Whole Dog Journal's Blog July 7, 2014

A Sad Tale from the Vet’s Office

Posted at 12:57PM - Comments: (32)

A couple of months ago, I was at the vetís office with my dog Otto. He had a small wound between two of his toes that he kept licking; it looked like a classic foxtail/grass awn hole. These things have to be probed with an instrument to make sure that the awn isnít still present in the wound and traveling upward (ever upward), the way they do.

As I was waiting, I could not help but overhear a conversation that was taking place on the other side of a swinging door between the waiting area and a hallway to the exam rooms. A young man was growing quite agitated and was raising his voice. He kept repeating, ďOh my dog, my dog!Ē and ďThere is no way I can afford this!Ē

A few minutes into this, I heard someone tell the young man to wait in the waiting room and that a doctor would discuss things with him further in a minute.

He came into the waiting room. He was very emotional. And he absolutely reeked of marijuana. It was as if a skunk who had just sprayed a dog had just entered the small room. †It was that strong.

Where I live, in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains in northern California, there are marijuana farms of various sizes all around. He could have been a worker on one of those farms. Or he could have cancer and using high doses of pot to treat his symptoms. Or he could be suffering from extreme anxiety over his dog. Or he could just be a huge stoner. Thereís no telling, and Iím not judging, I swear.

A few minutes later, a veterinarian came into the waiting room. I donít know why she chose to discuss the matter with him in the waiting room instead of an exam room, but it was at the end of what looked like a hectic day. They started to discuss the young manís dog. The gist of the conversation was this:

The dog had a broken jaw, several broken teeth, and the broken teeth had become infected. The young man had been presented with an estimate for surgery to remove the broken teeth and put a plate in the jaw, and he said he couldnít afford it. He wanted to know what absolutely had to be done for the dog, and what could wait. He said the dog had gotten loose on his job site, and had been hit by a forklift or tractor or something, and he had been wetting her dry dog food for a few days, but that she had stopped eating or drinking.

The vet said that so far, all they had done was take an x-ray of the jaw and give the dog something for pain and fluids for her dehydration. She said the dog absolutely had to have antibiotics to treat the infection, and a soft diet (canned food) for the indefinite future. And she (the dog) should also have pain medication Ė but that the whole thing might not heal properly if surgery was not done, soon, to remove the damaged teeth and repair the jaw.

At this point, the young man emptied his pockets on the counter and started counting cash. He said, ďLet me see how much I have been able to raise. Iíve called everyone I know. I just moved here. I donít have any family here, and I work in construction, and I just met these guys on the job site. They gave me a few dollars, but they donít even know me yet.Ē

The vet asked if he had a credit card, or had someone in his family who had a credit card they would let him use. He said no. She asked if he had called and applied for one of those emergency credit cards for veterinary medical bills. He said he had called earlier in the day, when he dropped the dog off, and had been denied credit.

He finished counting, and said, ďI have about $140. You can have it all. Just do everything you can for her.Ē He left the money on the counter and went outside for a minute.

JUST the week before, I had paid an $850 vet bill for relatives who didnít have money to treat their dog. My mind was racing as I tried to think of what I could do -- and shouldnít do (considering it would take me a month or two to pay off that other bill) -- to help a dog I still hadnít even seen. I knew I had a case or so of canned food samples left over from our last review. I asked the receptionist if it would be much longer before Otto could be seen, and mentioned that I had some canned food Iíd like to donate to another patient. She said, ďIt will still be a while, so if you wonít be long, that would be very nice.Ē My office is less than a mile from the clinic, so I took Otto and drove quickly to go fetch the food.

When I got back, I carried the food into the reception area and put it down on a chair by the door, and made eye contact with the receptionist to let her know Otto and I were back. A tech had just brought the young manís dog out from the treatment area. She was groggy, as if she had been tranquilized, but was wiggling and super happy to see her owner. She was a pit-mix, who, judging from her stretched and dangling teats, had obviously had more than one litter of puppies. The young man pulled a piece of rope out from his pocket and put it around her neck; she had no collar (or ID tag, obviously). The techs were bustling about, preparing some antibiotics and some pain meds to send with the dog. I said to the young man, ďHey, hereís a bunch of canned food for her.Ē He was distracted, but he said thanks. And then the receptionist called my name, and Otto and I went into an exam room.

They were gone when I came out of the exam room with Otto. I saw a different veterinarian than the one who had been discussing the dog with her owner. He probed, but didnít find a foxtail in Ottoís foot.† He sent me home with some antibiotics, which, honestly, I didnít give to Otto, whose foot healed just fine. The visit cost me $140.

I donít know what became of that dog or her owner, but I canít stop thinking about them. I imagine that cases like these haunt veterinarians, too.

Comments (32)

I've had the situation where a stranger needed assistance with care for their dog. I have donated money anonymously to the vet's office to pay a part or all of an owner's bill. It's not the dog's fault and if the owner is willing to ask for help, and I am able to help, then I will. I helped a family whose rescue dog was hit by a car three days before Christmas. Another had adopted a dog where the previously owner swore up and down the dog was vaccinated - it was not and became extremely ill. Another was a family with two small children and not enough money to pay for the ultrasound for their pet. Lastly, a puppy who was hit by a car and needed care. I'm glad I could help those owners - all of whom were very grateful for the financial assistance. I even received a pictures of these dogs! And a very special picture of the two small children with their beloved pet. Perhaps one day, they'll be able to pay it forward too.

Posted by: LouiseAKK | September 11, 2014 3:45 PM    Report this comment

As a pet owner for the last 24 years, I've been through a lot. I've spent a lot of money on vet bills (and am fortunate that I had the credit to pay for it). I've had vets I liked and vets I didn't, been through emergencies and a lot of routine care.

If, as he said, this young man had just moved into town, I guess he wouldn't have had time to establish a relationship with a vet or shop around for a vet. But ideally, you can find out a vet's reputation (and whether their prices are particularly high or not) if you do some research. And if you establish a relationship with a vet you like, they are far more likely to give you a break or make a payment arrangement with you. I would say most vets give breaks in cases of hardship, but they can't do it in every case - they just can't afford to. I'm a business owner and I understand that there are expenses to be met and paychecks to be paid. You may want to help every needy person but you can't possibly help them all. It's not a matter of being heartless. It is a matter of being in business. Don't assume because a vet denies free service in one case that he never helps animals in need.

Posted by: boogiecat | July 9, 2014 10:06 AM    Report this comment

I have pet insurance for my current dog although it does not cover a\everything. I spent 15,000 on the last few years of my last dog's life who lived to be almost sixteen. I did not have it but I managed to borrow and scrape together the money--I did not pay rent a couple of times and other essential bills and I was fortunate enough to have family who cared.

A few years later my elderly father could not afford a bill for his cat who had cancer and it was awful. We finally found an organization online that covered some of it (for indigent seniors). And I kicked in the rest. He was broke in part from other family members who could not pay for their pets' emergencies.

I really feel for all the animals never adopted and all the people who fell on hard times or who have been chronically poor but who love their animals dearly. Personally I think every vet should have a pro bone program. Ha! I mean pro bono. I have no respect for a vet if they never give a desperate situation a break. But I think it is a national crisis. There should be more foundations and perhaps every vet bill should charge a modest fee (Like cable bills etc have a myriad of fees) part of which would go into that office's fund for "charity cases" and the other part to could go to a larger fund to be distributed to needy pets and their owners.

Posted by: 1bestdog | July 8, 2014 4:45 PM    Report this comment

I had a Chihuahua slip out of the door and tangle with a passing stray. She was severely injured and in shock. She was 14 and had heart trouble. It was too late in the day to get to my regular vet so I went to the nearest vet. They grabbed the dog and took her through a locked door. When I reI can uested that she be put down, the staff acted horrified and treated me like it was lack of money, which it wasn't. They gave me a written estimate of $150-200 to treat her. I reluctantly agreed. My husband was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer 3 days later. The dog was still in shock so I once again requested she be put down. They refused and made every effort to shame me. They also refused to give her back to me saying they were treating her and I couldn't properly care for her. In short, I was stressed, my husband died and they gave me a bill for $800 that they wanted paid before they would release her. Looking at the bill, they had done 2 surgeries, including a dental, that I knew nothing about. I arranged for a payment plan. The dog finally came home but died of a heart attack 2 weeks later.

Two years later, I am a senior citizen and a widow on disability. My elderly dachshund has been diagnosed with Cushing disease. The diagnostic tests were $500. The cheapest price I can find for the meds is $60/month and there will be periodic testing. I qualify for vet medical assistance but they only help with short term (under 30 days) illnesses. I can't afford it.

Posted by: execsupport | July 8, 2014 4:27 PM    Report this comment

I can't say only buy well bred dogs as the commenter mentioned above. There are many badly bred humans, do we tell them we will kill them because they are badly bred, because we only like well bred successful human animals. I have adopted pets with health issues, bought pet insurance and we made it on very little money. Giving up on a pet at a shelter or rescue because it didn't have pedigree papers is just plain wrong. If one must only buy well bred pets, then one must only deal with well bred humans, and since you only want well bred dogs, are you yourself, a well bred human? We want to see your pedigree so we can decide if you are well bred and if not, off to the killing chambers at any local pet killing center in every city so you can see what it is like to die at a killing center then be thrown in a pile with the many others that were killed that day. Its amazing we live in America, and we allow the killings every day of innocent beings.
There are even show dogs that get dumped at the killing centers, due to owners having their houses stolen by the big banks. So all the breeding of these pedigreed dogs and even some of them end up being killed, because the owner did not provide a lifetime forever loving home.

Every pet has a soul, feelings, a personality and is an individual that deserves to be given a chance to a great happy life. It is sad that so many humans turn their backs on the forgotten souls on death row in their own community animal shelter. Good souls that never committed a crime. If these souls have health problems it is because what humans have done to them. So we must make it right, and help them. I found that adopting pets with health problems, that conventional vets wanted to make money from them but really couldn't help them, so I have ended up learning how to deal with different health problems on my own with great success, and no thanks to the vets that said it was a hopeless illness and they would die, when it turned out they lived a long happy life for many years against all odds. I went with my gut, learned what I needed or tried various treatments to save them. Now I know about holistic vets, so there are a few that actually can help pets that seem to have hopeless health problems.
I am not the kind of pet owner liked by vets. I will question everything they do, research the treatment to make sure I am comfortable with it and my pets will have a happy outcome. Many vets tell me to trust them or they guarantee it, but if I ask for it in writing, they will not put it in writing. I am the guardian angel for my pets, if I don't protect them, no one will. Many vets, but not all, are looking for the most profitable treatment, not what is best for the pet. Its up to you to question everything and do your research. My pets have lived longer then most pets because I look out for them. Generally my vet bills are much lower then others. I question the cost of everything, and make a deal of how much I will pay for any service or med. If a vet is willing to work with me to find the best solution then we have a great relationship and they keep me coming back. If they lie to me to make more profit, they loose me and I let everyone know. I tell other pet owners to do the same, stand up for your pets, and know you are the guardian angel for your pet.

Posted by: dogdancer | July 8, 2014 4:10 PM    Report this comment

As pet owners we do need to buy pet insurance so we are prepared for emergencies that happen to even the most careful pet owners. I don't have $9,000 ready to pay for pet emergencies so I have had pet insurance for some 25+ years. Pet insurance usually pays for itself over time. Because sooner or later, an emergency will happen, or an illness, etc and you will be hit with a high vet bill and pet insurance will cover most of it. Look for pet insurance that covers the most for emergencies, without some price sheet like vpi. Must cover 80-90% of the vet receipt. Also, get a veterinary health care credit card. Pay the vet with the veterinary credit card, then when the check comes in from the pet insurance, then pay off the veterinary health credit card. I am now looking for holistic pet care health insurance coverage too as if I ever had a pet get cancer, I will go with holistic care as I know many had greater success with holistic cancer treatment then chemo which is a very profitable pesticide and the success rate with chemo is only some 10% but they don't want you to know that. But without any chemo and holistic treatment instead, the success rate is so much higher. The vet associations don't want you to know that, so they push chemo for profit. I am amazed of all the treatments available by holistic vets that the conventional vets were unable to offer me with previous pets. These days one cannot afford human health insurance as it is overpriced for super high profits for the powers at be. But it will be dropped if everyone refuses to buy obamacare. And then lower rate health insurance will eventually be available, but if people buy obamacare, then we will be stuck with overpriced health insurance. Its sad, we live in America, and the citizens cannot even afford health insurance for themselves in this gov planned depression to help those in power get even richer. All we can do is make sure our pets are protected, as those gentle souls are the ones that enrich our lives for the better while we are stuck here. I wish me and my pets could move to a safer cleaner rural country before it gets worse which is the plan. NaturalNews has some helpful info and VeteransToday and WhatReallyHappened all helpful sites for people and their pets.

Posted by: dogdancer | July 8, 2014 3:41 PM    Report this comment

I've also experienced the high cost of vet care--my tiny 6-year-old Papillon is recovering from her surgery for a vaginal polyp. Total cost was close to $3000.00. Luckily, I could pay it (I started saving extra money when I got her). She is an accomplished agility dog but we had to give that up last October because she has intra-vertebral disc disease in her spine (that was less expensive to treat). I love her very dearly and hope I can continue to afford her health care.

With regard to the article, I wish that every dog came with an "owner's manual" describing care, feeding, training, and health care costs -- and that the owner would actually read it BEFORE purchasing or adopting the dog. Putting aside extra money in a savings account (or purchasing pet health insurance) is really a requirement for owning a dog or cat nowadays. Also, pet health problems are increasing -- for the same reasons that our health problems are increasing -- environmental pollution.

Posted by: margeam | July 8, 2014 12:24 PM    Report this comment

Four years ago our much loved Brownie, a lab/hound mix, rescued from a local shelter, jumped through the screen door on our lanai. Unfortunately she hit the metal bottom of the door, let out a scream of pain and ruptured a disc in her back paralyzing her back end. Our vet said we needed to have Brownie taken to a veterinarian neurosurgeon in Sarasota. We were told an MRI ($1800) was needed and surgery would cost an additional $2900. Having gone through a bankruptcy the year before, we couldn't qualify for any kind of financing and didn't have any serious money either. Fortunately, my son agreed to take out the loan and Brownie had the surgery. After extensive rehab, she regained the ability to walk and we were ecstatic. Eleven months later, Brownie was diagnosed with lymphosarcoma. We were told that without chemotherapy, she would be gone in less than a month. Even with chemo, she would only last 6 to 12 months. The vet bills, lab tests and medication cost about $400 per month, which we were happy to pay. Brownie put up an amazing fight and lasted 14 months. Over two years her vet bills totaled $10,000. She was only 9 years old and two years later she is still deeply missed. Eventually we adopted another shelter dog and love her almost as much as Brownie. My purpose in writing this is to inform pet owners that an affordable alternative to such huge expenses for much loved family members does exist. When we adopted Yoda, a four year old hound mix, I began to research pet insurance. There are many variables in different plans, but I found one with excellent coverage (80%) after a small annual deductible for less than $10 per month. Instead of complaining about the high cost of vet care, invest a little in a good insurance plan. There is peace of mind in knowing that your pet's care can be affordable.

Posted by: Nick Karter | July 8, 2014 12:14 PM    Report this comment

wow so many assumptions and unnecessary additions.. does it really matter if the person smokes? Does it really matter if the dog had puppies? ( and you really have no idea if it was one litter or many or none) and look at all of the "theories" like he hit the dog. Owning an animal is NOT a privilege.. it is a right.. a privilege is something granted to you that can be taken away. We have laws against abuse and neglect to protect animals but it is not a privilege. meanwhile Wal Mart and others sell antibiotics for 4 dollars an RX even pain meds are cheaper there.. that could have helped..as for pet insurance that is the reason bills are so high those that can afford it use it all of the time and since the vets get paid automatically they raise the prices to meet the insurance coverage.. and those without coverage.. get the high prices too. you paid 140 for an office visit and some cheap antibiotics.. if you did not use them you could ask for the mans name and give them to him.. there is a great little book called How To Afford-Veterinary-Care-Without-Mortgaging The Kids every pet owner should have it!

Posted by: doug williams | July 8, 2014 12:01 PM    Report this comment

I'm a hugh fan of well-bred dogs! Its an fact that the mixed breed dog has fewer health issues.
Some breeds, like the bulldog has so many problems and they don't seem to live as long as they should plus they always have health issues. It's a problem with the breed, in their genes. My friend has them and she replaces them often. I've had one dog while she had 5 with only two left. You do the math. In five year 3 of her bulldogs have passed. Plus she feeds them way too much (too much lovin goin on!) they look like fat sows! She hates it when I say that the overfeeding is killing them.
Other breeds, like the pit bull (not the american pit bull but the english one) has health problem bred in like OCD! Not purposely bred in but its there and it makes them do things like spin in circles over and over. Sad but true and I think that dog should not be bred as it is inferior tot he bred. It should be bred-out of the gene pool. People keep breeding they dogs because they make money not because they want to proliferate the breed to a higher standard.
My husband bought a 7th generation fawn doberman last year. He's part of a breeding program to prefect the color of the fawn and blue doberman while weeding out the bad genes through breeding. So of course we are not breeding our dog! He's not perfect but we love him. If he was a perfect specimen we'd love to breed him, get a female and make perfect little fawn dobermans, but we'll leave that to the breeder who is registered with the AKC to her white dobie and register all her puppies. They let her register her dog because she has a documented breeding program ongoing.

That said, never buy a puppy mill puppy!!!! Never buy online unless you will do to the breeder house to make sure they not operating a Puppymill. We have to stop these breeder of substandard purebred dogs! Not that they aren't cute and cuddly, but if you take Pet store bought dog home they just place it with another horror story and make profit to boot! If No money exchanging hands - No puppy MIlls exist!!
Adopt dogs from rescues and shelters if you haven't a clue about the purebred dog you want. Or educate yourself before you buy it! That way its less likely to end up at a shelter or rescue! Spay and neuter your mutt or ill bred purebred dog! You'll be saving lives, many lives and heart break.

Now the last thing said here is to the dog owner in the story...buy a leash! All this could have been avoided if the dog was leashed. Bad dog owner!!

Posted by: jkj92200 | July 8, 2014 11:25 AM    Report this comment

I do not begrudge the Vet for not providing free services...and I don't think that was the point of the article either. It's just a sad story of people who have no idea of what they'll do when a serious injury happens. All pet owners should have a conversation with themselves or their spouse about this before getting the pet. Before getting a dog, understand that you'll be responsible for yearly vet visit to keep your pet health, say, $300 a year for that routine visit, deworming, heart worm protection, flea and tick prescription script. Now we get down to the big question, the "what if" question. What if Fido has to be treated for something like diabetes for its whole life? Are you willing to pay for that. What if he need surgery? Do you have the cash or credit to pay the Vet at the time of service? You should always have a emergency line of credit that actually an OPEN line of credit for as much as you can get. Not just for pet emergencies but for yourself as well as all your family member's emergencies.

What about Banfield Insurance? People should check into that if they have one of those clinic around. They have 3 different plans.
Also other pet health and emergency insurances, that are paid for monthly, would have covered this surgery the dog in the story needed. Although they usually don't cover certain breed specific condition. Hence, if you're an English Bulldog owner this might not be cost effective for you.

My husband said that if anything happened to my little girl, Belle ( a yorkshire terrier) I'd just have to say good-bye. I said nothing neither agreeing or disagreeing with him but I did let him get that high strung, weirdly bred, pure breed gene-deficient Doberman Pincher! He's got a white mother and red father and is fawn color himself. The list of pre-existing conditions for this dog are a mile long so now well see who comes to that bridge first. My well bred yorkie or his ill-bred dobie. I jeast, I love Roscoe (the dobie) but I know to well that my husband will crumble if they tell him the dog he's elusive gene/ stem cell therapy that cost $10,000 for his dog! lol
I think I'm on the winning end of this test because my dog will live longer than his big dog and its when they get older that those pesky health problems come up.

God Bless the Vets who take care of some the the less fortunate people who can not pay for care on their own. They didn't get into the business of treating dogs to get rich quick! They'd all be plastic surgeons if that were the case! lol

Posted by: jkj92200 | July 8, 2014 11:05 AM    Report this comment

We love our vet and her staff. The staff says you never know what "Doc" will bring in with her on her way to her practice....dogs and cats and turtles injured laying on the side of the road. She also takes animals from our local kill shelter and fosters them. I try and do a small part by paying on some folk's accounts who I know have taken in strays. Last week I received a thank you card in the mail for chipping in for a dog who needed to have a leg amputated (awful story). I bake home made dog biscuits for my own dogs and also take some to the vet's foster dogs.....and give them dog beds and towels and dog toys. We think our vet and her staff are wonderful!!!!

Posted by: Olivia | July 8, 2014 10:19 AM    Report this comment

As manufacturers of dog wheelchairs, we still hear stories all the time from people who cannot afford spinal surgeries and are not offered any alternatives other than euthanizing their pets. I don't expect veterinarians to work for free (any more than I can offer free carts), but we started Eddie's Wheels because we didn't have $5000 free cash to pay for a spinal cord surgery with a 50% success rate. There are affordable alternatives, but corporate medicine has forgotten what they are .......conservative management of ACL's, orthopedic braces, mobility carts - all these non-surgical, non-medical interventions support healing and allow pets to maintain a decent quality of life.

Posted by: LeslieDG | July 8, 2014 10:17 AM    Report this comment

I am a vet. I worked in an ER clinic for 11 years. I saw cases like this every night. I'd love to save them all, but can't. After you spend 2 hours fixing a GDV (bloat) and 2 days later when the dog is released and the owners tell you they don't have any money, you realize you have to ask for payment up front, or you go out of business. Is it right, is it fair? My plumber now asks for payment up front. The reason that human hospitals get away with treating patients that can't pay is that we all pay for it out of our taxes. Unfortunately, owning a pet is a luxury, not a right. If you can't afford it, please don't try to stick the vet with the bill. I have a credit card with a very high limit, just for this type of emergency. And how did the dog get hit by a fork lift, anyway? Buy a leash.

Posted by: Kitti | July 8, 2014 10:00 AM    Report this comment

Actually, I am not thinking of the vet, I am thinking of the dog. My "gut" feeling as I was reading the article was that the dog was punched or hit.....Maybe I am too used to hearing and reading about abused dogs. I do try and believe in the good in people. The dog getting loose on the job, I understand, however as the vet said, the jaw was broken and the teeth extremely infected. I believe this must've happened over time,I hope I am wrong, and maybe the guy was just hoping his dog's wounds would heal on their own. The dog also showed signs of recently having a litter. Another hmmm to the story. The vet did give the dog antibiotics, fluids, etc., whatever was necessary to help the dog at once. The vet didn't wait/ ask/discuss $ to get the dog on her way to healing asap. I believe a payment option could've been worked out, however the owner being agiated, upset and possibly "high", as described from the nice lady witnessing all this in the waiting room, just proceeded to take a rope out and leave with the dog.........The vet did give him antibiotics to take with him which I hope he did. I pray that the dog is ok............

Posted by: j.k.one | July 8, 2014 9:59 AM    Report this comment

I have worked for two vets over the years. The mark up on drugs, supplements, food, etc. is unbeleivable. I know they have overhead, payroll, etc. but I wonder how many people come through that door so desperate.

I'll bet if the vet had offered to do the work at cost and let that man pay as much as he could over time, he would have done so.

I have the means to pay my vet bills for 3 big dogs. I know my vet makes a lot of money from people like me. I'm ok with that!! But giving a man like that a break would have been the right thing to do.

I feel so bad for that dog. I am surprised a vet would even let a dog in that much pain out the door.

What goes around, comes around....

Posted by: Jean | July 8, 2014 9:49 AM    Report this comment

Actually, I am not thinking of the vet, I am thinking of the dog. My "gut" feeling as I was reading the article was that the dog was punched or hit.....Maybe I am used to just hearing and reading about abused dogs. The dog getting loose on the job, I understand, however as the vet said, the jaw was broken and the teeth extremely infected. I believe this must've happened over time and maybe the guy was just hoping his dogs wounds would get better on their own. T

Posted by: j.k.one | July 8, 2014 9:40 AM    Report this comment

We had to take our 12 year old cat to an emergency 24 hr clinic near Ft Myers Beach, Fl, 2 years ago. She is diabetic but had been in remission for a few months and no longer needed insulin. She stopped eating, developed diarrhea and urinated on the kitchen counter while seeming to be very confused. So off to the clinic. No treatment before a credit card guarantee. This clinic was definitely for the rich and famous, it was incredible. Way out of our league. Anyway, she was there for 2 nights, all her blood work was "impeccable" and they determined she had "kitty flu". All of this cost us $1800. A lot of money for 2 recent retirees. Our cat was once feral, many said we should have had her euthanized instead. I don't understand that attitude, we are obligated to care for our pets. However, having worked with a Humane Society Shelter, I see so many people who drop off their pets because they can't afford their care. On the same hand It totally infuriates me when a Vet or anyone says that only those that can afford them should own a pet. That is just wrong on so many levels. For some, their companion animal is all that they have. There has got to be a better way. I hate that life is so much about the almighty dollar rather than about love, compassion and caring for those less fortunate.

Posted by: Stephanie Price | July 8, 2014 9:26 AM    Report this comment

I know medicine whether human or animal is expensive, but this country is way out of control. I am sure with the amount of charges, and the amount of people a vet's office, the equipment the repairs are more than covered. Sure there is paying back student loans, but there are a lot of us paying back loans who don't receive these lucrative salaries teachers. I just have issue with the corporate vets, who like hospitals, charge for every little thing used down to the paper pads used for the kennels. My experience has been with the VCA group. Yes pet owners should take into consideration the cost for taking care of theirs, but to people consider that when they have babies? THINK ABOUT IT!!!!

Posted by: crmolson | July 8, 2014 9:16 AM    Report this comment

I do not begrudge anyone who wants compensation for their services...vets included. I also do not know a single vet who won't be generous towards someone who is in dire straits.
One experience I did have, though, left me feeling cheated. My dog had somehow ruptured 3 discs in his neck. The vet school doc did some of the repair surgery, but nicked an artery part way into the operation and the dog needed 5 units of blood. He had a bad reaction to the blood and was on a ventilator for 24 hours and in ICU for a week. I got a bill for the full cost of his care even though the surgery wasn't completed and the vet had screwed up. I was so sick with worry that I paid for it all without challenging the charges.
Had I asked, I am sure the bill could have been reduced. Live and learn.

Posted by: alowry | July 8, 2014 8:53 AM    Report this comment

Encouraging a young vet to open their own practice when that young vet is DROWNING in debt from school is a recipe for disaster.

A veterinary practice is a business, first and foremost, just like a human hospital - but human hospitals have the ability to take the hit for 'freebies' and "frequent flier patients"

A single doctor practice must do a minimum of $2500 - 3000 each day to keep the doors open - that pays all the bills with very little left over for 'profit'. Figure an average office visit for an exam and vaccines is about $100-150, how many patients must that vet see each day in order to meet the daily income?!! SIXTEEN to TEWENTY patients per 8 hour day - if you schedule only 30 minutes per patient and that includes the tech getting a history which takes about 10-15 minutes, leaving little time for the doctor to actually see the patient - and if the patient needs diagnostics - ear problem of other stuff, it takes longer.

Very few veterinarians are wealthy unless they have scrimped and saved like the rest of us try to do. Specialists often make more $$ but they also spend more to get their education so they can charge more as they are providing a specialized service.

If I needed a cruciate repair, I'd see an orthopedic surgeon; it's their JOB - they do the surgery all the time - it is the same for a dog - sure, you can have a general practioner veterinarian do the surgery, but why would you when their are specialists? COST - well, you get what you pay for and if you shop for the cheapest surgeon, well, then, don't come crying to your regular vet when your dog has a problem!

Posted by: RottiMomCT | July 8, 2014 8:30 AM    Report this comment

I am thankful that I can afford pet insurance but I really feel vets give unnessesary vaccinations just to make a buck. Most dogs are immune after they receive all there puppy shots and an occasional booster it's better to have a titer test to see if your pet really needs a vaccination,they know how much we love are pets,i almost lost one of my dogs last year after a bad reaction to her vaccinations,they put to many vaccines in one needle and she wouldn,t eat or drink and was lethargic and sick for 7 days finally she came around,no more vaccinations for her,i thinks it's best to find a holistic vet that has your pets best interest at heart.

Posted by: Linda Mussa | July 8, 2014 3:23 AM    Report this comment

As much as I understand the reality for the vets to make a living, I think when they lose sight of the compassion factor toward animals, that hopefully was what drew them to the field in the first place, they do need to get out. Overcharging on meds and routine care by implying we want is best for Fluffy, don't we?....and having taped messages while we're on hold encouraging sometimes unnecessary tests, only agitates those of us who want to adopt and support our pets.
For me the stories only underscore the need to reconsider pet health insurance, but then those who struggle the most are not likely to be able to afford a premium either.
I think the vets owe it to their clients to know the non-profit resources in their areas, and at the least to provide comfort care for a hurting creature until the person has a chance to regroup and think through alternatives. In the stress of the moment it is hard to think clearly, or to immediately get media coverage.
I'm saying a prayer for the pup in the story...

Posted by: robin r | July 7, 2014 11:23 PM    Report this comment

Several years ago I went to the local emergency vet at night with one of my dogs who had vomited, but was also showing signs of abdominal discomfort. I was afraid that bloat was a possibility. A young man was in the clinic lobby obviously distraught; he had a puppy of six to eight weeks that came in and was diagnosed with parvo. Now I know how this place works, you make a deposit based on an estimate for care. Then treatment begins in earnest.

This young man declined further services and asked to have the puppy euthanized. The vet even offered to work out a payment plan, but he refused. So a puppy just starting life, left this world because of money.

When my same dog had a bad attack of pulmonary edema after a dx of CHF I put a thousand on a credit card, the remainder at pick up. I am fortunate, I have plastic money when there is an emergency with one of the dogs. How many people euthanize dogs with good chances of recovery based solely on finances. It breaks my heart.

Posted by: CasaPodenco | July 7, 2014 8:33 PM    Report this comment

I am a veterinarian. Cases like this do bother me. Providing free and discount services for every hard luck case is not feasible. A veterinary clinic is a business, not a lending institution. We have bills too- payroll, insurance, rent/mortgage etc.
Prepare ahead of time- get a credit card for emergencies and think twice before you get a pet.. Can you afford one?

Posted by: Dagny | July 7, 2014 5:08 PM    Report this comment

With the exception of being stoned (and being a guy!), this could be my story. I go without in order to provide my Great Pyrenees rescue with a decent quality dog food and her daily arthritis meds (Revecan and Rimadyl). She has been without Heartguard for 5 months now and I fear she has a rotten or broken tooth. I am not even in a position to make payments on a large Vet bill. I am angry that I am unable to provide anything more, but it is what it is.

Posted by: ElizabethInTN | July 7, 2014 3:33 PM    Report this comment

WOW!! You have to kidding, payment first, or we won't, or we can't treat your dog, or cat, are we losing site of humanity, is it all about the money, pay me first, then we talk, my daughter is a veterinarian, and worked hard getting through school, I watched her the whole way, and I am proud of her, but if she ever loses heart, and passion, and wants her money first, I would tell her, as her father, to get out of the business, and by the way the oath, did you all forget that, money, money, money, it is all about the money.

Posted by: Jerry Peda | July 7, 2014 3:24 PM    Report this comment

I have worked in a vet office and there are so many heartbreaking stories like this one... I know many vets who took home dogs that owners wanted to put down rather than try and find a new home.. but how many can one save? then there are the owners who beg for free treatment with so called heart breaking stories driving brand new SUV"S and owning purebred designer breeds. then if the vet does discount services... the owner expects it every time, or if they say we can do a payment plan.... the dog gets treated and the clinic never sees another dime. Which hurts the next heartbreaking story who could use help. It is so easy to become jaded by the scammers. I dont' know any other profession where clients look at a vet and say you must love animals so you'll treat my dog for free cause you love them right? you don't say that to an accountant or a mechanic or a doctor or a dentist

Posted by: Dugansmom | July 7, 2014 1:00 PM    Report this comment

My niece's dog developed bloat & was in very serious condition. She rushed her to the emergency vet who would not do ANYTHING before securing payment. My niece did not have good credit and was maxed out on her Care Vet Credit. So she calls me. I told the receptionist to get that dog in surgery NOW--I'll pay! So as soon as my card went thru, they operated. Really?! They wasted more precious time for the numbers to go through! Would they seriously have let that dog die a painful death because of money? Would they not have done anything to relieve her pain? We treat criminals. We treat drug abusers who keep coming back to the ER and don't pay. It's wrong when someone turns their back on an animal in need because of money. My niece's dog, Annie, made a complete recovery. I got a bill for $2,300.00. And I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Posted by: Mollie-girl | July 7, 2014 12:55 PM    Report this comment

You know those adoption events where you show up, you choose a dog, and everyone is happy? You're supposed to come back for spay/neuter...but does this really happen to ALL THE DOGS? On Craigslist you can get a dog for free...and if your hillbilly meth addict friend has puppies---you can get a gree puppy.
So much we used to take for granted is no longer affordable. Was there a local humane society with a free clinic? Would they have treated this dog? Would anyone have taken the time to help this naive young man & his dog?
This is capitalism. Veterinarians have to pay bills, too---and this is how they make their $$$---not on shots, not on wormings, not on healthy dogs.

Posted by: RobynM | July 7, 2014 12:54 PM    Report this comment

This is a heartbreaker and I know how he feels because there was a time in my life where that bill would have left me in hysterics. However, the one thing that vet's offices should know is whether there are only local charities that may help. For instance, in the county in live in in PA there is a community foundation that has a fund for emergency surgery. Which reminds me- I should go donate! :)

Posted by: Cooper25 | July 7, 2014 12:42 PM    Report this comment

Cost of veterinary care is a huge issue. So many clinics in my area (Delaware) are now owned by corporations, so the fine vets who work there can't even make decisions about what to charge if they wanted to. I am very fortunate to have one of the few independent vets left, and have many times known him to not charge for his services, including when I brought in an emaciated, filthy, matted little dog my son had found on the road. He treated her for 4 days at no charge. I don't know what can be done to help young vets open their OWN practices, instead of being employees of a corporation, but I think that is the answer.

Posted by: Mary Woodward | July 7, 2014 12:41 PM    Report this comment

New to Whole Dog Journal? Register for Free!

Already Registered?
Log In