Q: My dog had an emergency recently and when I took him to the veterinarian, I could not afford to pay for the treatment and had to euthanize him due to his condition. I am devastated and feel that if I could have afforded the treatment he would still be alive. My veterinarian would not offer any payment plans and I feel that they should have helped me out. Why do most veterinarians require money before treatment and do not offer payment plans in emergencies?
A: First, I would like to say how sorry I am for your loss of your pet. Losing a beloved pet is hard and adding guilt about money makes a hard situation much worse.
As veterinarians, the hardest part of our job is discussing money issues with clients when their pets are sick. Most veterinarians would love to be able to treat every animal despite financial concerns so that all animals could get appropriate medical care, but unfortunately that cannot be the reality.
Good quality veterinary care costs money. We must be able to pay our staffs a living wage, provide health insurance and retirement funds, as well as pay for the overhead to run the business. Pharmaceutical companies have made the cost of veterinary drugs outrageously expensive and we have to cover these costs. Veterinary clinics are not offered payment plans for their inventory or building costs and they must pay in full when those bills come due.
The actual profit margin for veterinary medicine is minimal at best and most veterinarians do not go into this business to make money but for the love of animals. So, it can be very emotionally difficult for us to deny treatment based on money but, in order to stay in business and be able to pay our bills, it is unfortunately necessary.
Veterinary clinics are not financial lending institutions and do not have the ability to loan money to clients on a regular basis to treat their animals. Statistics show that fewer than 25 percent of clients ever pay back the money to the clinic. As veterinarians we have no recourse to collect our money, if the client doesn't pay, as court litigation is costly, time consuming and ultimately not worth the effort. As veterinarians, our hands are tied financially. Most clinics cannot afford to offer payment plans because, if they did, they would probably go out of business.
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So, I highly recommend getting pet insurance to cover any emergency issues that might arise or putting away money monthly towards any unforeseen medical emergencies with your pet.
You can also contact Care Credit — a legitimate medical credit card — that offers payment plans through a financial institution and can be used to pay for veterinary bills in case of a medical emergency. That way you do not have to add guilt about money to your grief.
Q: What is the difference between a three-year vaccine and a one-year vaccine?
A: Technically, a one-year vaccine and a three-year vaccine are the same vaccine, but the time between boosters varies based on a couple of factors. The younger the animal, the more frequent the boosters as you are trying to get the best immunity for the animal when they are young. The area where you are living will also determine the types of vaccines that are recommended and the frequency of the boosters. In Flagstaff, there is a high prevalence of the Parvo-enteritis virus, so we might booster that vaccine yearly until a certain age and then every three years thereafter to ensure immunity.
The last factor is based on how the vaccine is labeled by the manufacturer. Most vaccines are not labeled beyond three years so, although your pet might still have immunity beyond three years, legally the vaccine is not labelled to be effective beyond a certain date and needs to be re-administered every three years. Your veterinarian can guide you as to what vaccines are best for your area and your pet.
Dr. Julianne Miller is a Flagstaff veterinarian. You can reach her at email@example.com.