Q: I am curious why the price of similar veterinary services can vary from one practice to another. Is there any reason why we would not want to choose the least expensive service?
A: Typically, when you are shopping for products, including medications, you want to compare prices to get the best deal. This practice explains why stores such as Walmart are so successful. They can buy in bulk and reduce their overhead, thereby reducing the price of similar products compared to other stores. This method can drive down costs but might sacrifice customer service; however, this method might not be such a great idea when buying services.
The pricing behind veterinary services is much more involved and complicated. Veterinarians price their services based on many factors, including the level of expertise, the services offered, and the quality of those services.
As with other professions, veterinarians have many levels of experience, beginning with a newly graduated veterinarian up to a senior veterinarian who has been practicing for many years.
Some specialized veterinarians have taken extra schooling to become proficient in one particular aspect of veterinary medicine, such as a veterinary cardiologist. There are also general practice veterinarians who have taken different classes and acquireds additional education to become more skilled in certain aspects of veterinary medicine.
If a veterinarian is more experienced or more educated, then they will charge more for their services. The quality of service also will affect the price because if you are getting gold star service in a well-managed and well-run practice with all the amenities, the price will be higher.
A veterinary practice that provides experienced veterinarians and a well-trained staff usually means that your pet will get more attention, better medical care, and better nursing care than at a cheaper clinic. Typically, practices that can offer more in-depth medical care and diagnostics, along with a well-trained staff, will charge higher prices to diagnose and treat much faster and more effectively. Well-run practices also will be aware of newer and more up-to-date therapies for your pets and will make sure to provide on-going training for their staff.
Although money will always be part of your medical care decisions for your pet, you should also look at the customer care you receive, the level of medicine that is being offered, and the amenities that the clinic has to offer to guide your decision.
Q: My dog keeps getting into something on our walks in the forest that is causing him diarrhea, which typically will go away in a couple of days. When should I start to worry?
A: This is, unfortunately, one of the risks of enjoying the forest with your dog! Dogs love to eat things they shouldn't, and most of the time, it is not a problem. Ordinarily, if the diarrhea only lasts a couple of days and your dog is otherwise acting normal, then it is not a big deal.
You can always try a bland diet of boiled white rice and boiled plain chicken for a couple of days to see if that helps. However, if there is accompanying vomiting, lack of appetite, lethargy, or diarrhea lasting for more than three days, I would recommend having your pet seen by a veterinarian.
I also highly recommend having your dog on monthly heartworm prevention or a monthly dewormer. The monthly heartworm prevention not only prevents heartworm disease; it also provides a monthly intestinal dewormer that is so important for these dogs.
There is a misconception that there is no heartworm disease in Northern Arizona, but unfortunately, this is not true. There are positive cases seen in and around Flagstaff and in the coyote population on the Navajo reservation. Protecting your pet against heartworm and intestinal parasites is an essential part of preventative care for your dog.
Dr. Julianne Miller is a Flagstaff veterinarian. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org