Charlie’s Update & A note on pet health

I wanted to share an update on my dog Charlie. Thank you all for the positive vibes!!

I’ve got good news and bad. Let’s start with the bad.

The bad news is that I tried so hard to write a funny update “from” Charlie’s point of view. But the fact is that I just suck at pretending to be a dog writing a thank you letter to blog readers. So I deleted it.

Now the good news: Despite the fact that all is not right with Miss Charlie, the good news is that the xrays and bloodwork did not show any problems or tumors or kidney issues. So the pup got some acupuncture, and I returned home from the 8hr excursion with nothing but a bottle of Prozac. For the dog, not me. Oh, and a big hole in my wallet. But let me tell you this: I’m happy to have spent the money, because I’d rather be safe than sorry.  Of course, we still don’t know what’s really wrong with her, and she’s still acting very tired and withdrawn, but fingers crossed that she’s just scared of the rumbling noises the furnace makes.

Let’s take a moment to discuss veterinary care and bills. Why?  Because when I was researching local vets and reading all the reviews online, I was shocked by how many bad reviews hospitals got, simply because people were horrified/angered that they were expected to pay for the cost of care.  And expected to do so at the time of service.

I used to work in the veterinary field.  Both as a hospital manager and as a vet assistant (at a regular vet, an emergency center, and a specialty surgery referral center.)  I also worked with rescue groups.  So I’ve been there, done that, and along the way have seen many people balk at the cost of veterinary care.

I groan when I see reviews saying that the business is just trying to make a profit.  Yes, it’s a business.  Not a non-profit.  But the CEO is most likely not trying to get rich.  There’s a lot that goes into a successful and quality veterinary facility – salaries for the vet as well as all the staff, expensive medical equipment, the cost of the building.  And yes, people don’t like it, but there has to be some profit left over after covering all those costs.  Why?  So that vets can get rich and buy Corvettes?  No, not at all.  You need to have a profit left over so you can invest in the business and continue to buy the latest and greatest equipment, provide training for your staff, etc.

Trust me, you don’t want to take your dog/cat/ferret/potbelly pig/bird to the little old facility that has an 80-yr-old vet and has never charged enough for services.  Sure, he may agree to “bill you later,” but I bet if your pet needs surgery, it’s not being hooked up to a modern anesthesia machine or heart rate monitor.

So I repeat:  Vets do NOT make a lot of money.  And they have huge vet school loans to pay off.  And the lovely assistants? Barely more than minimum wage.

So please, trust me when I tell you that most places are not trying to take your money just to pad their pockets.  Quality veterinary care does cost a bit, which is something that’s good to consider before adopting a pet.  Of course, I didn’t think about that when I adopted four animals right after college.  If I’d known what it cost to keep them healthy. . .

Also, I know it’s tough to have to pay up front when dealing with an emergency.  Your beloved family member is sick, you’re worried about him/her, and the last thing you want to do is deal with a $1000 vet bill.  But many hospitals are reluctant to “bill” you later, because they so often have stacks and stacks of bills that have to go to collections.

And one recommendation: if you have a “senior” pet, one of the best things you can do at their annual exam is to get bloodwork done.  A “senior profile” will probably run you around $150 for bloodwork and urinalysis – but it can show the vet any problems that may be developing, so that they can be addressed (such as poor kidney function) early, giving you more healthy time with your pet.  It’s much cheaper to do the bloodwork and start them on a special diet or medication than to suddenly deal with a very sick animal down the road.

So that’s my 2 cents, sorry for the rant.  Just trying to share an alternate point of view.  Any questions or counter-argurments?  Go ahead, throw them at me. I can take it.

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  • Reply Liz Wheeler at 9:54 am

    I love your post, and 100% agree with your comments. My father is a veternarian (he is now retired) and he often talks students out of ‘becoming a vet’. It is very difficult for vets to make money. Vet school is longer than medical school. Animals can’t talk, so vets must be very astute at diagnosing their patients! My dad has witnessed many owners who can’t pay their pet’s medical bills and just put their pet to sleep. Some vets even commit suicide because they are overwhelmed with school loans and their business is failing. Everyone needs to look into pet insurance – it has gotten much better in the last few years.

  • Reply Aurora at 10:13 am

    Counter-arguments? Haha NO WAY. I agree with you entirely. In fact, if you don’t mind, I may just ramble into your comment box once again with my own recent experience.

    I have my one feline friend and that is IT. Especially since he is getting old and rickety… I actually just had bloodwork done at his annual a couple weeks ago. It cost me $175, on top of the $80-something for checkup and usual shots. This alone is a huge hole in my wallet. A couple days later the vet called to tell me he has hyperthyroidism. Now that is daily medication ($50/100 5mg pills) and periodical blood tests ($70-$80 every 6-9 months) to monitor it. But, you know what, my responsibility to this animal is no less than it would be for a human child. He trusts me, he needs me, and anything less than meeting his needs is failure.

    I can’t do much about the cost of the blood tests, but that price for the medication was quoted by my vet. LUCKILY!!! A friend and also upstairs neighbor happens to be a pharmacy tech, and after telling her about the situation she looked into it and managed to get me 90 10mg pills for $9 from her pharmacy. That is not a typo. The pharmacy has a savings program, and all she did was sign me up for it and my vet called the scrip in. Moral of this paragraph: Do not hesitate to shop around for cheaper pet meds… You never know how much you can ease the financial burden otherwise.

  • Reply Crysty at 10:27 am

    Well put and totally agree 🙂 No one in the animal field really makes any money. You just have to have the heart for it <3

  • Reply Jenn L @ Peas and Crayons at 11:59 am

    oooh ooh! me me! I want to play this game too!

    Vets are vets because they love animals! =) Not all of them rock, but they are trying really hard! So talk with them and find out if they are the vet for you (aka the vet you trust) <3

    and… if your doggie or kitty is having mucho health problems and allergies are suspected — for sure just shell out the 400 dollars for allergy screening and bloodwork (IF YOU CAN! I know times are super hard) because it could save your pets life and increase the quality of their life as your furry BFF <3

    I've seen a lot of stuff happen over the 10+ years i've worked with animals at pet stores and spoke to zillions and zillions of vets and vet techs and omg… I cannot say enough about the allergy screening. its amazing.

    Oh man… I'm running upstairs to snuggle my little furballs now <3

    love ya Jane! thanks for linking up to my food party <3 it means the world to me since I know you are SUPER busy! <3 Have fun and FINISH PACKING GIRL! haha

    • Reply Jane at 12:02 pm

      Jenn –
      I couldn’t agree more about the allergy screening. I’m going to be doing that for my other pup next month!

  • Reply Jenn L @ Peas and Crayons at 12:00 pm

    Jane’s awesome blog readers : I just drank entirely too much coffee! lol sorry for the hyper rant above =)


  • Reply jenn at 12:26 pm

    Puppy acupuncture!? Love it! And, I agree with you about vet costs. I don’t understand why people don’t research this stuff before they get a pet. Your pet is another member of your household. There are going to be costs involved … at least your pet is getting great care.

  • Reply Robin at 4:32 pm

    I’m so glad she’s okay! 🙂

  • Reply Devlyn at 6:29 pm

    So, needless to say, I completely agree with your post. After 2 years now in practice, I have been called horrible things when I have asked people to actually pay for care being provided. This happened especially when I was in emergency medicine. Yes this kind of medicine is more expensive, but we are there at 3 in the morning every morning taking care of very sick animals. I also wish people would think about what comparable care at a human hospital would run and how much LESS we charge.

    Veterinarians get into this because we love it, but it is nice to also be able to afford my mortgage as well as eventually pay off my stupendously huge student loans. I would say that purchasing pet insurance, or having a credit card set aside for emergency care is a very very good idea. That way when the bad stuff happens, and inevitably it will, you won’t have to really worry about the money, and worry only about your best friend and the care they need.

    Devlyn D’Alfonzo, DVM

  • Reply Mrs. Puma at 12:24 pm

    My best friends both work in the industry and my first job was assisting at a vet (before I realized I’m allergic to cats, so that didn’t last long), so I know what you mean about quality costs. But after being faced with an emergency with our lab mix that cost us several hundred dollars, I also know how hard it is to deal with a sudden major expense. We really couldn’t afford the whole cost up front, so luckily the animal hospital worked with us on dating checks for 3 different dates over time. If they hadn’t been willing to work with us, I don’t know what we would have done. We’ve always budgeted for her annual vet bills and some extra in-case money, but not that much. I just wish there were better pet insurance options, to help us with preparing for those emergencies like we do with our health care. If you know of a good pet insurance option, please let me know!

  • Reply JoDi at 4:31 pm

    So glad to hear they didn’t find anything horrible wrong, but I know it’s frustrating to not have a definite answer to why she’s feeling droopy! Sometimes it’s just age, but it could also be pain of some sort – neck, back, teeth. One of our dogs recently had dental work, and they removed some teeth that were decaying. (She’s a rescue and came to us with horrible teeth from what must have been years of neglect. The rescue had some teeth removed when they took her in but there were more that needed to go!) She is feeling perkier than ever, and although the vet was concerned about doing the dental because of her age, I am so glad we did it! I had noticed that she had less energy and was sleeping more recently, and those teeth must have been hurting her.

    We love our vets, and they know we will do whatever it takes to provide the best care for our pets, but they NEVER take advantage of that to do unecessary things to make more money. We have 4 rescue dogs, and I budget for their vet care every month. We have spent large sums of money for orthopedic surgeries on two of our dogs because we knew it would improve the quality of their lives for many years. We’ve also had to make the heartbreaking decision to “let nature take its course” and just do palliative care when an older dog would have required expensive treatment for lymphoma that would only have served to prolong his life for a few months. It’s all about balance and what’s kindest to the pet.

    For those wanting to save some money, prescriptions (especially generics) can be filled very reasonably through the Costco pharmacy (no need to be a member) or Walmart. You should check it out if Charlie is going to stay on Prozac long-term. And for expensive procedures, Carecredit can be very helpful for a lot of people.

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