Q: Why is taking my dog to the veterinarian becoming so expensive? It doesn’t seem that it should cost so much just to get my dog checked. Any insight?

A: It seems that everything is getting more expensive these days, and veterinary medicine is no exception.

First and foremost, the caliber of medicine that is being practiced these days is exponentially better than it used to be years ago.

Veterinarians can perform therapies that are on the same level of human medicine and are extending the lives of your pets. The ability to perform gold standard medicine requires more cost to pay for the overhead of the business, the equipment, and the highly trained staff to treat your animals.

The other issue is that veterinary medicine does not have insurance to offset the up-front costs to the owner. But if you are to compare the cost of certain therapies in human medicine to the same therapy in veterinary medicine the cost you pay for your pet pales in comparison.

The prices you pay for your pets are incredibly low compared to human medicine partly because of the health insurance issues in human medicine and also because veterinarians understand that we must make the therapies affordable or the animals will not get the treatment that they need.

The cost of supplies is going up each year and veterinarians do not receive any discounts so we pay the same as any human hospitals or pharmacies for the same products, but we cannot charge the same as a human hospital or pharmacy.

Pets have become part of the family and, because of this, the expectations for the care of the pet have risen exponentially. In order to be able to provide the sort of gold standard of care that you would expect for a family member requires more education, expertise, equipment, and supplies from the veterinary practitioner, thereby increasing the cost of the care.

The good news is that animals are living longer and healthier lives because of the care that we can now provide.

Q: I really want to declaw my cat because she is tearing up my furniture, but everywhere I look declawing is getting bad press. What is so wrong with declawing cats?

A: Any time you are performing an elective procedure on an animal you must carefully examine why you are doing it and question if it is going to harm the pet in any way.

By elective procedures, I am referring to any procedure that your pet does not necessarily need in order to live. For example, spaying or neutering an animal is considered an elective procedure but the benefits of these procedures far outweigh any negative impact to the pets.

This does not mean that we have not looked at ways to make these procedures less invasive or painful to the animals, however, the need for these procedures exists.

Other procedures such as ear cropping and tail docking are not necessary and are only done for esthetic reasons for certain breeds. Therefore, a lot of people are starting to take a second look at the need for these procedures, and in Europe these procedures are banned as unnecessarily cruel to the animals.

Declawing is one of these procedures that is under scrutiny to determine if the benefits of the procedure outweigh the negatives.

The argument for declawing is that it will keep cats in homes and out of shelters if we can stop them from destroying the house with their claws or hurting family members by scratching them.

The argument against it is that it is an unnecessary amputation of a third of each toe that can cause long term pain and discomfort for the cat, and that there are non-surgical alternatives to declawing such as Soft Paws nail caps.

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Dr. Julianne Miller is a Flagstaff veterinarian. She can be reached at drmiller@canyonpet.com


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