Wednesday night I was on call, covering several practices in the greater Bunbury region. At around 8pm the phone rang, and the person on the other end of the phone told me they had a sick puppy and were looking for a vet who bulk bills. They had no money at all to pay for a consultation.
While bulk billing might be possible for doctors, it’s just not available for pets and vets. Vet clinics are a purely private business, and therefore get no government payments or assistance. Unfortunately, the only way we can keep our doors open is to charge for our services.
This phone call did make me wonder whether people know how much veterinary care might cost, and what their options are for paying for the services provided. We often find when we give estimates for procedures in the consult room we find some people are shocked at how expensive some treatments are, while others are surprised that it doesn’t cost thousands more.
One thing I hate seeing on Facebook and other discussion groups is “if you can’t afford to have X treated properly, you shouldn’t have a dog”. While people do need a small amount of money put aside in case of an emergency vet visit, it’s just not fair or reasonable to expect everyone to have $3000 sitting around just in case their dog gets hit by a car.
How much money should you have set aside?
The reality is that most of our bills come out at less than $200. This includes a consultation ($79), plus some medication and maybe some in-house lab work. Unfortunately, for severe illness or injury, the bill can be much higher. A broken leg may cost around $3000, intestinal blockage around $2000, and our most advanced cancer treatments around $12000.
What can you do if you can’t afford a vet bill?
We’re proud to be able to offer a couple of payment options when needed. We now work with Vetpay, ZipPay and ZipMoney to help finance veterinary care. Our team can help you through the application process to ensure you qualify, in which case you will normally be able to pay the bill over 6 months interest-free.
We are always happy to provide estimates prior to any work being undertaken so you can ensure it fits within your budget.
How can you minimise vet bills?
There are a lot of ways you can minimise vet bills, and it starts right at the point when you’re getting a pet. Here are our top tips:
- Don’t buy a dog or cat with extreme characteristics. As cute as Pugs, French Bulldogs and Great Danes might be, they are much more likely to suffer from various health issues. A cross-bred dog will on average be healthier and therefore cheaper to own
- Get insurance early. Insurance will be there for you when your pet becomes unwell, but it is important to get it early. Once a dog or cat develops a problem there will be limitations on insurance cover.
- Contact a vet early. A consultation at 3pm will cost you $79. A consultation at 9pm will cost up to $270. Don’t wait until after we close before calling us. Also, the earlier we see a condition the easier it is to treat. This can save a lot of money over the course of the pet’s treatment.
- Check what is included. For procedures such as desexing, some vet clinics will include intravenous fluids and pain killers in the price, while others will consider these “optional extras”. Although these second group of clinics might give a lower price over the phone, the extra they charge to add in pain killers and intravenous fluids often means you end up paying more.
- Prevention is better than cure. To vaccinate a dog against parvovirus costs around $114. To treat a dog with parvovirus costs $3000-5000. That’s a huge difference.
- Join our Healthy Pets Club to get free or discounted consultations. More information can be found at //www.bunburyvets.com.au/healthy-pets-clubs/
There’s no getting away from the fact that vet bills can be quite big and tend to come at really bad times, but with a bit of planning and a good relationship with your vet, you should hopefully find them manageable.