the vet who wants/needs a payment plan, the vet should not be expected to cover the cost of a pet owners payment plan. We ask the pet owner to pay a nominal enrollment fee ($25) and then an additional $3 is added to each installment payment. We expect the pet owner to put some “skin in the game” & we feel if they sincerely need a payment plan, they will be willing to sign a contract to that effect, and they will be willing to pay a little extra for that privilege & convenience. After all we are not gouging the pet owner by any stretch of the imagination! We were really seeking to create a solution that was fair to both parties.

            That being said, it is certainly more dicey for ERs to offer payment plans vs. a day practice. The average transaction amount is so much higher that they have to put more money on the line.

            While it’s mostly day practices that use our services, we do have a few ERs as clients, and so far we are seeing 97% payment compliance. I don’t know why that is the case here, in contrast to some of the horrible experiences I’ve heard about in this thread.

            I was for sure surprised to hear that working with PaymentBanc was unsuccessful for one of the hospitals
            that commented here.
            They are similar to is in that they set up & manage installment payment plans although I think there is some cost to the practice to use their services (but it is not expensive.).

            I have personally talked to several ERs who use PB & they were happy with them. Some of them created strict criteria though (available only on balances of $500 and up, max term of 6 months.)

            I do think some of the success rate (or lack of) might be due to how much support we give our clients in educating them as to when & how to offer payment plans, and also how to structure the plans so they meet the practice’s financial needs. We’ve found, for example, that each practice is totally different from any other, so we often have to work on helping them customize their approach to using the plans.

            Even with all of that said, I would never
            claim we have THE solution. We are – we hope – another useful tool in the practice’s “payment options toolbox.” If we can help pet owners AND also reduce the % of delinquencies for vets, we can make a difference for at least some of the people, not all. But I hope it will be more than could be helped before we came on the scene.

            I purposely didn’t mention the name of my business on this thread because I wanted the discussion to stay on track and reflect all different kinds of viewpoints, and not be about what we are doing because the whole issue involves more than can be solved with payment plans – ours or anyone else’s.

            If anyone wants more info they can contact me on my personal email & I will be glad to provide more info. I’m so glad this is being talked about with such candor, even if it gets a bit brutal at times 🙂

            My email: [email protected]

  7. Galia Hutchinson says

    I managed a Emergency Veterinary practice for 10 years and everything that has been said in this conversation is so true. It cost so much more to staff and provide top of the line equipment for ER clinics than clients realize. Get pet insurance if you are not able to afford emergency care for your pet. It cost a lot to provide high quality ER care. We are not money hungry orges. We care about your pets.

    • what about the old school vet that does not choose to 1) tell you danger your pet is in when rawhide shows on xray and 2) does not offer inpatient when vomiting continues – so i applaud all telling patient families truth so they can make choice to keep patient comfortable – the #1 goal – a shellshock when learn some play god instead of doing protocol for dangerous situations & angels suffer and families with such a loss – communication is the law – keep it up who are honest & don’t sugarcoat that patient is in harms way if do not stabilize – and give patient choice – not the run around & put in danger-now that is uncomprehendable – yes the truth is a right to patients by qualified Dr.s that we families assume are getting when walk in that door – but hurts no more than not being treated literally – because of their opinion vs. fact– we’ll see what board says – so keep telling truth even when hurts yes-so family makes the decision on treatment – should never be you or your way – nope

  8. Thank you so much for this! I am an emergency veterinarian and the situations you described I see all the time. It is heartbreaking to see animals that I know I COULD treat, but can’t because of finances. It is even harder when the owner then yells and accuses me of being a cold hearted, money hungry monster for not treating their pet. It’s hard, and I have been in trouble with my managers more than once for trying to bend the rules to treat animals without money. I do try to work with the owners, for example by trying to do the bare minimum until morning then transfer to a low cost clinic, or by trying to work out a treatment plan for at-home care rather than hospitalizing, but unfortunately certain conditions are very expensive to treat! I do wish there were better third party financing options out there, but I wish people would understand where we are coming from! It makes me sad that the community sees us as the big, evil emergency clinic!

  9. Thank you! I am an ER vet and this is all so true. When owners come in who are financially strapped, I peel off as many charges as possible to try to make things work, often discounting my own exam and/or surgical fees, and only charging for the equipment and medication. But no matter how much I do, some owners always scream, call me awful names, and leave horrible reviews, lambasting me (or our other awesome drs) for being greedy and money hungry and whatnot. It is so hurtful!

    Example: I had a client whose pet needed an emergency amputation. The estimate was originally ~2k, but I discounted it by almost half. The next morning, she was literally super angry that I wouldn’t pay for the fees at HER REGULAR VET for its continued care! I was like, “um, it isn’t my pet…?”

  10. Shannon Noyes, L.V.T. says

    Well written, although I would like to add that in addition to the best, highly trained vets, you also need a staff of dedicated, highly trained, licensed vet nurses (techs) and assistants. They are the backbone of a vet hospital, and vet nurses who work in specialty are exceptionally trained in whatever department they work in. But obtaining insurance is a wonderful way to insure that the funds needed are there if anything emergent happens!

  11. Emergency vet hospitals have the best vets & vet techs? That’s laughable. What they need to do is take responsibility for when they screw up, like when they told my mom her dog has leukemia when really she had a bad case of whip worm AND ALMOST KILLED HER DOG. Then proceeded to not own up to their mistake. Vet ERs are ridiculously expensive and I have heard more horror stories then good ones.

    • Not to mention she paid them up front but her dog was rapidly decreasing in her health (she was skin & bones) so my mother got a second opinion. This regular vet told my mom she found astronomical amounts of whip worm in her. They treated her and don’t ya know her health and weight increased dramatically.

      • You are basing your opinion regarding most emergency veterinary hospitals on one negative experience at one emergency vet? Also, did you ever consider the fact that most people run their mouths about anything and everything negative they experience somewhere, while keep it to themselves when they have a positive one? Check out some online reviews if you think this is inaccurate. As for emergency vets being ridiculously expensive, how about you reread the article (if you ever read it in the first place) and try and absorb some of the information given to you. Sorry your mother had such a terrible experience at the one emergency vet, but that will not happen at every emergency vet.

      • Out of curiousity why didn’t your mother do routine deworming – dogs don’t get an almost fatal parasite infection over the course of a week or a month. That would have negated her need to go to an emergency clinic in the first place.

      • My question is how long did it take to become skin and bones? Cause that doesn’t happen overnight! If the dog had had regular preventative care it wouldn’t have needed emergency care.

  12. anonymous ER vet says

    I am an ER veterinarian.

    I used to work at an ER facility that would allow payment plans on occasion in efforts to help. Do you know how many people actually paid their payment plans? Less than 1/3. The result for the hospital was it was left in a financial burden and had to cut down on staffing. The only reason why the hospital didn’t shut down is probably because it became part of a corporation.

    The message here is that although you may have good intentions and would pay off your bill– the vast majority will not. I’ve seen this personally… Think of the saying “A bad apple ruins the bunch.”

    And just so you are aware, I don’t know any veterinarian that is in it for the money. I’m a fairly new graduate and I’m currently >$300,000 student debt. I’ll be paying my loans for the rest of my life. I have pet insurance on my own pets to be able to afford their care! And i don’t get a raise or applause for “refusing” to treat an animal for free when a client cannot pay — actually, it kills me inside. I feel sick, especially if it’s something potentially treatable, like a blocked cat for instance or foreign body. And fyi — if I did do that, I would likely be fired or at least my job would be in jeopardy… Then how would I pay my loans and support my pets? Life isn’t easy or free…

    I’d also like to tell you guys a story about something that recently happened at my current ER hospital. A 10-month old kitten came in after vomiting for days. It turned out that the cat had a linear intestinal foreign body obstruction and needed surgery to save his life. My colleague was dealing with the case and called the owner, recommended surgery and provided her with an estimate for treatment. The owner stated she could not afford surgery and would have to put the cat down. I saw my colleagues heart break and she told the owner she would call her back momentarily. My colleague then called our hospital manager and asked if there was anyway we could possibly financially work with this owner – since the cat was so young and the owner appeared to have good intentions. Ultimately, we were allowed to use a certain amount of funds we had been raising all year with our community outreach programs. We were not able to treat the cat for free, but at a lower cost due to the pro bono funds. A different employee had overheard that the kitten might be euthanized and offered to adopt him/ pay for surgery if they owner could not do so and would be willing to relinquish the kitten to a new home.

    As this all is happening, and my colleague is going out on a limb… She hasn’t had time to present the above to the owner when all of a sudden the owners relatives call the hospital. They begin to scream at our front desk, and when transferred to my colleague — stating we are in it only for the money and how dare we refuse to treat her mom’s young cat. A belligerent husband is heard in the background saying multiple insults and threats. My collegue was shaking and could barely get a word in. Eventually she was able to explain the situation and present the options. The owner ended up being very appreciative, but her relatives continued to give us a hard time- like they are entitled to this favor and feel appropriate to verbally abuse the staff. No good deed goes unpunished, right?

    This article hits home for me. The ignorance of some of the commentary is what makes my days really hard.

    My typical shift is 12 hours, and often filled with very sick animals… Some that I’ve been treating for days and fighting for, I’ve become attached to them… And despite the best efforts we cannot save them all. So when I go into an exam room to see an incoming emergency, and the owners give me a hard time about price and morals, it is just like the cherry on top of an emotionally draining day.

    I recently practically begged a woman to admit her dog a few nights ago. Instead- she was stubborn and did not follow my medical advice. She wanted to bring her dog to her regular veterinarian the next day and have blood work done there because it was cheaper. I told her I was very concerned … And two days later that dog returned as a transfer to our ER hospital after the outhouse lab work revealed multiple serious metabolic abnormalities. When the dog arrived, he was is in a coma, and he died yesterday because it was too late at that point. I’m really upset about it.

    I wish more people understood the veterinary profession and felt like this article, if that was the case maybe this profession wouldn’t be ranked at the top of the “most likely to commit suicide” list. 🙂

    • Truthfully, if you can pay off $300,000 of debt with ALL the income based repayment plans, you’re making a TON of money.

      • You obviously don’t know how income-based repayment plans work if you think this. Most vets on these plans are barely paying their interest payments – in many cases, the amount they owe is actually increasing. But if they continue to make payments on time for a certain number of years, the rest of the loan will be forgiven (though they still have to pay taxes on the forgiven amount). The reason they are using income-based repayment is because they are unable to pay off their loans even over 30 years because they are making so little.

  13. I am not interested in hurting anyone’s feelings, but it seems some people are avoiding the elephant in the room. taking the responsibility of becoming a pet owner, means we are making ourselves responsible for the safety and well being of said pet. if we cannot afford the possibility of an emergency, or at least plan for it by purchasing insurance, aren’t really expressing our frustration with ourselves toward a vet? 1+1=3 , right?

    • I 100% agree with you, although many feel it is a right to own a pet. I think at least part of the problem is that the role our pets play in our family has changed VERY rapidly and VERY dramatically over the past few decades. So has medicine. What we can do now vs what we can do 20-40 years ago is amazingly different. What people WANT their pets to have now vs what they expected their lives to be like 20-40 years ago is amazingly different. Unfortunately, many folks still have the prices and veterinarians of “old days” in their memories. They want the absolute best, human-grade medicine for their furkid, but at the prices things used to be when dogs got their shots only and lived in the yard. You can’t have an MRI for the price of a $6 rabies vaccine.

    • Michelle L. says

      Thank you!

  14. Ok. I agree people need to pay. But our animals are like family to us. Vets go to school to learn and treat animals everyday. But if someone comes in with a critically I’ll animal I believe human compassion would or should take over. Make payment arrangements with the owners. I mean come on lawyers are liars and they actually do pro bono cases once in awhile so why cant any business owner??

    • Vet businesses do A LOT of pro bono work. But, like lawyers and everyone else for that matter, they choose who receives their charity. And rightly so. Just because you cant afford the treatment required, doesnt mean i have to give it for free. You also fail to recognise that it might cost $3-$7k to stabilise something critical – but what about the ongoing care and costs required? Sometimes eurhanasia is kinder. As an emergency vet, I am more likely to extend my compassion to the people who quietly accept their means, state up front what they can afford and do everything in their power to do the best they can afford for their pet without blaming me for their financial position than the ones who come in screaming at me that vets are greedy bastards and they have no money (while ducking outside to smoke, drink their JD cans and call friends on their mobile phones not to ask to borrow money but to complain about costs).

      • Another ER VET says

        Beautifully written. Euthanasia is not always a bad option. The frustration is when owners can’t afford care and take their pet home to die even when euthanasia is an option. That tears me up the most. Euthanasia is painless. Death due to a diabetic crisis, heart failure, severe anemia, renal disease, etc., are not a gentle or painless way to die.

        I appreciate so very much when people are up front with me and tell me what they can afford. It helps me help them get the most for their pet for what they can afford.

        As for the cost of veterinary medicine, I have multiple pets that often strain my finances. It is expensive, even for an associate veterinarian. I have pet insurance and money set aside for them. I choose to give up things to afford care for my dog/cat/horse kids. It is a choice.

    • Why is it our responsibility to pay your bill? If you were hungry and went to the grocery store do you think they would let you buy $200 worth of groceries by promising to pay next week? Will your mechanic fix your car and give it back to you if you swear you’ll pay them next month? If I pay your bill, who is going to pay my bills? The student loan companies, the electric company, my mortgage lender, none of them are going to let me slide if I tell them “I had to pay my clients emergency vet bill so I can’t pay you this month.”

    • You’re absolutely right. I went to school to treat your animals – not to pay your bills.

  15. Why oh why do some people think vets are free and why does everyone think the animal charities have to pay when the owner won’t? I say won’t as some could but simply won’t!!!!!

    If you want a pet be prepared to pay for it. If you can’t or won’t then don’t get a pet or two or three.

    Live up to your responsibilities and don’t expect to blackmail those who care about animals by making them make the sacrifices you won’t.

  16. Hello,

    First off I am sorry your Davina had to require emergency care. However, i really appreciate this article. I am a shift manager at an after hours emergency clinic. I have worked in emergency medicine for about 14 years now. The abuse our staff takes from clients on an HOURLY basis is pretty unbelievable. It is not the vomit, poop, blood, physical labor or broken animals that wears us out- it is going over estimates and being berated HOURLY. Its not like it happens once a month- it is every shift, every other phone call. We are told how we are uncaring and how we are just letting their pet die. It truly is what causes burn out. So thank you for being one of the people who appreciate us. I hope you never require emergency services again, but if you do, please know that they only want the best for you all. Thanks!

  17. if a child needs my help as a teacher i have to accept the crummy wage they pay me. why not vets?!

    • I’m not even sure what this is supposed to mean, Denise. Vets DO earn a crummy wage. Out of interest, what do you consider your crummy wage? How many hours a week do you work for it? how much do you think vets earn and how many hours do you think they work for it? When I graduated, I earned A$45k a year, was working 6 days a week, 60-70 hours plus after hours (1/4 nights). In addition, I was reading up on cases in my own time.

      • villianous vet tech says

        I’m pretty sure the veterinary industry is the only, at least one of few, industries where people expect to be able to to get services without payment or arrange installments. How many people on this thread in favor of paying in installments would ask the same of their mechanic, grocery store, gas station, etc.? There are some industries where that is a viable option, such as utility companies. They also have recourse by shutting off your service whereas skipping on a large vet bill has little recourse aside from a credit hit.

        I worked at a vet ER that tried to work with clients on payment plans; the compliance rate was under 10% and there was about $60,000 in uncollected bills. That’s not a financial hit ANY small business can afford.

        Frankly, a lot of cases involving insufficient funds are based on purely idiotic choices by pet owners: people buy dogs to breed and profit from but will euthanize them when they can’t afford a needed c-section, having expensive, giant breed dogs that are prone to bloat, spending money on ear-cropping or tail-docking but won’t spring for a laceration repair when theirun-neutered

        • informedcustomer says

          There are many industries/professions where people are expected to give away services for free. Does not make it right – but many other industries experience the sense of entitlement from the public as well. Police (are they ever really off duty?). Volunteer Fire fighters. Teachers . Event Planners. Caterers. Media service technicians. Contractors. Photographers. Various positions at all levels of educational institutions. Groomers. Just to name a few.

          One of the main differences I see is that the other industries/professions either deal with human beings or they deal with property that is not living/breathing property.

          It’s one thing for a human being to hear, ‘I’m sorry – you have to pay to rent that event space (property) and if you can’t afford it you have to either find another venue or not hold your event.’

          It’s a completely different thing for a human being to constantly be sold on how strong the human/animal bond is. To read about all the benefits a pet can provide for human beings. To read stories of pets detecting diseases, working in various capacities, waking owners and alerting them to fires, etc… To feel a pet (property by law) is a member of your family. To see stories with titles such as,

          “Pets are good for you! Oregon State University research found that older dog owners have significantly lower levels of systolic blood pressure than people who don’t own dogs”

          “DOG KISSES FIREFIGHTER AFTER DRAMATIC WATER RESCUE CAUGHT ON FILM” – This one was complete with video showing a rescue of a homeless man and his dog. Sad – as the homeless man probably can’t afford the veterinary care for his dog – yet the firefighters still rescued both him and his dog – and the AKC posted the story. Yet many posts on this thread would lead the public to believe that he should not own a dog as he can’t afford the care for the dog.


          “We are proud to announce that we will be supporting Austin Dog Alliance’s Special Dogs for Special Needs program during the AAHA Yearly Conference next month. This program trains psychiatric service dogs, emotional support dogs, and therapy dogs for nursing homes and schools. AAHA is excited to give back to this amazing organization in March!”

          “More safe havens are helping pets and people who are victims of domestic abuse.”

          “Don’t forget the cat this Valentine’s Day!”

          Titles from organizations such as AVMA, AAHA, AKC, Cat Fancier’s Association – they all promote the animal/human bond.

          So when a human hears, ‘You have to pay xxx amount of money or your pet (property by law) will die’ – they’ve been conditioned to believe that their property (Pet) has value. There is emotion attached to to having to make a financial life or death decision about what the law classifies as a piece of property.

          If your vehicle breaks down and you can’t afford to fix it – you can take public transportation, borrow a vehicle from a friend, hitch a ride with someone, trade the vehicle in, sell it, buy used parts to fix it, ask a friend for help in fixing it – you have options even if you don’t have the finances to fix it. It’s not a living/breathing piece of property.

          If you were to go to the grocery store in the morning because you were hungry and had 5.00 in you pocket and you could buy a sandwich that would ease that hunger – but at night you had to spend 3000.00 because you had to buy all of the products to buy that sandwich and a fridge to keep it cool – you had to pay for the ‘gold standard’ at night – you might continue to go hungry as your options have now gotten a whole lot smaller and the financial piece a whole lot bigger. Grocery stores don’t operate in that manner. Many are opened 24 hours and pay minimum wage to their workers who work overnight. You can choose what you want to buy at any given time. When you pay for your property at a grocery store – you can choose spending options that fit within your budget . If you are short on grocery money – you can buy noodles and sauce instead of steak. You can make your dollars stretch further by editing your choices. Your life is not at risk if you don’t buy that steak.

          If you can’t pay your rent – you can turn off your cable or give up your cell phone. You have time to review your budget and make those decisions. Even if you have to move – you might find a cheaper apt or find a friend to crash with. You will not die if you can’t pay your rent.

          If your pet is sick and you can’t afford the care – it’s still a piece of property – but you are not as willing to let it sit and wait – to borrow one from someone else until you can fix yours – to trade it in. There is an emotional bond attached to that piece of property.

          Sure – people should be responsible and be somewhat prepared to deal with emergencies. And It’s not ok for them to blame the vet or the practice for their inability to pay – ever! But humans are human and for some – what happens is that they feel backed into a corner with no options and high emotions. Most probably could afford 500.00 but not 2500.00. Life in general offers options – but veterinary care – where there can be life or death outcomes – does not offer options.

          In the context of property – what type of mixed messages are being communicated to the public about their pets?

    • Did it cost you $200,000 to get your teaching degree? Because that is the debt most veterinarians are facing when they graduate vet school. Could you pay back $4500 in student loans a month plus all your other bills on your “crummy” teachers salary?

  18. I am also an ER Vet. I fail to see why I should extend credit to someone that cannot get their family to extend credit to them. I love animals. I went to school and I work hard to pay off that debt, I have a family and I work hard to pay for their needs. I cannot take my car to the mechanic and expect to drive my car away being in debt to the mechanic, nor can I shop for food that way. I have insurance for my pets. I get yelled at by emotional people who can’t or won’t afford treatment. I get yelled at by people who have run their pet over, waited all week to take it to a vet and bring it in on deaths door. I get yelled at, threatened, physically and verbally assaulted. Why? Would you talk to a store clerk the way you talk to me. I understand attachment. My profession has the highest suicide rate of all health care professionals. Why? Long hours, terribly sad situations, minimal support and owners that blame and accuse.
    I love animals, chances are I am crying when I euthanize yours. Crying for your loss, crying for your pet, crying because I can’t do more to help.
    I earn an okay wage, I work through the night and don’t see my children on weekends after they have been at school all week. I work Christmas and New Years day. Are you working those days? Do you have to put up with clients yelling and screaming. Do you chronically have to break bad news to people. It is tiring and trying. If you can’t pay for your pet, give it to someone who can. I go through enough emotional turmoil each day with my paying clients. I don’t want to euthanize your pet but I don’t want to see it suffer, you and you alone are responsible for paying for it as I am responsible paying for my school debt and my family. Next time do the right thing, think and plan ahead and don’t blame me for your failure to be able to afford appropriate care for your pet. I know you are emotional but so am I. I have had close friends kill themselves. I work far beyond a normal work week on my salaried position because I love animals and want the best outcome for your pet but I am sick of being a punching bag for those who can’t get a loan from their own family members. Think about that next time you want to tear a strip off of me. I am working to support my family and afford treatment for my pets, you are financially responsible for yours!

  19. Jessica Frysz says

    I am an LVT and have been for 2.5-3 years. I have not yet worked in an emergency clinic; however, I have seen up close and personal what it takes to work in an emergency veterinary clinic. I have also seen some emergencies while working as a Vet Tech. I currently work at an animal shelter, where an emergency can pop up at any time and as a vet tech, I need to be able to make a decision as to whether or not I can handle it myself, or put in a call to a Veterinarian. It is hard to turn people away when they can’t afford certain services or their animal dies and you have to be the one to tell them that unfortunately, we couldn’t save your animal. But, I am proud to be a part of an amazing group of people who have the passion to care for animals, especially when they are sick, injured or close to death. It is a passion that not everyone possesses, but it is an amazing passion to have, when you know you have the power to help animals in need as well as the power to thoroughly explain what is going on with a client’s pet.

  20. I would sell my soul before letting my pet die, that could be treated. I also wouldn’t wait to bring my pet into see the vet. I have been known to rush to the vets, without calling first, in an emergency.
    Really some people need not to have pets.

    • So unless people have a financial cushion of up to $30,000 (like say for a horse I knew), all the animals should be killed/euthanized on the off chance they some day need emergency treatment? THAT’s a bright idea…..

  21. Steve Mazzacane says

    I understand the point of this, but it avoids the real issue with hospitals like this. There are circumstances where major surgery in needed, and the costs are such that pet owners need to make hard decisions. It is expected that such a hospital would charge a premium for such a service, it being after hours and needing a high skill level. However, the issue comes when more standard procedures are jacked up significantly in price. Common cat problems, like a blocked urinary tack, are common but life threatening. At a typical vet, this is between 300-500, and included one overnight stay. At a hospital, like the Central Hospital in New Haven, CT, the cost after hours was between 2400-2800. No, they may not be a charity, but price gouging is a crime, and this is very close. Perhaps patients would not need to ask for payment arrangements or even free care if they set more standard pricing as opposed to jacking up the cost of routine care, thus putting pet owners in position to make a decision they should not have to make. I understand if many hospitals are more ethical that the new Haven Central Hospital, and hope so, but as long as this practice is in place at some hospitals, the issue is not as black and white as this post makes it seem.

    • I work at a general practice and the last blocked cat we had in was here for 2 weeks before he started to urinate on his own – his bill was about $2500 even after we discounted items and we don’t have our clinic staffed 24/7. I don’t think I have ever had a blocked cat that was only hospitalized overnight and definitely have not treated one for $300-500. The ones where we have tried to minimize expense and treat as an outpatient have usually reblocked and ended up being euthanized. I don’t think that emergency clinics price gouge – they have people there 24/7 to care for patients and there is a price for that.

      • Steve Mazzacane says

        Unfortunately, your comment is the exact opposite of the invoices I have and the research done in the CT area. Almost every vet has stated the cost of removing a blockage and one night stay is $300-500. This was done as research before a proposal to the state legislature.

        • rob west says

          I have been working as an ER vet for 17 years. I have never appropriately treated a blocked cat for anything close to $300-500. Given the metabolic derangements and complications that these cats can experience I can say there is nothing routine or standard about a urethral obstruction. Your research is wrong and your post offensive.

    • Steve, thank you for your comment. Ot demonstrates what a problem we have in this industry. unblocking a cat is DEFINITELY not routine care and the fact that the public think that it is (among other things) is part of the reason we are not valued for our skill.

      While unblocking a cat can be simple and quick, it can also be time consuming and complex. I am not privy to what is involved at each hospital with regard to your quotes. As you do not seem to accept that there could be such a huge difference in price and why, I’m guessing you are not privy to this either.

      Where I work, we have GP and specialist clinic during the day and an emergency clinic overnight. The only price differences here are the consult fee (almost triple at night) and the fact that the hospital is staffed overnight adds an overnight fee to the costs. However, most GP clinics have no staff to pay overnight. Nor do they have the toys I get to play with – such as a CT, DR radiography, a human grade ultrasound or two and an assortment of drugs that would challenge a human hospital pharmacy amongst other things.

      In addition, if you bring your cat after hours, you can bet there will be a premium charged for the fact that the one vet and nurse anaesthetising and unblocking your pet may take up to 3 hours dedicated solely to your pet. In the middle of the night. You don’t think this should cost more?

      Your $300-$500 quotes…. Do they include bloodwork? Maybe repeat bloodwork? Urinalysis? A full GA? Ongoing Pain relief? Anti spasmodic medication? Overnight care? Fluids? Fluid pumps? A dedicated nurse monitoring? What type of monitoring? Any radiographs? Drugs to resuscitate your pet if it arrests? A specialist on call if there are complications? In dwelling catheter care? All of these things can be necessary depending in the case and are part of a gold standard of care that is offered at most dedicated emergency centres.

      If you want a quick sedation, unblocking and you’re on your way service, that is absolutely fine. And may work for some simpler cases. I am with Robyn in that it is however, usually insufficient.

      If you don’t want the bells and whistles, you are perfectly within your rights to not go to an emergency centre. You do not, however, get to comment on what is and isn’t ‘price gouging’ without an understanding of what is involved or required and what the overheads of each hospital are.

      • Steve Mazzacane says

        Again, the evidence does not support the claims. In preparing this case for the state legislature for review, I visited multiple vets, all had the same pricing, within a hundred dollars. The problem with my cat was solved, including a night with the vet, for just over 400, when the hospital presented their estimate, the low end was 2400. No doctor is going to call anything routine, that is understood. What happens with a hospital is that we are paying for premium service, and the payments on equipment we may not need, when at that moment we simply need the basic. If a hospital wants to charge a premium for service, say an upcharge, fine. But throwing on line item after line item at a time when the pets life is on the line and we have no other options is unethical. There should be a law, and there may be in the near future, that hospitals must present a true “low end” that helps the pet until the vet opens. With the current process, procedures that would not normally force an owner into making the hard life or death decision are suddenly in that very situation. I would post the “estimates” here if possible, but I don’t see how to.
        And your statement is wrong. At some times, the hospital is the only place open. So while I don’t want all the “bells and whistles,” I’m forced to pay for them, or let my pet die. That is price gouging, and I get to call it that. I’m a journalist that has spent weeks researching this, and know what a hospital jacking up costs in an emergency situation is when I see it.
        Ultimately, I did as you wrote “If you want a quick sedation, unblocking and you’re on your way service, that is absolutely fine.” the problem is the hospital didn’t present that option. Hours later, after I contacted my vet and an animal expert at 3 A.M., they presented that option (and after they found out who I was). It was not initially presented, and without some name dropping, I wonder if it ever would have been presented. I likely would have put the cat down over $2400 if I didn’t have the outside help from professionals that I had.

        • It’s not price gauging.first off, it’s a service, not a product. You are not paying for gasoline, or milk. It’s labor. And price gauging only applies if it’s in the same place. If I charge 2.32 for gas, but then a hurricane hits and power goes out so I immediately charge 5.00 instead, it’s price gauging. If I consistently charge the same price, it doesn’t matter what others charge. If I wanna open up a speaker and charge 10 bucks for milk I can…so long as at MY store the price is consistent. But good luck writing a story …. don’t quit your day job.

          • Steve Mazzacane says

            Perhaps you don’t know what price gouging is, but when the consumer has no other option and the cost is jacked up SIX TIMES, its the definition of price gouging.

            Oh, and the prices are higher after hours. So again, your ignorance is apparent.

            And, I’m a journalist. Writing is my day job. Jesus, all the nuts are out today.

          • Services are not a supply. A supply is a product. And a sick animal is not a natural disaster. Seriously. Just stop. You are wrong. Plain and simple.

        • “Price gouging is a pejorative term referring to a situation in which a seller prices goods or commodities at a level much higher than is considered reasonable or fair. This rapid increase in prices occurs after a demand or supply shock: examples include price increases after hurricanes or other natural disasters.””””

          Please, please, please don’t call yourself a journalist.

          • Steve Mazzacane says

            “This rapid increase in prices occurs after a demand or supply shock.”

            Do you know what supply shock is? A sudden drop in supply. Like when only one vet is open and there are no other options.

            If you don’t understand the definition of what you are posting, please stop posting.

          • Steve Mazzacane says

            Services are not a supply? What high school did you go to? Doctors and technicians are not a supply? Please, sell crazy someplace else. Services are very much a supply side concept. When foreign countries have a disaster, what supplies do we send? Water, food and doctors.

        • Steve,
          I noticed that you made your cat wait 4 hours from the time that you arrived at the Emergency Vet presumably with a situation that you regarded as an emergency and couldn’t wait until the morning. MANY animals that arrive at the Emergency Vet need true Emergency Care. You waited with your cat in critical condition for 4 hours while you price haggled. I hope you at least agreed to allow the Hospital to offer some sort of pain medication while all this took place.

          Davinia on the other hand did not have a single second to spare. I told the police officers that they were welcome to follow us to the Emergency Vet and do what they needed to do there. Not only did she not have time to wait she needed all of those Bells and Whistles you talk about. Without them she would be dead. Her case was the worst the Emergency Vet staff had every seen. Even almost a week later our regular long time Veterinarian (as in my family had been using his practice since I was a little girl) was not willing to take on the responsibility of transferring her because he just did not have the equipment or staff to monitor her the way she needed to be. If your proposed legislation goes through Emergency Veterinary practices would no longer be able to be in service. You might want to consider working in a regular or hospital type practice for a month and see if your views on the situation change. Even as a front desk receptionist I bet your views would change when you see what Veterinarians and their staff do in a single day.

          • Steve Mazzacane says

            I didn’t make the cat wait 4 hours. They took the cat as soon as I arrived. They refused to give me the cat back unless I paid them half of the 2400, or 1200. When I made the calls I made and demanded to know the bare minimum price, only then did i pay them (in full) and leave with my cat. The information I needed they could have presented initially, and there would have been no issues. I insisted, repeatedly, I wanted the blockage gone and to take him home, where I would go to my vet the next day. They refused for 4 hours, demanding a 1200 deposit and a 4 night stay. The next day I was at my vet, he stayed 1 night, and hes been fine for over a year.
            Appreciation for every profession grows when we see what they do in a day. There is no excuse for not providing accurate information. $2400 was an insane number, especially when presented as a bare minimum, which time would prove that was also a lie. what I have found is that this practice is common at this hospital, and I cringe to think about how many pets were put down as a result of owners believing the initial information they were given. Many pet owners have to make a life and death decision about a pet at 2400 that they don’t need to make at 400. I’m sure everyone works extremely hard, but it still is no excuse for providing less than accurate information when a potential life is on the line.

          • Steve Mazzacane says

            i do hope your pet is doing well.


        • Just another clueless vet says

          In my experience, pet owners who choose the ‘bare minimum’ option are usually the loudest to complain when things don’t go to plan.

          There are many situations where cutting corners in treatment is wise. Blocked cats aren’t one of them. Your cat didn’t reblock? You’re lucky.

        • Steve, your cat is lucky to have made it a year. Urethral obstructions are life threatening, and

  22. Thank you for posting this, it is hard for vets to speak out and defend themselves. Owning an animal is not a right but a privilege. We love our jobs but this relentless ‘blame’ culture is driving honest, hard working, caring professionals to leave their vocation.

  23. P. Perkins says

    THANK YOU. Sheesh!! I work full-time at an ER vet facility as an RVT. We get this all the time. The solution we’ve come up with is to quote the exam price over the phone (should they call) and let them know that there will be extra charges incurred for further treatment. It gets really tricky when someone runs in with a dying animal or when an animal is sitting in our treatment area for hours suffering because the owners don’t have the resources to treat.

    Animals are a PRIVILEGE. Most vet facilities are private facilities — our only income are the patients we see! We don’t get money from anywhere else! People have it in their head that their pet deserves free care because it’s an emergency situation and people can be medically treated for free. We don’t get anything from the government to supplement our funds and your animal is not a person (in this case anyways..).

    “It’s cute,” is NOT A GOOD REASON TO TAKE ON A PET. Either take responsibility, or don’t take the animal on. Animals cost money and if that’s something you’re worried about, maybe think twice. We veterinary people love ALL animals and the second a patient comes in, you’d better believe 100% of our staff is involved and wants to be involved in the care of your pet.

    When your dog is crying in the middle of the night because they are sad, you’d better believe there’s a nurse/kennel assistant/doctor/receptionist sitting in the kennel with them to calm them.

    When your animal is on death’s door step at 3:50am, we make sure they don’t pass on alone. We hold their paw and tell them that it’s okay, and not to be scared.

    We don’t care what the situation is, we just want to help you! We love your animals and we want to be there for the pet owner losing sleep over their beloved companion. Call us 15 times in one night, we don’t care. You love your pet, we will love them too.

  24. I’m glad the problem with your cat was solved for about $400. In my experience however, that is the exception rather than the rule. If you came to see me during the night, the consult alone would cost you $300.

    You said yourself ‘at some times, the hospital is the only place open’. THIS is what you are paying for! Why can you not see that? And you absolutely have choices. If you dont want to pay for it, wait till the morning or place pressure on your vet to be on call and charge his or her day prices! Sounds like you called him or her anyway. If they think the price and service was unfair, why didnt they come in and do the unblocking themselves? Why is it up to the hospital to subsidise your pets? This is what makes me so mad! People want the service they want at the price they think is fair but fail to see the bigger picture. There is a reason vets are referring after hours to the big emergency centres. They are tired! Plus, it is not a cost efficient way to run a business!

    You also state that you didn’t need all the bells and whistles and therefore dont believe you should have to pay for them. However, if you did need them, I am sure you would expect them to be available. How can we do that if the cost is not spread? You say you only needed the basic – maybe the professional in front of you an your cat at the time disagreed!!!!

    You also say that a quick unblocking and on your way was not offered to you. Maybe, as i said, the vet did not think this was appropriate. They also have to consider liability. If I go against my clinical judgement for a patient, doesn’t matter what was said in the way of recommendations and warnings, if the case goes pear shaped, you can bet the vet will be blamed. Some vets are comfortable practicing this way. And some are not. That is their call, as it Is their livelihood on the line.


  25. Steve Mazzacane says

    “You said yourself ‘at some times, the hospital is the only place open’. THIS is what you are paying for! Why can you not see that? And you absolutely have choices. If you dont want to pay for it, wait till the morning or place pressure on your vet to be on call and charge his or her day prices! Sounds like you called him or her anyway. If they think the price and service was unfair, why didnt they come in and do the unblocking themselves? Why is it up to the hospital to subsidise your pets? This is what makes me so mad!”

    Your ignorance is maddening. Waiting until morning was not an option. The hospital wanted, as a low end estimate, 2400, or SIX TIMES THE RATE OF AREA VETS. Perhaps you don’t know what price gouging is, but when the consumer has no other option and the cost is jacked up SIX TIMES, its the definition of price gouging.

    Ultimately, after close to 4 hours, i got what I wanted, the bare minimum to let my cat survive until getting to my vet. However, the issue is that they presented 2400 as their low end, and said that was the bare minimum. It wasn’t. they lied. As $400 was the actual bare minimum, but they did not present that for 4 hours, and after they found out who I was and brought in someone with experience with vets.

  26. I find your ignorance astounding. And for a writer, your comprehension skills are lacking.

    I absolutely understand that your cat will die if it is not treated for a blockage. Derr. I’m an emergency vet!

    But what you fail to recognise is that that not treating, and the cat dying IS an option! And your choice if you dont want to pay what the business is asking. That’s what happened before vets…..

    $2400 is the bare minimum of what this particular vet was prepared to do having assessed your pet. Why should they be bullied into going against their judgement because you think that that Is unnecessary? Yet that’s exactly what you did. You bullied them into going against their assessment. I’m glad it worked out for your cat.

    Honestly, you absolutely have options. If you don’t want to pay what the hospital felt was appropriate, don’t go there! Accept the consequences of no treatment or find a vet that does their own after hours and practices the way you want. Better yet, become a vet, and set up a 24 hour clinic and treat and charge what you like.

    I’m interested to know if as part f your extensive research into this subject if you have actually spent time in a variety of clinics?

  27. Steve Mazzacane says

    Now that’s the response that shows your true colors. “You had the option to let your cat die.” Thank you. So to this wonderful “vet,” the fact that this emergency took place when the normal vet was closed and the price was jacked up 6 times as much still left me with the option to let my cat die. I’m sure so many pet owners feel much better now. “Oh wait, you mean I can just let him die? I didn’t know that! Thanks Doc! Now what consulting fee do I owe you for that?”

    Sort of like, say, price gouging. After all, we always have the option to die as opposed too spend 100 bucks for a bottle of water.

    I rest my case.

    • Dolphyngyrl says

      Dr’s are required to offer what is considered proper medical care per the law otherwise they can loose their license due to malpractice, if another vet wants to offer you limited care and you cat dies, that vet is essentially responsible because they didn’t offer you the proper care. This is in fact what you were asking the er vet to do which can cause them to loose their license, because you simply can’t afford it. Also the cost of running after hours care is obviously going to cost more than the daytime vet, they have more overhead, more equipment, have to pay staff night time pay which is something you obviously didn’t take time to think about. you simply can’t compare the prices of the 2. If you had worked at both you would know this and wouldn’t even be berating this vet who wanted to do right by your cat.

  28. And a post that shows your entitled attitude!

    Because you disagree with professional judgement, the prices required to run an emergency hospital and don’t wish to drive somewhere else, the vet should subsidise your pet ownership.

    All vets are required to provide out of hours assistance to their clients. Why don’t you ask your regular vet why they refer theirs to this clinic and don’t do their own?

    I rest my own case.

    • Steve Mazzacane says

      But you have no case. As its the opposite. My increased fees are subsidizing the fees charged for more intensive procedures.

      And, while you seem it ok to put words in my mouth, I didn’t agree with the “professional.” The bare minimum, which was about $400, should have been presented when they initially presented their “bare minimum at $2400.”

      You are having a hard time grasping the facts here, and its not surprising. Perhaps the vet should have engaged in honesty: present the actual bare minimum price to begin with, and there are no issues. By starting off with insane prices, they are asking the patient to subsidize the equipment they don’t need, that is on hand for more intensive uses.

      Considering we have a self proclaimed vet tech encouraging letting a pet die, this forum is clearly the last place to look for logic. Thankfully, it seems some legislators are taking a closer look.

  29. Here we go with your comprehension issues again.

    First, I’m a vet, not a tech. As i said. And i’d love for nothing to ever die and to treat every pet that comes through the door as well as i am able for free. But that’s a fantasy.

    Second, you don’t have to agree with the vet. In fact, you don’t have the education or experience to understand so it’s not surprising that you don’t. You are however, perfectly within your rights to decline their treatment and estimate. And they are within their rights to decline to practice medicine the way you state it should be done.

    I wasn’t there. But if they estimated $2400 was the minimum, I’m sure your cat was pretty sick and that was their clinical judgement.

    Maybe you should read the article and comments again. No One is ‘encouraging a pet to die’. They are suggesting that if you want 24 hour service, you should have a plan in place to pay for it.

    I won’t be commenting any more because it is obvious it is a waste of my time. Good luck with your future. Cheers.

  30. Steve Mazzacane says

    Its apparent you have not read what took place. We go to vets as we expect them to give us accurate information. This vet presented 2400 as the bare minumum price. After a few hours, and calling in someone who had more knowledge than I, the price remarkable became $400. The “expert” vet, who we rely on for accurate information, lied, presented a false, drastically inflated number as the bare minimum.

    Now, haw many times have they done this? How many were forced to put their pets down as the vet inflated the price?

    Imagine your anger should your mechanic or doctor do the same.

    I don’t care if you comment, you have been clueless this entire time, and your bias is clear. And yes, stating that a viable option is to let the pet die when the information provided was false is criminal.

    • AquaVet says

      I am a veterinary student and a pet owner. Over the years my family and I have had multiple instances where we’ve had to pay a lot of money for the health and well being of our pets. (We like to joke about how our $25 dollar shelter cats can cost a few thousand dollars when there is an emergency.) I can understand why you might be frustrated by the cost of an emergency clinic, but that doesn’t mean that the clinic is doing something wrong by providing that estimate that is higher than what you consider appropriate. Our dog recently had surgery and my father “shopped around” for a good price and found a vet who would do the necessary surgery for around $1500. I urged him to consider seeing a specialist, but instead he chose to see a GP who would charge him less. After the surgery, our dog was incredibly sick, had a post-op infection, and the surgery ended up failing. For the second surgery, my father took our dog to a specialist who performed the surgery again for close to $5000. That is a huge difference in price. BOTH veterinarians who performed surgery are very experienced and good at what they do, but they doesn’t mean that what they charge clients is the same. Do you expect a human emergency room visit to cost the same as seeing your GP? I assure you the difference (if you look at your insurance bill) is huge. (More than the 6x difference you discussed between an emergency hospital and your normal vet.) I am very sorry that you feel the emergency clinic price gouged you. I can assure you that veterinarians care very much about your pet and want to do everything in their power to help. Originally, I wanted to write a very different post in response to your comments; I was incredibly frustrated by the things that you have said and what you have accused veterinarians of. What I find incredibly difficult about these comments, is that you would never accuse an MD of price gouging you if you went to the ER but you would accuse a veterinarian of doing so. Please consider that we (veterinarians and veterinary technicians) are a very compassionate, experienced, and well educated group of individuals that have dedicated our lives to the care and well being of animals and we are not out to rip you off.

  31. Steve,

    Whilst it is good you got your cat to the vet on time and he has done well. From your comments it seems you were quoted for a 4 night stay.
    Urethral blockage is a true emergency. The cats become hyperkalemic which can cause bradycardia and death. The cat can also develop azotemia (may be pre, renal or post) which may or may not resolve. Cats arrive in a variety of conditions from sitting up to comatosed. And the inciting cause may be anything from crystaluria to idiopathic to mechanical obstruction.
    A quick and nasty unblock may work however if the blockage cannot be alleviated surgery is necessary. I don’t know what you were quoted for but in my clinic a minimum would be ~1000 -1200 for the first 24 hours if the cat can be unblocked by placement of a urinary catheter.
    My clinic has a minimum of 4 employees on the floor at any given time. In the busy times there are 10 or more on the floor for Ecc and at cross over, around 30 people.
    Clients need to realize they are paying for not just one highly skilled professional to stay up all night, but for a team to stay up all night. Your day time vet gets to sleep during that time. You don’t have the skill to assess your animals condition much like I don’t have the skills to write a news article. The quote from the other practitioners in your area seems very, very low but I often get told by clients what their vet would charge, during the day, but I don’t work during the day so I charge more and $2400 for 4 days with likely includes, urinalysis with lab evaluation, repeated blood work, hospitalization, ongoing IVF and monitoring is likely close to what that stay should cost.
    I realize people may not have that sort of cash but I expect they will be able to come up with a deposit (half of estimate) on their credit cards or a loan from family or friends. I don’t know you, why should I be expected to extend you credit. I have to pay 4 peoples minimum wage every night. I have power bills, I have excellent equipment to diagnose and treat your pet. I have a large debt from my university fees and I have children to feed. To stay open I have to charge adequately to cover my costs and have a profit margin. If I don’t, I may not be there for your cat the next time it blocks (which is likely).
    I don’t presume to know the ins and outs of your profession, don’t presume to know the ins and outs of mine. We do our best given the financial situation of the owners, if owners can not afford treatment and it is an emergent situation euthanasia is an option. I don’t like killing animals but I would rather do that then think of an animal struggling at home. You are responsible for paying for your pet as much as I am responsible for paying for mine. I have insurance for my pets. I would not think it likely my mechanic or local grocery store would extend me credit even if my children were starving which is what we vets get thrown at us daily, the emotional card. You have named a clinic in your area that you are disgruntled with. Shame on you, they saved your cats life. Treatment costs money, if you don’t like the fees, don’t own an animal, they are not inanimate and will cost you money at some point. I love animals, mine, yours, his, hers. I stay up all night to help them out when there is nobody else. I cry when owners don’t have money for treatment knowing their pet would do well, I do my best to help those animals anyway. So get off your hard done too soapbox and think about what it takes to keep that clinic open and if you don’t like it find alternate care before you need an emergency clinic.

    • Steve Mazzacane says

      Its amazing how, in claiming you are hit with the “emotional” card from patients, you insist on playing one here.

      you miss the point, and in doing so, confirm mine. The lowest price was $450. Thats what they ultimately did the work for. Yet they didn’t present that for hours after coming to the clinic. they insisted on 2400 being their lowest cost, likely for the reasons you stared: they have overhead to cover. And in doing so, it was dishonest. They took a procedure that costs 450, jacked it up to 2400, and in doing so force pet owners to make a life and death decision that they would not normally need to make at 450.
      Shame on them for these dishonest practices. And shame on you for defending them. I didn’t ask for credit, I never asked for free care, and the bill was paid on site immediately. The issue wasn’t payment, the issue was the amount. Hiding your lowest cost is used car sales tactics, and then presenting a drastically inflated cost as your lowest number so you can cover your overhead on the life of my pet is detestable.


  32. $450 was not the lowest price, it was the compromised price when faced with a client who wasn’t able or willing to pay when faced with a potentially reversible condition, it was the price that would hopefully get your cat through the night. It was the bargain basement cost price to help save the animal when faced with an ass of a client in the hope the pet would fare well. Why? Because vets really don’t like killing as an option. I am quite sure it didn’t involve the 4 days at the clinic, quite likely no blood work initially or subsequently, questionable if fluids were commenced. Substandard treatment that luckily worked, it is lucky your cat didn’t die under a GA if it was hyperkalemic it likely would have, we have no real way of knowing without doing the tests but we can take a punt as is likely what happened here, however if your cat had died due to any of the things listed earlier, I am quite sure you would have been the first to point the finger at the vet. It would have been their fault that you didn’t want to pay and your pet had a complication.
    You got lucky, we offer gold standard care for a reason, so we don’t get nasty surprises. When you go to the hospital with chest pain do you expect they say it will just be heartburn, go pop a tums?? No you expect proper investigation and guess what, that takes money to do and that is what your vet offered.
    You are lucky your cat was in good enough condition to get by with minimal care that is not always the case though. We chronically are met with this scenario you are lucky your local clinic was so lenient and the condition permitted an alternate kind of care which your cat did well with however that would not be the case with some conditions we come across. You can think what you like, fact remains they saved your cats life and they did it for a fraction of what they should have given a difficult owner who has no idea what it takes to keep a business like that open. Go back to your cushy day job and remember to get your day vets cell number so you can call him out in the middle of the night next time time. Oh, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t give it to you.

    • Steve Mazzacane says

      Once again, you ignore facts and project your own nonsense. The clinic was dishonest, by any definition. Thankfully, we called them on it, and thankfully, a long term solution is in the works.

      • For any veterinarians reading, here is a perfect example of why we should never discount our fees for manipulatie clients. No good deed goes unpunished.

        • Steve Mazzacane says

          Once again, for the amazingly thick headed, there were no discounts. We removed all the “not absolutely necessary” items they had presented as the bare minimum price. So, for all the vets reading, simply be honest to start.

      • Steve,
        What I think you are missing here is that you did not pay “six times less” for the same service. The original quote was for a DIFFERENT SERVICE-the gold standard treatment plan including pain meds, bloodwork/urinalysis monitoring, round the clock nursing and fluids. The treatment you paid for and received was the quick and dirty unblock treat and street. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME SERVICE.

        Furthermore, in your “research,” the daytime vets were quoting for the service you received-NOT the service you were originally recommended. Unless you compared itemized estimates for the exact same items, line by line, you cannot obtain a comparison. Period.

        Put another way-you walk into a car dealership to buy a car. You look at and receive an estimate for a Cadillac. You are upset with the price and find something you can afford-a Daewoo, perhaps. The dealer says it might not work as well or be as reliable or safe and you drive away thinking…what? That you are a savvy consumer because you talked the dealer down from his high price of a Cadillac? NO you don’t because YOU ARE DRIVING A DAEWOO!!!

        There is a reason why the vet told you your cat may still die or have a high chance of reblocking because you chose the Daewoo. It’s called medicine and medical judgement.

        But just because you got lucky with the Daewoo, do not think for a second it’s the same as a Cadillac. Apples and oranges.

        • And if the “Daewoo” kept the cat alive long enough to get to the normal vet, perfect. No one is asking for the Cadilliac in an emergency, your comparison is insane.

  33. Ignorant! Hardly Steve, we have to put up with your kind every day and being a journalist I am sure you know how to be the squeaky wheel after all isn’t that what you are paid to do.
    Your cat was lucky, they offered gold standard care (quoted $2400 over 4 days) which is best practice and as always when a client can’t pay they altered the treatment plan to suit your finances. Sometimes that works, sometimes there are no options.
    The fact remains they saved your cats life because that’s what we do. You may not care about overhead but we have to so we can open our doors the next day, wages are higher in the middle of the night (but you wouldn’t know that with your day job), higher wages = higher treatment costs. We treat wildlife and strays for free. We do the best job we can given the financial constraints of the owner in an attempt to save their pets life. We offer best practice so can treat your pet as appropriately as possible and hopefully get the best possible outcome. When an owner can’t pay we offer alternatives that will hopefully get to a compromise to save the animals life. Sound familiar Steve?
    Offering best practice is not dishonest. Next time you go to your doctor how about you all him for his next best treatment or diagnostics. Yeah, didn’t think so.
    Anyway, you have been enough of a time waster for me. Make sure you get your day vets number, the clinic you have burdened likely don’t want to see you again however I am sure if you do have to darken their doorstep again they will once again do the right thing and treat your animal as best they can given your financial constraints, or arrange alternate treatment pathways if they can when you decide you don’t want to pay for best practice for your cat.

    • The problem is if the ONLY thing the ER clinic will offer is your “gold standard” that a client can’t pay for, but refuses to offer the standard service a day vet could at a price the client could pay and that would still do the job. That isn’t a vet in it for the animals at that point, that’s the vet interested in the money.

      • Exactly. In a life threatening situation, just get the basic job done. I don’t need gold plated needles or the best of care. If I have options, then offer me the best service and let me decide. But in a situation where a hospital is the only game in town, the top standard of care needs to be only an option and not a mandate to keep a pet alive.

  34. Suzanne Cannon says

    It’s pretty depressing to me that this conversation has gone in such a negative direction. What seems to be important to most people is yelling about the problem, instead of brainstorming about a solution.

    I am working really hard to mitigate this conflict, which is the whole reason I spent a long time developing what is – I think – a viable, if not a complete solution.

    Maybe what I wrote didn’t get much response because it was too long (yes I am way too wordy, lol.) But I do hope people will at least take some time to have a look at those companies (mine and others) who are trying to meet the needs of both pet owners and vets when third-party financing doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for enough people, obviously, or this conversation would have died long ago (and the topic would have been irrelevant in the first place.)

    We don’t charge vets anything to offer our payment plans; we offer a credit recommendation system for clients that are unknown to the practice; we have an entire staff that is devoted to keeping clients on track with payments because that is our job – we make sure that our customers (vets & other professionals) get paid for what they do.

    There ARE people out here who are trying to do something about this, but if neither party is interested in a solution – because they’d rather hurl accusations at one another – then nobody is helped, on either side of this argument.

  35. Cathy, DVM says

    Wow, you hit the nail on the head! With almost 30 years of emergency and general care, this scenario plays out each and every day but you are the owner that we are so grateful for. You make our job possible and rewarding. You give us that chance to save the pet before it’s too late. You understand that it is not without expense that we provide these services and that it takes a special doctor with extended training to make that emergency care possible. How many times have we begged to be able to treat a pet with an owner who’s not financially or emotionally prepared to deal with the emergency? More times than we can count. We do not become veterinarians, or technicians, or nurses for the financial gain YET we must be reimbursed fairly to be able to do our jobs well. Thank you for your

  36. I see the point that you are trying to make, I really do. I’m one of these deadbeat owners you are talking about. I took my dog to an emergency clinic for care in the middle of the afternoon. I had an emergency (my dog was shaking and bleeding) so of course I went to an emergency clinic, because I was afraid if I went to a non-emergency clinic they wouldn’t help us. The emergency clinic wanted $2,500 just to run the tests. Just the tests. That didn’t include the actual care. My dog was in a bad way, and they told me they didn’t think she would make it – she was also 15 years old. I asked if there was anything that they could do about the cost and they wouldn’t even discuss it. It was $2,500 take it or leave it. I was flabbergasted. This wasn’t her first vet appointment and she had an issue before with lots of tests run, and I paid $400-$500 for exams, treatment, medication, and a neck collar. They ran my credit for Care Credit and I was approved, but it wasn’t enough to cover the tests. I don’t have credit cards. I had several thousand dollars in the bank about a month or so prior, but we had a different emergency and it was pretty much all gone. In fact, I was concerned about whether or not I had enough to pay for rent that month. We’ve been estranged from our family for years and our friends are in worse shape than us. This was the hardest choice I ever had to make. I had a toddler, I was pregnant, my dog seemed to be dying… I was already wondering if I was going to be able to pay rent. I just had money not too long ago – why was this happening? Why now? I had to have my dog euthanized and it broke my heart. I kinda figured out what her issue was after she passed, and it was related to an issue she had before. There was no way the tests should have cost $2,500. I blame myself for her passing. Had I just taken her to another vet clinic maybe she would have lived longer. I know she was already pretty old at 15 years old, but you have to understand that this old girl still had the energy of a young dog. Pet insurance? Yeah, in retrospect I should have had it. I had enough of an emergency fund built up it didn’t seem necessary at the time, but then I had to spend it and then my dog got sick… Bam. Just like that. It was like yesterday everything was rosy and today everything was awful. Could I have sold anything and everything I had trying to save her? Absolutely. I would have. But they told me they didn’t think she was going to make it. You had to be there to understand… she was so miserable. This wasn’t a leave and come back later with the money later type of decision. I couldn’t let her suffer. It broke my heart that I couldn’t save my dog. I went to a different emergency clinic for my cat several years after (extremely late at night) and the whole experience was night-and-day. The cost, the staff, the caring – totally different. Again, reinforcing the fact for me that not all clinics and staff are good and not all clinics are as caring as others when it comes to saving your pets life. I’ve seen the same difference in hospitals and dentist offices. Not all of these places are good, just like not all are bad. But I do feel like there should be more options when it comes to payment. I was reading a comment from someone that said clinics should offer auto-deductions from a debit card, with a payment plan. We have local dentist offices that offer that. Why not vet clinics? If you have a life threatening illness, there are “scholarships” and donors for that. Why not for pets? Or are these options out there and just not well known about?

    • This is exactly what I posted about. Its not to “trash” the vets, its wondering why the costs jump so far up with some “hospitals.” Items that cost 400 at a vet cost 2500 at a hospital, and that’s the problem. Its not inability to pay or being a deadbeat, its being put in a situation where the price is drastically increased in emergency situations, thus forcing a life or death decision to be made what it shouldn’t have to be. Perhaps the hospital has 4 people working on the pet while a typical vet would have 2, but the question remains why the hospital would have a minimum option. When cadilliac care is the lowest option, pet owners have very few options.

  37. I have worked in an Emergency clinic and then moved backed to general practice. What Imfound most appalling was the general practitioners and their staff bad mouthing ER dues to their high fees. Their fees are warranted as they reveal the quality of care these pets are receiving. A far cry from the minimal care I have seen at the general practices which I have been acquainted. The ER vets and staff care deeply about these people and are providing the best medical care available. And trained staff is attending to the pet 24/7. This has financial costs. Leaving a pet overnight on IV fluids at a general practice without anyone in the hospital to attend the animal certainly has minimal costs and unfortunately value. Owners need to bring their pets in sooner for care and ERs need the recognition for the service they provide. PS I have left general practice as I cannot work in such places anymore and cannot afford my own practice.

  38. Amanda Zeagler says

    Thank you! This is something that all vets, not just the ER clinics hear, everyday, at least once a day. I am so happy that there are responsible pet owners out there who can see that we do love animals, but we also love being able to feed our kids and pay our bills and pay for those clinics that are there. Thanks again for writing this and happy you had a great clinic to take care of Davinia!

  39. This is a difficult situation for me. On one hand, many people can afford a pet – not many can afford the huge bills that pop up as a result of care.

    I remember once I asked about a payment situation for our dog for $1,500 bill. The only thing they could offer me was a plan with a 27% interest rate – no credit check done. I told them that was ridiculous and put it on a credit card with an 8% interest rate.

    I understand the predicament that veterinary clinics are in. You can’t work for free. But it is hard to not feel that it is emotional extortion when someone says, “Look, this is going to cost $5,000. Either pay us that or your beloved pet dies.” It’s hard to be sympathetic towards the vet’s plight.

  40. spartanbeth says

    Ever vet you talk to will tell you that this is one of the most heartbreaking things about our field. It is aweful when you can’t help someone’s pet. I do not work in an emergency hospital but it happens all the time at the general practice where I work. We work with our regular clients and do payment plans especially at times of emergencies. But this is the important thing to know, its our regular clients that we know. This is a privilege and is abused we can’t continue to do it. We do not offer this to new clients for honestly this is the group that usually won’t pay and expect everything for free. It is heartbreaking for its the animal who suffers. We offer free humane euthanasia to help these animals to not suffer. I have never had someone do this. They yell obscenities and tell me how heartless I am and that I just want to kill their animal. Unfortunately we can’t treat every animal that needs help for free, I wish we could but if I did the doors would have to close and no one would get paid. Then would any animals be helped. Veterinary clinics are small businesses, would you give a loan to a total stranger that was declined by Care Credit which means they have a problem with their credit?

  41. Thank you. It makes sense. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was prepared in case of an emergency. Care Credit has been a life saver.

  42. I find this post interesting because I am in this situation now. My geriatric dog recently had a right sided liver lobectomy due to a massive tumor at a Specialty/ER Vet. She didn’t develop the BAD complications I was made fully aware were a possibility (biliary blockage, bleeding, septic peritonitis etc.) but she did develop some mild to moderate pancreatitis and stopped eating. She is still receiving supportive care and nutrition through a feeding tube but we think she can get over the hump and recover.

    I’m about $12k in. I FULLY understand that my dog may not make it. And I am more than just satisfied, but really truly grateful for the quality of care she has received at the ER/Specialty vet. I was informed of all the risks and possible outcomes before hand (one of them being eventual euthanasia.) Once or twice I have asked to continue a treatment protocol ON A BEST GUESS and the doctor’s have accommodated that when and where they thought it was safe. (For example, the original cytology of some post surgical abdominal fluid showed no bacteria. I think the “correct protocol” is to recheck that with a second ultrasound guided cytology. I requested that we skip this step and save the funds for future supportive care. Having no reason to believe bacteria was present, the vets accommodated me. Similarly I asked them to skip straight to treatment for severe-ish symptoms of pancreatitis though the ultrasound showed mild inflammation without a second ultrasound or a FNA of her pancreas. The vets accommodated me because the dog was not eating and that course seemed reasonable.

    The point is…its expensive yes. The outcomes are not guaranteed at all. But because I chose to pay it knowing the risks specifically SO this hospital CAN exist and can pay ultrasonographers for 24 hours a day, and can pay techs to provide ICU care, and a surgeon who specializes in tumor resection. Futhermore there are other dogs with cancer out there for which this hospital CAN purchase a linear accelerator to treat them with less side effects than cobalt. These things cost money. I understand that.

    Its not just equipment, the training of the personnel costs money as well. Veterinary science has lots of academic researchers that performs right sided liver lobectomies on dogs, measures the immediate lab results, euthanizes them then measures the regenerated liver at death. Those reports are printed in peer reviewed journals. Clinical vets read them and conduct follow up studies to replicate the results. This hospital didn’t just say “hey lets try taking some invaded liver lobes out and see what happens!” They didn’t say, hey, swollen pancreas…well some boxer was in here last week and we took his food away for a day and he was fine – so lets see if that works. I was offered the highest standard of treatment protocol for my dog because there was years of research and training that went in to professional consensus on these protocols. When we can safely bend them due to cost and the vet agrees to it, then I am all for that. A $400 unblocking of a cat is probably going to fall outside the protocols used by an ER/Specialty Clinic. Its like walking into Peter Luger’s, determining you can’t afford a $60 dry aged Porterhouse and demanding the chef drum you up some bistro cut $10 flank steak instead. That’s NOT what they do. It just isn’t. They can’t just bring out the “cheap menu.”

    I’m in truly privileged position, two incomes, no kids. My dog isn’t insured but she does have a savings account. And I have access to reasonable amounts of credit at low interest rates. I understand I am lucky. She is lucky to live in “that family.” At the same time doesn’t take a genius to realize there is a reasonable probability that geriatric dog will eventually face some sort of grey area (ie maybe treatable) health crisis. So people who say “I didn’t think my dog would ever need a $5000 surgery!” I have to wonder, what do they THINK happens to dogs (or any mammal for that matter) when they get old? Even basic knowledge of probability should tell you “whoa something bad could even happen to my dog when they are YOUNG (even if that probability is lower.)”

    Not being able to pay for that standard of care doesn’t make you a bad person. Not understanding the reality you are in, telling yourself “gee I never believed health issues would ever happen to MY dog and she would ever need a higher standard of care than a GP could provide” that is something different entirely. It doesn’t make you BAD per se, but it does make you kind of dumb…sorry for putting it bluntly. If I did NOT have the money, she would be spoiled until she started suffering and I would stay with her and say goodbye while she was euthanized. I do not think, given the evidence that I had, I would try to “do it on the cheap” so to speak – having my GP attempt a right sided liver lobectomy and follow up care. I don’t think that is a wrong answer (though if you have the money and are of the mindset that “new dogs are cheaper at the shelter” I’m less comfortable with that, but honestly I see can see how the ethics can work both ways depending on the individual and the circumstance.)

    Did I pay a lot? Of course. Do I think I was gouged? Not at all. I observe my dog closely. I knew within a couple of days when her appetite was not normal. It takes a measuring cup from the dollar store and a very basic knowledge of the process of observation to know these things about your pet. I took her to the first regular appointment available at her GP with a $45 exam fee. The people that come to an ER/Specialty clinic with an infected dog that was never spayed or a dog that has a UTI for a week and is now in shock…its like, seriously are you BLIND? Or just being willfully ignorant when you see your pet sick? You really want to take the risk that she’ll pull out of it if you don’t pay a $45 exam fee…even if it means you may have to pay a $150 ER fee PLUS more care in 5 days when she is septic? Obviously be reasonable…an 18 month old puppy with 2 bouts of vomiting, ok wait and see. A 10 year dog with two bouts of vomiting and reluctance to get up…call right now and make an appointment! Geesh.

    But also I think these observations aren’t limited to the specific situation of ER/Specialty care for animals. I think a general lack of understanding of basic scientific principles, the critical thinking ability to understand decision trees and distribution functions, the improper reliance on heuristics etc..that’s the REAL epidemic at work here. I am sure human doctors can identify variations on the theme here (payment transparency being the reason it effects ER vets more saliently.) But I don’t see how ANYONE can blame the ER Vet. I am thrilled they exist and they present me options to treat my dog. How can anyone think they are a bad thing?

    • The problem that I don’t see anyone mentioning, is that yes, ER vets might have, and Specialists probably do have more expensive equipment they need to pay off, BUT people who don’t NEED those, are having to pay towards them. A dog neuter at Blue Pearl costs around $2,500. A spay/neuter clinic will do it for under $50, and a standard vet who does blood work will be under $150. For the obvious reasons, I imagine almost NOBODY gets their pet neutered at Blue Pearl, but that’s a surgery a 3rd year vet student can do. Specialists aren’t 50 times “better” at it. It takes 30 minutes for a slow surgeon. Yes, Blue Pearl has a CT and maybe an MRI unit, but you aren’t using those, why should you have to pay towards their cost? In how many other situations are people expected to pay for things they do NOT use and do NOT need? THAT is the core problem of these specialist fees and the reason people are so pissed about them. IT’S BECAUSE THEY ARE PAYING FOR THINGS THEY DON’T NEED AND WON’T BE USED ON THEIR ANIMALS. And that is a PERFECTLY legitimate beef to have.

      • Sure for $50 you can find a clinic to literally pull your pet’s insides out. It sounds crude but at that price that is all that is being offered. There will be no before care, blood work, or after care which means you have an animal on no pain meds after major surgery.

        For $150 I don’t see how they could have performed Bloodwork (let’s say that was done at a pre-appointment so charged at a different time) or have the equipment to monitor your pet’s vital signs but ok you can’t afford anything else and the pet is young so while not ideal it is possible to do with compassion. You might be able to get a 24 hour pain med included in that price, though your pet will be in pain for quite a while after the procedure.

        I am not advocating for the most expensive spay / neuter but there is a happy medium. However a more expensive spay might be done under the best care (Vet, Certified Vet Tech, a Technician to sit with your pet while they come out of anesthesia which can be scary for them), best equipment, and most up to date procedures available for instance instead of an open surgery it can be done via laproscopy or instead of external sutures internal ones or less cutting so that recovery period is shorter.

        Unless it was a real emergency go to your regular Vet to have your spay / neuter done. If your Vet is too expensive ask friends if they have a recommendation of someone local that might be more affordable to you. An Emergency Vet if for real Emergencies. A specialty Vet is great if you have a pet with a specific condition that needs to be monitored but you don’t need a Specialty Vet for regular care. Just like you go to your General Practioner for regular wellness visits and only see a specialist if there is a specific reason the same holds true for Veterinary Medicine. Like I said there are reasons to switch to a Vet that has the better equipment or specializes (but is not certified specialist) but that is a choice you are making and understand why the costs are more.
        Felissa Elfenbein recently posted..Pay Attention To Your Dog #LoveYourPetEveryDayMy Profile

        • Felissa, that is SOOOOOOOOOO inaccurate. First of all, what is “before care” for a neuter? Every vet has to do a physical on them. And what is “after care” to you? The animals don’t get to go home until they wake up, even at crude mass spay/neuter events, so obviously they are all getting monitored. There is a virtual ZERO death rate for neuters–again, it’s a 15 minute max procedure. Pain killers are also given if pain is noted, though generally this isn’t necessary in a neuter. And it does NOT cause them pain “for quite a while”.

          • Amy, that is soooooo inaccurate. For one, neuters can actually bleed to death faster than a spay if a ligature slips as the vessels are larger and get sucked back up into the abdomen. It may not occur often, but it absolutely does. Also your assertion that it is a pain free procedure is laughable. Ask the men in your life if they think being castrated would be no big whoop. Just because our dogs can’t speak and often don’t show outward signs of pain, doesn’t mean they don’t feel it. There are numerous studies showing increased recovery time in our veterinary patients when pain control is used. Please spare us your ignorance.

      • At the veterinary ER and specialty that I work at we don’t do spays or neuters. The only time that we would ever do that is if they’re going under anesthesia for something else and the owners would like to have it done. Everyone seems to think that veterinarians, receptionists, and veterinary technicians make an abundant amount of money. Well… We don’t. You can’t go to the grocery store have all of your things scanned and then look at the woman and say I’m sorry I can’t pay for this. Yes we have pretty hi tech machinery, but we are also open 24/7 and have to pay for the electric that’s on all the time and all of our employees. This job is not the easiest. Just last week in two days we had 5 hit by cars, none of them survived. I do this because I love animals, not for the money

        • THDVM: Just because a neuter could possibly lead to bleeding to death, doesn’t mean it happens often. Please cite and provide the statistics, because I said there was virtually a zero death rate. Second, a dog neuter vs. a human vasectomy are not comparable. Third, a small amount of pain keeps the animal at a better resting pace for the few days after a procedure, so that they don’t rip open their surgical site or cause greater damage to themselves by running and jumping around immediately after surgery. Do you know how long a family can keep still a pain-free puppy or kitten? It isn’t rocket science, it’s common sense.

          • You are right they are completely different.
            A Vasectomy it is a tiny incision in order for a Veterinarian to make a small snip this is a very rarely done procedure in the Veterinary world. There is still pain but a much shorter recovery time.
            A Neuter is a full Castration meaning full removal big incision and the pain associated with it. It is much more painful and has a longer recovery time. It is not a small amount of pain like a headache so even on pain meds the dog will still feel ache and discomfort.

            It is your responsibility as the pet’s owner to ensure they are on crate rest or put in a smaller area and walked on a leash for at least several days after the surgery. Your pet underwent MAJOR surgery to pretend otherwise is simply not true.
            Felissa Elfenbein recently posted..With Cavaliers You Will Never Have a Pillow To YourselfMy Profile

  43. Yeah, you are so wrong sitting up there on your high horse. I have an emergency fund of 1000.00. My vet would surgically remove the foreign object obstructing my cats’ intestines for 1100.00, but they are not open and the er vet wants 2800.00 and my cat is in a life threatening situation, so she has to die because it’s a holiday. Would the er charge me more than twice as much if I was injured? No. People go to medical school and take an oath of compassion. Letting someone’s animal die a suffering awful death because you need more than twice as much money due to the time or day is awful and evil. Sorry. I highly, Highly disagree. And for you to insinuate that someone is irresponsible got not having 3000.00 socked away for a vet emergency just shows that you have no understanding of what life is like for blue collar Americans. Insert obscenity herehere.

    • Actually, yes, the ER *does* charge more if you go to them instead of a GP – you just don’t ever see that cost. Really, if you go to the ER and have no money, they will still treat you – but it’s not actually “free,” again you just don’t ever see the cost.

  44. Yeah, you are so wrong sitting up there on your high horse. I have an emergency fund of 1000.00. My vet would surgically remove the foreign object obstructing my cats’ intestines for 1100.00, but they are not open and the er vet wants 2800.00 and my cat is in a life threatening situation, so she has to die because it’s a holiday. Would the er charge me more than twice as much if I was injured? No. People go to medical school and take an oath of compassion. Letting someone’s animal die a suffering awful death because you need more than twice as much money due to the time or day is awful and evil. Sorry. I highly, Highly disagree. And for you to insinuate that someone is irresponsible got not having 3000.00 socked away for a vet emergency just shows that you have no understanding of what life is like for blue collar Americans. Insert obscenity here. Also, in reading this thread I would like to point out that the itemized treatment recommended was the same.

  45. Having a pet is a LUXURY not a need!!! That being said if you can not afford a pet than you should NOT have one. I have worked as a vet tech for over 15 years in an ER hospital and I have seen this story time and time again. Quite honestly I want to slap the crap out of some people. Hopefully most of you realize after you end up purchasing or adopting a pet the fees don’t just stop there. They are like having children, when your kids get sick you just don’t say oh well!! Like I have seen a number of stupid owners do and then you can’t do anything for their animal. But it automatically turns into you killed my pet. NOOOOOOO you killed you’re pet by not having a medical condition treated sooner! This is why I work in the animal field people are complete idiots!!!

    • You have lost the point of the comments. No one is asking for free care. they are asking for same care that can be obtained during normal hours for similar rates, or even slightly more. The local hospital costs 5-6 times as much as a normal vet, and comparing this to children is nonsense, laws prevent such price gauging in human cases. So you are the idiot. When a standard procedure that is 500 is jacked up to 2500, even those with plenty of money need to make a life or death decision over a standard procedure, and that is wrong. Few would put a cat down for a 500 procedure, many more would have to for a 500 procedure, and when that is paid, the smaller procedure is subsidizing the surgeries that hospital performs. Its unethical.

      • Your Health Insurance covers much of the cost of the additional fees incurred when you visit the Doctor or need to make use of your local Hospital. Have you ever tried to paid for tests or procedures you needed or your family needed out of pocket? If you have you would see that the numbers do match up. Veterinarians not only need to be able to be your pet’s General Practitioner but also have to be able to perform surgery have specialty abilities and in the cases of emergency visits need to be able to triage. Sure emergencies happen during regular business hours and your Vet might be qualified “enough” to perform the needed procedure.

        Animal Hospitals that specialize in Emergency Care also need to have the best of the best from Doctors, to Veterinary Nurses, to Kennel help, to the latest equipment in diagnostics and treatment because they cannot rely on anyone or any other facility to be able to step in and help. There is a reason you have insurance for yourself and your family and it is probably not for the occasional visits to the Doctor it is for the Emergency Situations that if you had to pay out of pocket would in most cases put anyone into serious debt if not bankruptcy status.
        Felissa Elfenbein recently posted..Keeping Senior Dogs Happy and Healthy #BrightMindMy Profile

        • And again you miss the point. Routine issues become cost prohibitive nightmares when using the hospital as the only option. So a cat with a urinary blockage, a life or death situation, can go to the vet for 500 between the hours of 8-4:30, but its its 4:31, that cat must go to the hospital for $3000. So what was a relatively standard procedure and cost (and can be handled by most vets easily) is now escalated for the pet owner, as few would consider a $500 cost one to put a pet down, but many would consider a $3000 cost one. While the average person should expect a premium for hospital care and after hours care, 5 to 6 times as much is disgusting, and should be legislated.

  46. I am working towards my vet tech certification and saw this in my employment at a neighborhood animal clinic. The owners buy low quality food and do the bare minimum for their pet. Sometimes not even getting the state required rabies shot for their dog. I saw a dog that was quarantined for biting someone with no rabies vaccine. I don’t know if it’s ignorance or total disregard for the animal and others. Pets are members of the family. That should be the consideration when choosing a pet.

  47. I just want to thank you for writing this article. I have been an emergency veterinary technician for 27 years. I have to say that where I work we do our best to help out clients with financial difficulties, but we cannot however, do all treatments for free. It is so refreshing to see someone on the other side understand that we do care, but unfortunately we are not subsidized and therefore must charge for our services. We continue to do our jobs for the animals. Thank you for helping spread the word that we really do care.

  48. Emergency vets gave us 5 more months with our dog!

  49. Wendy Newmann says

    I am really torn with this article. One thing that has stuck with me all the way to the end…”made the choice to go to the Emergency Hospital”. If something happens with your pet after normal vet hours, WHAT choice do you have?? Sit there and watch them suffer???? As far as pet insurance goes, my vet doesn’t accept it, a lot of places don’t accept any or all of the pet insurance available and it’s not in the budget. Now too a comment below, “if you can’t afford a pet don’t get one”…I totally agree with that, however, what if life has turned upside down for you and the income you had is now GONE???? My husband fell ill last spring, after a month of doctor and er visits, finally admitted to hospital where he almost died from a rare bacteria. So rare that he is now registered with the CDC in Atlanta and our local health department. He’s still recovering and doing treatment. Did NOT qualify for unemployment. I became so stressed with everything that I lost my job in Nov 2015. I also did NOT qualify for unemployment. Everything I used to be able to afford without even thinking about it has become a day to day rob Peter to pay Paul. My girls have never wanted for anything…but now I’m struggling to find a way to pay for heartworm tests and office visit for both so that I can get heartgard for them so they don’t end up needing emergency care. I also need to get them flea and tick protection. Then there’s Maggie and all her allergies. She is on Atopica year round!! So what am I to do now that I can’t afford everything they need?? Dump them at a shelter??? How can anyone having savings account for emergencies if there’s no money to put in the savings account. Our savings is gone and credit maxed out. I would never expect freebies and the stories told in this article are outrageous. The ones that refused to pay for a dead dog because the vet couldn’t save it. I agree that is wrong. Sounds like they shouldn’t have any pets in the first place. I do need to say something about a vet I NO longer go to. There was an emergency with my Gizmo several years ago. Rushed him into the vet and they did their best, called me into the back with him and said there’s nothing more we can do. I had to stop his suffering. I got to stay with him til the end. They wrapped him in a blanket and let my son and I sit with him in a closed room. That was all great under the circumstances. What pisses me off and still does today is while I was holding and rocking my baby, completely broken hearted, in shock and crying so hard I couldn’t see, an office girl walked right in and said, (and I quote her word for word) “How will you be paying for this today?” REALLY????????????? You couldn’t wait til I caught my breath or waited til I handed Gizmo back to the vet and came out of the room? I had to walk right by her desk. No other way out. That felt beyond heartless and made me feel like the money was all that mattered. It just seems to me there has to be something that can be done differently. We buy homes, cars, the new roof we had to get (not covered by insurance), the fridge we had to replace, etc etc etc, all by making monthly payments.

    • Hi Wendy,
      Thank you for taking the time to comment and share your thoughts. I do completely understand where you are coming from. At the time of our big Emergency I had no money. I had a credit card that I could use but nothing in the bank to pay it off. It was a stretch to be able to take my dogs for their regular yearly check up and pay for heartworm preventative not to mention the double monthly doses of Flea and Tick and Capstar on top of it when living in Miami we got a flea and tick infestation and nothing worked to get rid of them for months on end.
      Pet Insurance has never been the right answer for my dogs. While I do understand it and have friends it truly works for you do have to pay up front and send your bill in for reimbursement when you get home. Obviously not a great solution for your family at this time.
      For Emergencies there is CareCredit which if approved you can pay off over a period of time without interest but if you go over that time there is a high interest rate.
      Have you considered reaching out to your local shelter and asking for help with Flea and Tick and Heartworm preventative. It is not something that they would normally offer to the public but they might be able to give it at a significant discount given your circumstances. They might also be able to offer you food for your pets so that you can use the money saved to pay for the Atopica (they likely do not have access to Atopica at a discount). Shelters would rather help when then can if the family is trying to do right by their pets. You might also be able to get vaccinations with them as well.
      Felissa Elfenbein recently posted..With Cavaliers You Will Never Have a Pillow To YourselfMy Profile

  50. D. Fowler says

    I have had pets all my life. Cats, dogs, goats and even a cow. I know for a fact that people feel a vet should donate time, meds, supplies. Why, why would anyone think this? Try going to a human doc and get even a band aid for free. You need to plan this if you want a pet. If you expect free services maybe you aren’t fit to have pets.

    • Tickedoff Atyou says

      LMAO, difference being a human Dr would bill you and accept payment arrangements whereas a vet will not and could care less if the pet lives or dies as long as he/she is making money. If a vet was to enter into a payment arrangement with a customer and the customer failed to pay it could simply be setteled in civil court and paid through them via payments to the courts or garnishment of wages. I dont expect free service, I know their expertise and time is worth the price, I do expect them to actually care for the animals and not the Benjamin’s.

      • Was your wife also ok with not getting paid until those non-paying patients paid? What if they never paid? If your answer is no the veterinarian should pay her in full each pay period and who cares if he or she cannot afford to feed their family or pay the rest of the staff or any of the bills for the practice that month as long as your wife is paid and the animal is given full treatment how many of those patients should the vet care for each day or week or month? if someone gets turned down by care credit or similar services to payment cover the bill in the short term it means their ability to ever repay the bill is seriously in question.
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  51. Mrtylercat says

    Human hospitals treat and send you the bill. They don’t verify that you can pay before. If it is a large bill you can work out a payment plan. Many people live paycheck to paycheck and can not afford a huge payment. So because of that many of you are saying they shouldn’t be allowed the joy of owning a pet? I am not saying treatment should be free, but I don’t see why payment plans can’t be offered. If those people who can’t afford treatment would take their ailing pet out back and shoot them, so they will no longer be suffering, ya’ll would probably have big issues with that too.

    • Informedcustomer says

      If a hospital refused to treat a human emergency they would likely be slapped with a lawsuit.

      By law, pets are classified as property. You cannot sue for emotional value of a loss of property. You can only sue for replacement value and for most pets that cost is under 100.00. Meaning the cost to sue for the potential recovery of up to 100.00 would far outweigh the financial recovery.

      Organizations such as avma, AAHA, akc, etc. all support legislation to keep pets classified as property.

      • Tickedoff Atyou says

        Oh but if you truly cared for the animals and got into the field because your love for animals would the answer not be to accept payments and bill for services rendered. Also since you want to speak legalities it would be just as easy for a vet clinic to take a patient to civil court and recover the fees via the courts and/or garnish the owners/responsible parties wages. There are ways to get the money it is plain and simple, the vet wants their money now and could care less if your beloved “property” lives or dies. Your post was garbage as most of it can be legally argued.

  52. Rhonda Stolle says

    I’ve worked veterinary ER since 1992. Yes, it’s expensive compared to your regular vet, but you’re also paying a premium to have experienced staff there overnights and weekends and holidays, who are prepared to deal with anything from a torn toenail to a diabetic crisis to an evisceration.

    And think of this, too: you might think you’re a special case. You might think you love your pet, you’re basically a Good Owner (and you might be), you just don’t have the funds to treat this emergency right now. All of this could be true, and truly, I feel for you; I sometimes could not treat my own pets if it wasn’t for the fact that I get an employee discount and I can make arrangements to have payments deducted from my paycheck. HOWEVER… just think, there are nights – MANY nights – when we get more calls from people with no money than from people who can pay for treatment. Nights when sixty to seventy percent of the people calling are screaming at us because they let their dog run loose and it got hit by a car, or they never spayed their dog and it now it’s either having trouble delivering pups or has a life-threatening uterine infection, or their cat ate string five days ago and now is dehydrated, can’t move, and is basically three feet in the grave and the fourth on a banana peel.

    Seriously, WHAT are we supposed to do? My car has 205K miles on it. I’m a paycheck away from , if not being homeless, then at least getting my power and water cut off. When more than half of our calls have no funds, how much are we supposed to do? Do we give away $5000 of free service to everyone who calls and hope they pay us?

    The thing is, we DO give away a lot of services on ER. We might not charge for that ultrasound. Your pet might “accidentally” fall on the x-ray table so we get radiographs. We might cal in an intern so your pet gets an abdominal exploratory at a 50% discount as a “teaching experience.” If we are corporate owned, we might be doing some of these “free” things at the risk of our own jobs.

    No one is in vet medicine for the money. It’s easier to get into human medical school than veterinary school, and human MDs make at least three times the money as opposed to veterinarians. Human RNs make at least four times what registered veterinary technicians make, although our skill sets are similar.

    Seriously, we understand about money issues. WE have money issues. Stop making us the villains,. We’re TRYING to help, but we can’t do it for free.

    • Tickedoff Atyou says

      “No one is in vet medicine for the money” you cant be serious. My wife personally worked for a vet who would (and I kid you not) have the front desk lady geo-profile the client while they were in the waiting room and base his pricing off of the area they lived in. If they lived in a nice upscale area suddenly a relatively cheap treatment cost about $100 more, and if the person was in a low income area it would be a consultantation and “Just wait it out” and charge I think it was $75 for that alone, and if they didnt have the $75 they didnt even get that. On top of that again if the person lived in a nice area payment arrangements were not an issue at all, but god forbid they live in a trailer or apartment. If that was the case it was cash up front or no service. So to make a blanket statement saying that vets dont do it for the money is ludicrous. That is all that Dr was out for. As for your being one paycheck away from homeless or utilities cut maybe you should look to your boss and ask if they are not in it for the money than why are you living on the edge and they are driving the $60k cars and living in the upscale neighborhoods. Of course it is all about the money, and the Dr. simply lets you have what is left over.

  53. Tickedoff Atyou says

    I see the point in saying that the treatment should not be free, but to refuse to treat an obviously critical animal all because the family of the beloved pet cannot pay upfront is nothing more than proof that vets are all about the money and nothing else. I know this because my wife worked at a vet clinic and some of the practices they would use was just horrendous, such as using Google Maps to locate the persons neighborhood and see if it was upscale, middle class, or low income areas and base their prices and/or service off of that alone. She had come home several times almost crying because she had to let an animal die because the “animal loving” vet would refuse to take payments (even with a small deposit being made) from families due to where they lived. Sure if someone came in driving a BMW but didnt have the cash on hand treatment and payment arangements (if needed) were not a problem, but let someone come in driving a Honda and Google Maps had them in a trailer park then service would all but be denied unless they had cash in hand. Oh and I have no problem saying the name of the clinic, it was the Unicoi County Animal Hospital in Erwin TN that does these practices. The geo profile their clients while they are in the waiting room and decide what to charge and if the person is worthy of being seen prior to the person even talking to the vet. Sure there may be some that are in it because they truly love animals, but there are far more that are in it for the money plain and simple. She personally witnessed (on several occasions) the price of the treatment going up (say $35 for a shot to $85 for the same shot) just because Google had them living in a nice neighborhood and they drove a nice car. The other side of that coin is that if they come in driving a modest car and living in a lower income area either the vet would say “There is nothing we can do, you just have to wait it out” or demanding money up front when an hour prior to that they were allowing an upscale pet owner to make payments. It is not about Vets being a charity, it is about them being in it for the animals and not just solely the money. Personally your article makes you seem like you are one of the types of vets that would do just as I have described in this comment and extend courtesy to those you thought were worthy and put your nose up to those who you think would stiff you on a bill. I hope your clinic is no where near where we live as I would never have you see either one of my dogs. On a side note, when my wife got tired of seeing the practices the vet was employing at the clinic and finally approached him about it he made a comment about not catering to dead beats and he would chose his clients and pricing as he saw fit. That was her last day, not due to being fired, but due to the pure fact she truly saw what kind of sadistic a-hole she was working for. If you care about the animals, I mean truly care, the treatment comes first and payment comes secondary. But judging by your article you are a money hungry butcher who could care less to see a famlies beloved member dying if they dont have the cash to put in your hands right then and there. Not a charity by any means, but should be empathetic and maybe implement a policy of holding the animals until payment is made in full or at least 75%. Now my wife is happy working for a vet who charges a flat $25 per visit plus what ever medicine he has to give. His name is Dr. Brown in Blountville TN and that is a vet who could care less about buying a new Mercedes and wants to make sure the animals are healthy and happy.

  54. I agree with you on the fact that emergency animal hospitals need to be staffed with the best vets, so that they can perform miracles. It might be expensive, like you said, but it is worth it to save a beloved pet. I wouldn’t hesitate to take my dog into a hospital if she were having problems.

  55. It’s interesting that you mentioned how a good emergency vet hospital will have the best staff at all hours of the day. As you brought up, having the best is not cheap but you’ll know that you pet is well taken care of. I plan to research local emergency vet hospitals so I’m prepared with one when I need it.

  56. Kim Haislip says

    I find this article to very rude. True ER Vet Clinics are not charties but at the same time all vets have a responsibility to treat animals, be homeless or someones pet who is having a hard time paying.
    Just today…Christmas Eve 2016, I had to take my pet to the clinic that I got him from 3 months ago. When I found him there he was paralyzed and sitting in a dark cage and wanted love. I arranged to take him home with me and to pay the vet the bills that had racked up over 4 months time that he was there. The former humans of this grey fuzzball had let their child kick the cat and he was incontinent and paralyzed now but I saw love and also the huge 3000 bill.
    ı took the fuzzball home and loved him and cared for him as best as I could. I am a private teacher, I live in Turkey, and dont make much money. So I have been paying about 50 a week to the vet. İts not much but it is something. Especially seeing as how I took the cat and tried to take care of it.
    The little guy formed an infection within a day or so on his leg and I took him to the vet. They said that the infection was in his blood and his tummy and letting him go was the best thing to do. I had already come to terms with that and when I said ok we will let him go they told me to pay first and then they will do it. I argued that I cant pay it today but will up the weekly payments by 50. They said ‘ no I do not trust you. you said you will pay and it has been 4 months and you still owe money. we cant do it I am sorry. maybe the city vet will do it’…. There i was with a cat that was bleeding pus and blood and clearly in distress about to die and a vet only wants money?!?!?

    after nearly passing out they did the procedure and I agreed to pay on Tuesday which means the elk may get shut off but I had to do what I had to do to save my cat from suffering at the.
    I was so shocked to see a vet put a cat down and say go away because we want money when the cat was clearly in pain and they were going to send me away to let the cat die at home in agony.

    If vets are not in it to save and to help when people are trying to do their best with animals…clearly they are in it for the money and they need to find a new career path. Sometimes good people have pets and sometimes those people and those pets need emergency help and sometimes the money is just not there. So vets need to use some common sense and try to work with people. What I learned form this today was that I will never suggest that vet to anyone and ı will pay the amount I owe but next time I need a vet, ı will ask up front.. if my animal is dying would you send it home to die due to not having the money to pay right then? If the answer is yes.. clearly that is not the vet for me or for anyones beloved animals!!

  57. I ran across this while frantically looking for assistance. I currently have a sick cat and am in a bad situation until later this month. I understand what you are saying, but I find it a little perturbing that both my vet of 10 years as well as the veterinary emergency I have been to before refuse to work with me. I have, without question and immediately, payed over 1500 dollars in a single weekend on an emergency, not to mention regular treatment at my vets and willingly paid over 4000 dollars at the emergency once. I have never in all the years had an issue with payment. Now I happen to be in a sudden and unexpected bad spot that will be remedied in a month at most (and I have paperwork to prove the future income) and I find it sad that they refuse to work with that just once after years of loyalty and dozens of referrals of patients. Just my two cents.
    I did manage to find a vet that would take payments from me, even as a new patient, and despite the 45 minute extra trip, am considering changing vets permanently.
    In addition, I have pet insurance but it only reimburses after I front the payment as many do.


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