Why is veterinary emergency and specialty care so much more expensive than my family veterinarian?
By: Alexis – Veterinary Specialty Care (internal medicine/ER technician)
This is a questions that many veterinary technicians have to explain to owners when they come to our clinic in need of our services. Unfortunately, when we meet clients it is normally because their pet is very sick, and talking about the cost of medical care is very stressful. So I thought this would be a good time to explain why our costs are what they are.
Running a 24 hour business is expensive -There are few people who enjoy working holidays, overnight and weekend hours. Working in a medical setting means you need top-notch staff performing at all hours of the day and night. All employees from the doctors to the veterinary technicians are highly skilled, and are always available to help in case of emergency. Since payroll is one of the biggest expenses of a veterinary hospital, you can see how the cost of having these services available 24 hours a day would translate directly into more expensive care.
State-of-the-art equipment – Because ER facilities often tackle the biggest emergencies, high-tech equipment and its equivalent know-how is required. Everything from oxygen cages and infusion pumps to access to board certified veterinary specialists, all require and deserve, a higher price tag for these services.
Highly specialized diagnostic equipment, such as endoscopy systems, ultrasound machines, CT scanners and MRI’s, are expensive to purchase, maintain and replace. Having this equipment available to pet owners if and when its needed is invaluable in trying to diagnose and treat our family pets.
Highly trained veterinary board certified specialists – Just as in “human” medicine, sometimes your general physician may refer you to a specialist because he/she believes you will benefit from more specialized care. This is the same for our pets; although your family veterinarian may be skilled in many areas, he/she recognizes the benefit from getting the opinion of a veterinarian who specializes in diagnosing and treating ailments that family veterinarians may not be as comfortable in dealing with.
The costs associated with your pet being seen by a specialists are related to the schooling they have completed. Just as all veterinary students go to graduate school for 4 years to get their doctorate degree to become a family veterinarian; a veterinary specialist will continue in schooling and externships for several more years. This additional time spent learning allows them to become experts in specific fields, such and internal medicine, cardiology or oncology and neurology.
Highly trained technical staff – Although our veterinarians are very important, the technical staff inside our hospitals are also important. Veterinary technicians see to every need of the patients in the hospital from completing the medical orders written by the veterinarian to the comfort of the bedding in the cage and making sure each pet gets the “human” time they need to be as comfortable as possible when they are not at home. Technicians are responsible for watching your pets case for any changes, even some that seem as insignificant and a slight change in heart rate, breathing or sleeping patterns. This is a demanding job and having highly trained and knowledgeable technicians ensures your pet is getting the best care and highest level of comfort while they are away from home.