A Few Words Regarding Finance

Look, I’m just going to come right out and say it: health care for pets is awfully expensive. I know it; you know it; you’ve probably even heard someone prattling on social media or the nightly news about how the vet is out to get you with it. Please, allow me to shed a little light.

First off, if you suspect your vet is out to get you, you’re at the wrong vet. If you don’t trust the person providing your pet’s medical care, your issue is much, much more serious than paying off the balance. This is a team sport in which the patient is often an unwilling, even rebellious, participant. A good working relationship between doctor and pet owner is essential.

Second, it’s vital to understand costs before agreeing to anything, because veterinary procedures can’t just be reversed and refunded. So go ahead, ask. It won’t be awkward. If your pet is hospitalized, remember to inquire about the invoice when you call to check on her progress. This is not a hostage situation.

Third, you can help a lot by explaining where you stand. We understand that $500 over the course of six months is different than $500 this afternoon. We get that paying for this might short you on something else. We’ve discussed finances with innumerable clients and have zero interest in judging you, so please be honest. We can’t change the price of things, but we can try to formulate a Plan B if necessary. This will be a somewhat abbreviated list of the services your pet needs, in order of their importance. We’ll complete as many as we can (most critical items first) to try and make the very best use of your resources. In all honesty, it’s not as safe as Plan A—but going home without any treatment is a pretty poor option. Lowballing how much you’re able to set aside for the pet won’t be helpful. I can usually come up with a decent Plan B, but it’s going to be a weird one if you lied to me.

Fourth, there are no guarantees in medicine, but we can make some reasonable predictions. Can we expect her to survive ten more years after this hospital stay, or two? Or two more months? This will help you set a reasonable bottom line expenditure for your family. 

Veterinary medicine is not like what you’ve known at a human hospital. In the vast majority of cases, there is no third party (insurance) to dilute, delay, or mask the costs that are incurred. You will be paying the bill at the end of this week, not pulling it out of your mailbox next June. In veterinary care, you are not a bystander nervously flipping through the magazines until someone comes to tell you what transpired. There is a genuine need for you to participate meaningfully in treatment decisions. Ask about the things you don’t understand, and be straight with us about the budget available. We can make the very most of whatever that is, but only if everyone’s on the same page.

Dr. M.S. Regan