Debunking myths about “rip off veterinary fees”

“Rip-off veterinary fees” were the subject of a recent poll on a vets-only website.
In answer to the question “How often does your practice receive complaints about the prices it charges?“, the results were:

  • All the time – 16%
  • Fairly often – 53%
  • Hardly ever – 30%
  • Never – 1%

So around 69% of vet clinics get regular complaints about their fees, and given that many people may feel irritated about fees without vocalising their concern to the vet, the true level of discontent is likely to be even higher. This is clearly an aspect of veterinary care that pet owners feel strongly about.

I always find this a difficult topic to discuss: as a vet, I can’t help feeling defensive, and it’s all too easy to write a self-justifying commentary. Sceptical readers may then brush off any of my explanations: “well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?”. The challenge is that only vets know about the detailed financial background to running a veterinary practice; we’re the only ones in a position to be able to explain why vets seem to charge so much. So please bear with me while I do my best to address some of the main myths about veterinary fees.

1. “Veterinary fees are so expensive that they must be a rip off”
The reason why vets’ fees are so costly is that vets’ costs are high. For every £10 you give the vet, around £7.50 to £8 goes towards the running costs of the vet clinic, with the remaining £2 to £2.50 going to the vet. For a pie-chart that shows the breakdown of costs in a typical vet clinic, see here. Outgoings include drugs, utilities, building costs, staff wages, office supplies, continuing education, and, of course, VAT. Like any business people, vets try to keep these costs to a minimum, but they do need to be covered, and vet clinics only have one income source: pet owners.
Human medical costs are perhaps the nearest equivalent to veterinary costs, but free medical care in the NHS means that the public in the UK have no appreciation of what’s involved. As an example, a bitch spay may seem pricey at £300, while the standard cost of a human hysterectomy is around £5000 when done by a private human surgeon. Such comparisons make veterinary fees seem like ridiculously good value.

2. “Vets are loaded: you never see a poor vet”
Look at the facts. The most recent survey of vets’ earnings in the UK is carried out by the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons showed that the median salary of vets who have been qualified for a year is £32000. This rises to £41232 after five years of experience in practice, but it doesn’t shift much higher than this subsequently. The median salary of a vet qualified between 10 and 20 years is between £45000 and £52000. The hourly rate for vets ranges from £15 for new graduates to around £25 for vets with many years experience.
So vets are paid well enough, but nobody could call them “loaded”. When you compare these rates of pay with other professions, it’s clear that if a young person is motivated primarily by earning money, the veterinary profession is the wrong one to choose.

3. “Vets clean up with pet insurance. The first question they ask is: do you have your pet insured?”
Why do people presume that vets ask this question with pound signs in their eyes? Yes, we do often ask the question, but people misunderstand the reason for it. If a pet is not insured, the owner will have to cover the costs themselves, and rather than shocking owners afterwards, vets prefer to give a detailed estimate, perhaps with different options, in advance. When a pet is insured, there’s no need to go over such detail beforehand with the owner: the focus can immediately be to attend to the animal, in the knowledge that appropriate costs will be covered without the owner having to worry about them.

4. “When a pet has a serious injury or accident, if you can’t afford to pay for it, vets often suggest that the animal should be put down. A genuine animal loving vet would never do that. If vets cared about animals, they’d do it for free”
The problem here is that there is no such thing as “zero cost” treatment. Given that vets receive 20 to 25% of the fees charged, simple arithmetic shows that 75 – 80% of vets’ fees are needed to cover the non-vet costs of treating an animal. If a vet gave you a 10 – 12.5% discount, they are effectively taking a 50% reduction in their take-home pay. If you are given a 20 – 25% reduction, the vet is doing it for free. And if the vet does the work at no charge, then he or she is actually giving you money for the benefit of treating your pet. Much as vets may feel a desire to do this from time to time, they do need to earn a salary so that they can pay for their own living costs.

Vets operate in an open market: competition means that people are free to shop around to choose the best value vet in their area. If you feel that vets’ fees are still “too expensive”, ask yourself what corners you would like your vet to cut. Do you want less time with your vet? Do you want him to pay his nurses less? Do you want him to use cheaper surgical and medical products? Would you like him to move to a part of town where property is cheaper? Do you want him to decorate his clinic less often? Should he undertake less continuing education so that he isn’t as up to date with treatments?

Please don’t just assume that vets are “ripping you off”: if money was our main motivation in life, we’d all have left our profession many years ago.

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55 thoughts on “Debunking myths about “rip off veterinary fees”

  1. ok I run a business myself Ive got ocer heads and staff etc .. I know its a business as well a love of animals (ihope). But why are there such variations in prices of spays and health tests ? I paid for hips and elbows £575 at my local vets but when I drove two hours away I paid £245 . They had more staff experience and expense equipment but yet £300 cheeper !!!:

  2. Your statement is a gross over simplification of a complex scenario as it is all about value for money given that customers may be emotionally funerals to be taken advantage. Our animals mean so much to us that they are life changing.

    For months I took my dog to the vets and she was treated for a heart condition however I was not happy with the answers I was receiving so I took a second opinion and after an ultra-scan and an MRI scan from another vets I found I was paying for a condition that the dog did not have and I had been given false hope. It seemed to me I was being told to keep bring my dog to the vets and pay for the consultation and medication [over twice the price I could buy the same drugs from the internet] that I did not need until the dog died or got better by itself. I should have been referred straight away and not used as a case cow. My dog should have come first.

  3. Excellent presentation – if I still had my own practice I would have the Pie Chart on a metre square poster in a prominent position in Reception.
    I might even print off a few copies of the article to hand to the Fee Grumps.
    (In lieu of any form of reduction in their fees.)

  4. The only part you haven’t covered is why it costs £120 (nearly 5 times the normal fee) just to walk through to door because it is out of hours.

  5. One of the major contributing factors of an out of hours service is the late hours. Schedules and sleep patterns are thrown out of whack and staff has to be on call after normal working hours are over. They need to be compensated for that just like any other job would. People who work night shifts in any job have a higher pay rate just because of the hours. Also you have to pay for the additional hours of power every night being used up to run equipment, lights, computers, etc.

  6. Surprisingly, out of hours staff aren’t paid that much more despite the unsociable hours and the impact on their personal lives. The major two factors are overheads and education.

    Every business has overheads as pointed out above. Utilities bills, rent/mortgage of property, equipment maintenance and wages , just to name a few. Dedicated emergency clinics do not have routine appointments for vaccinations or neutering. They don’t sell wormer or flea treatment. Their only source of income is from emergency consults and treatment given. Even if they see no patients, those bills have to be paid, so the consultation fee needs to be appropriate to the costs incurred providing that service. Merging emergency clinics together would help to consolidate resources and maximise consultations… but people do not like travelling more than 15-20 minutes in an emergency.

    Education is the other big expense. All vets commit to a career lifetime of continuing education. Emergency work carries a steeper learning curve, as many of these cases are unstable/critical and need quick confident decisions that may be the difference between life and death. Not for the emergency vet is the routine neutering surgery; surgeries are often complex procedures on unwell patients which the average day vet will rarely perform. An emergency vet can switch rapidly between many different conditions in multiple patients, staying in control in a high pressure environment that just doesn’t occur in the same way in daytime practice. But all of this comes at a cost to provide the training necessary to instill those skills, and most emergency vets and nurses do many hours more than the mandatory amount of time.

  7. Replying to Sam Lockey above:

    “The only part you haven’t covered is why it costs £120 (nearly 5 times the normal fee) just to walk through to door because it is out of hours.”

    Do you have any idea what it’s like having a relationship with someone who is in work at 8:30am, finishes at 7-8pm without a lunch break, is constantly tired the rest of the time and gets paid less than you for the trouble?

    Now imagine that person spends every other weekend looking after in-patients and having to answer the phone at all hours (there’s no charge to call the vet, only if you actually have to bring the animal in).

    It’s more expensive because if it wasn’t then one vet would end up dealing with the work of the full practice because nobody would ever book an appointment: Out of hours service is EMERGENCY care. Basic economics should tell you that the price is going to be higher.

    As for why it’s 5 times higher that’s how much you have to charge before people stopped seeing this as a viable alternative to getting their ass in gear and booking an appointment during opening hours.

  8. I found your blog very interesting, and thought you may like to hear of my experience with my animal’s vet….My vet is a one man band, his wife is his nurse receptionist etc,lives in a flat has a 15 year old van and no trappings of wealth. He ploughs his money into new equipment, and goes to conferences whenever possible. He will always answer the phone at any time of night or day to his regular clients, and will turn out when necessary. His operations are normally carried out during siesta hours…..his opening hours are 1000 to 1330, and 1700 to 2030, but rarely gets away on time. I have 2 cats & 2 dogs, all bar 1 cat need very regular visits to the vet, and yes I pay out a lot of money for treatment etc, but I don’t pay for consultations, and appointments are made for half hour slots. I could never afford all this treatment if I lived in UK, but maybe my animals would be healthier there!? I live in Spain, and from listening to other pet owners my vet is not unusual. He is very important to my family of animals, and me.

  9. A quote I found a while back seems relevant – in relation to people thinking vets should work for free:

    The most EPIC reply to the “if you don’t treat my pet for free then you don’t love animals” argument courtesy of Dr. Virginia DeChant

    I’m sorry so-and-so, but I cannot help you. You see, I’m one of those veterinarians who only works because I love animals. I didn’t charge for anything. I did everything because the babies needed me. Then, my staff left me because they didn’t love animals enough, and wouldn’t accept puppies as paychecks. Then, the big, bad government got mad because I wouldn’t pay taxes. I tried offering them kittens, but those bastards wouldn’t accept them. I used expired and discarded drugs, cause I could get them for free. When one of my patients had a bad reaction to an expired drug, they took my license. Then,when my own precious angel got sick, I went out and got a job and worked hard, and PAID MY BILL!

  10. Yes, treating one’s animals when they are sick is expensive, but we are only giving them the same standard of care that we expect from our medical profession without the subsidies and blanket coverage governments provide their citizens. (And most countries are facing a similar problem with the costs in treating an aging human population too.) Vets in the main need to provide all the equipment and technology as stand-alone businesses, and provide the drugs at an unsubsidised cost (no government subsidy for animal patients). Most vets in 1st world countries don’t charge too much for treating animals (some charities can help too) – its just that everything has to be paid for by someone.

  11. Vets always say that we are free to shop around. In theory yes, in practice extremely difficult. What do you say, “My cat has just been run over, how much are you going to charge”? Do you take the animal to various vets getting quotes before deciding what to do? Of course you don’t, your pet is a precious family member and you just want the situation dealt with. Owners are also ill equipped to decide whether the recommended course of treatment is the correct one. We, as lay people, do not really have a choice, we are in the hands of vets and just hand over our credit cards when told.

  12. As a vet nurse I see these scenarios a lot where clients become angry because of the price of their vet Bill. But as stated at the beginning we get free medical treatment in the UK and what the he’ll would people do if we had to pay…maybe people wouldn’t take the NHS for granted.

    A lot of vets these days do payment plans for clients to help with the cost of treatments but still clients complain and dont always pay despite they are going abroad on holiday for two weeks, maybe ask yourself what is more important, a holiday, going out drinking with mates or your precious pet who is part of your family, you wouldn’t do this of it was your mother, father etc.

    Do what a lot of people are doing and open up a seperate bank account and direct debit to that account with a certain amount of money to go into each month. This will then help with costs of vet bills.

    At the end of the day owning a pet is for life and is exactly the same as having a child, you would do anything for that child so start treating your pets the same.

  13. I had a quote for a procedure from myvet at the time £600. He got none of my mares in foal, gave one a uterine infection and labelled them problems. I went to a top Newmarket vet and had the procedure at less than half the cost. The next year both mares got in foal first time and no infections.. Not only did he rip you off he couldn’t do his job

  14. I am a vet student myself and as I have done a degree in Zoology before, I have to pay ‘graduate fees’ which for 5 years tuition, is nearly £100,000. Not an amount to be sniffed at. It angers me so much when people say ‘you’ll be loaded when you’re a vet’, not only because I know that’s not true, but if I’d have gone into human medicine, there are numerous grants available to help pay for the tuition fees. As a human medic, I’d also be paid a lot more as a new grad and after 10 years in practice, well I’d be very comfortable. But my first degree choice shows that my heart is truly with animals, and so vet medicine was the only way for me. Ten years after graduation I’ll not only be paid a fraction of what a human medic will be being paid, but I’ll also still be paying off the £100k it cost me to get there.

  15. My vet is now demanding £39 just to see them to continue with a flea treatment.
    We can no longer receive a prescription for our healthy cats for the treatment we’ve been using for years unless we bring them in “because of new changes”

    £39 to see a healthy cat … and ripoff charges are a myth … HAHAHAHAHA

  16. The “new changes” are legal restrictions imposed by the government meaning that, by law, we have to have performed a clinical assessment of the animal within the last 6 months before we are PERMITTED to put up prescription medications (contrary to popular opinion, most flea treatments are POM-V, meaning that they can only be dispensed on prescription, and their sale and supply is legally regulated. If we just dispensed them without regular checks, we could be struck off.

  17. Reading through the actual regulations and the RCVS guidance notes suggests there is no time limit, certainly no definition of 6 months.
    The latest amendments do not mention anything to do with this at all.
    It would seem to me that certain vets or most likely office managers and/or receptionists have made their own interpretations.

    I certainly do not begrudge paying for my pets wellbeing, but when it’s a HUMONGOUSLY blatant rip-off it deserves nothing less than scandalising !

  18. @Ned Fowden: You are right about no specific time limit and wrong about the rest.
    The flea and worm products most vets use because they are the most effective, are classified POM-V. This means prescription only.
    The relevant section of the guidance notes (http://www.rcvs.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/code-of-professional-conduct-for-veterinary-surgeons/supporting-guidance/veterinary-medicines/) about prescription medication is at 4.9. “the (animal) must have been seen immediately before prescription or, recently enough or often enough for the veterinary surgeon to have personal knowledge of the condition of the (animal) to make a diagnosis and prescribe”. I cannot possibly have personal knowledge of the condition of an animal I have not seen for many months.
    The unofficial rule of thumb I have been given by the RCVS many times maximum 12 months for flea and worm products, maximum 6 months for other POM products. That is what I use in my practice. Also, some animals have diseases or are on medications that mean the animal needs examining every one, two or three months.
    My local doctors apply the same principle (leaving out flea and worm stuff, of course).

  19. Good article with standard criticisms and excellent rebuttals. Yes some vets are better than others and some charge more than others. The same can be said for any trade or profession. Shop around, but don’t expect anything for free. As for £120 call out fee, would you expect a plumber to sort an emergency at 2am for any less? Yes some vets milk insurance, but they are few and far. Insurance is there to cover your ass, not mine. I’ll still charge you the same fee to fix Fluffy, now do you want that James Herriot style quick ‘jab of pen-strep’ for £25 with an 80% mortality risk or do you want your pet to be referred to a specialist with an 80% succes rate with that spare £2000 in your back pocket? Don’t get me started on owners who fork out £750 for a Dog Pimp (breeder’s services) but then think £200 is a lot for an ovariohysterectomy.

  20. Sorry, not buying it. Not all vets, but certainly some, prey on the emotions of the pet owners who are just trying to get their pet back to good health, often in dire situation.

    You can go to the humane’s society in the US fortunately, and they at least will do things for you even if you can’t afford it. But not a vet.

  21. There’s 2 sides to the story, but the level of care we have received has shown us Vets are only as good as GP’s for general stuff – they rarely have all the proper equipment for a serious condition. We went to CAT scan and the vets actually blamed the size of the screen they had to work with and our bi dog was making it hard for him to view, then why have we paid you £500 for the scan tat you are not sure on (can a vet here, please explain how clipping some fur an operating a machine they already own comes to 500 pounds please?) – “there maybe someone more skilled with a CAT scan out there” – how does this help me?

    They also never told us our options or what is recommended, instead going with ‘what do you want us to do?’ Some professional guidance would be good with a feeling based on there experience (not looking good), rather than neutral ‘don’t know’ all the time – where many practices are privately run and owned, I DO think there is temptation to do unnecessary work or doing irrelevant extra blood tests..etc to get the bill up. IMHO.We had 7 tests, when our first vets already said what the condition was!

    They cost a lot more, but if your dog/cat has a serious condition, just get them to a specialist ASAP – SOME vets will ‘kepe them comfortable’ milking the money until it’s too late.

    The luck/skill is finding a very good vet you can trust, a bit like a god dentist or mechanic.

    Lots of good ones but unfortunately a lot of chaff to sort through as well.

  22. @ Del Boy Trotter
    The maths is incredibly simple – do some research – CAPEX: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_expenditure.

    The cost of purchasing and installing a CT or MRI scanner sits in the region of £300 – 500,000 even for very modest units. Typically, the cost of major equipment purchases needs to be covered within 3-10 years of purchase, as new equipment deteriorates and becomes obsolete. Added to the initial CAPEX is the cost of ongoing maintenance and repair, which for complicated equipment is substantial.

    Veterinary practices generally don’t have £300k of loose change so that money is borrowed, with interest. The typical total cost of that CT scanner, plus maintenance and interest, is therefore at least £500,000 over 10 years, or £50k pa.

    Veterinary patients that require CT or MRI scans must be anaesthetised, as oddly enough dogs don’t generally sit perfectly still on command whilst scary machinery whirs about them. For the sake of argument let’s state that the cost of a GA for a dog is £150 (it varies and is size and time dependant but let’s not get bogged down). The cost of the scan itself, to you the client, is therefore £350. (I would comment that the fee charged is often higher, but we’ll work with the numbers you have provided – we only need ball parks)

    For the practice to cover the cost of the equipment alone (before considering that staff have to be trained, at cost, to interpret the images, monitor anaesthetics, prescribe drugs, “clip a bit of fur” etc) the practice will need to perform around 140 scans per year @ £350 to just cover equipment costs, that’s 3 per week, every week for 10 years.

    Operating the CT/MRI requires at least 2 personnel, who (how dare they) demand a salary. As they are highly trained, they have a right (some might say) to demand more than minimum wage. The Nurse might be lucky and get more than the local shelf stackers at Tesco, but she might not. The Vet, as we have seen already, will be paid a reasonable wage. Unless she is a Specialist (the highest veterinary qualification possible) she will not approach the earning potential of the local GP, but no matter, she will still need to be paid. A proportion of those salary costs must be added to the cost of each and every scan she carries out and interprets.

    We haven’t even touched on running costs (CT and MRI scanners draw massive electrical loads), but there is barely any need. If you still cannot fathom how your money is spent then there is little chance that anyone will be able to convince you that your preconceptions are far wide of the mark.

    >”I DO think there is temptation to do unnecessary work or doing irrelevant extra blood tests..etc to get the bill up.”<

    Baseless, generalised accusations of Veterinary fraud such as these are insulting, and simply indicate a grave ignorance of the true cost of medical care. There may be a communication issue here, and Vets must accept some responsibility for that. Medical care should be collaborative, and if the value of a test is not adequately explained then of course it is natural to consider that it might not be necessary. But, as very few Veterinary employees are paid on a commission basis, individual Veterinary Surgeons have no incentive to run "unnecessary" tests. They are paid a wage, and regardless of the size of your bill they will take home the same wage each month.

  23. The quoted income for vets (who are self employed and therefore enjoy many of the tax advantages of tat status) are not to be trusted. My friend had to have an MRI for their dog this week. It cost over £2k!! How is that possible? Yes, its expensive kit but the volume of people using it cannot justify that kind of cost. It was covered by insurance (go figure). I just do not buy these ‘rebuttals’. The costs are way out of kilter with the rest of Europe. Yes, education costs but that is true for everyone and it does get recouped, in spades.

  24. Only a tiny proportion of UK vets are self employed. Where do you get this information from?

    In Europe there is generally no requirement for 24/7 care so vets close at night and no-one covers your emergencies. In the UK all vets have to provide 24/7 care or arrange an agreement for another practice to do so. There is a cost to that level of care.

    With very few exceptions, in European countries Veterinary Nursing does not exist as a professional qualification. Practices employ unqualified lay staff to do the jobs of Veterinary Nurses. Veterinary degrees are not of the same standard throughout the world and there are extremely good reasons why vets from outside the UK (again with a few exceptions) are not qualified to practice in the UK without gaining additional qualifications, and accreditation to the RCVS.

    Costs of property, equipment, drugs, VAT and all other overheads vary from country to country. You are comparing apples and oranges.

  25. I’m not a vet but I think that if you have a pet YOU have the responsibility for the health and welfare of that animal. Why should a vet, a charity or anyone else subsidise or fund the cost? Having a pet is an expensive luxury so think twice about having that puppy or kitten if you don’t think you can afford veterinary fees as the animal ages. And, as Graham C says, perhaps YOU could give up YOUR holiday instead of expecting the vet to give up his. Put up, shut up and pay up!

  26. Vets add on costs as soon as you leave your animal with them. The price is agreed and then hey! quell surprise you go back theres always additional cost. Vet practices are greedy. My dog need eye drops fro Glaucomer . The vets charged me £35 for them. I looked them up in line and got them direct from the pharmacy making a saving of £25:00 per bottle. The vet even charged me £3.98 for reaching down in to the cupboard and handing them over..£38:98 for a bottle of eye drops that cost less than £10 to buy!!! GREEDY! more than greedy…they are immoral.

  27. my vet promised me he discounts the drugs for my sick dog’s heart problems , low and behold got bill for £299 can get same drugs £ !76 plus £37.50 prescription chg, how can he justify £86 rip off

  28. Typical ways the vet rips you off:::
    An antibiotic shot $20 – 35, often give to get a ‘jump’ on the antibiotic pills the dog actually needs, or with a dental cleaning; although long debunked.
    Fecal float $20- 30 – not needed if your dog has no symptoms, and is on oral monthly heartworm prevention….
    Annual Vaccinations….
    Most routine Blood and Urine screens,
    including pre-op….
    ——————–
    Some articles suggest about 40% of the revenue is for unnecessary products/services.

  29. I believe that vets do take more money off you than they should, in my experience. Prices are fair but they charge you for more than what is necessary and they can be careless. Overnight visits being the main diagnosis always.
    I have two cats one of which has got a urinary problem and he had crystals in his bladder. I took him in and they said they would keep him in overnight having an idea of what it was and to give him a catheter to relieve his bladder as he was slightly blocked but not fully.
    I came the next morning to be greeted by a different vet to the first one, with a vet bill for £180. Which is understandable as they had to do an X-ray to analyse the problem. Conclusion all crystals had been washed out with catheter/fluids. (Catheter had apparently fell over during the night mind and he was Lying in his own bloody pee-the vet said this to me Joked when saying this and compared it to the colour of my shoes which I was digusted and shocked with) but he was out that’s all I was bothered about.
    He came home and I expected everything to be okay from then on only for an HOUR later for him to have the same struggle and he couldn’t urinate after they had sent him away as if he was okay. I understand that it’s a tricky problem but surely he should not have been released without it being fully resolved. What did I pay for and why should I pay more to treat him a second time.
    so I had to phone for an emergency appointment as it was a Saturday and drove to meet the vet at a clinic. Meeting with the first vet that we seen (apparently he clocked off that night and left him with woman that greeted me in the morning) He stayed in over the weekend which I was not happy about and I retrieved another bill but this was cheaper? They repeated the same process for a longer period, how does this work?
    You don’t get a set price they use whatever they can and charge you whatever they want.
    I believe our knowledge can be a disadvantage and I ensured I looked all information of his problem so that when I met with them for a second time I ensured I knew what they were discussing with me.
    I went in with force and was challenging them and they couldn’t even defend themselves. All they could do was apologise for their mistakes.
    In my opinion the vets I dealt with were heartless. He was basically on his own for 3 days in empty surgeries. They said they would keep me informed all three days and they didn’t ring me I had to ring them, which give me the impression that on the weekend he was just left with a catheter on his own all weekend, which worried the hell out of me.
    Now I have to keep him on the urinary food which costs me 52 pounds a month.
    Summary, I don’t know if all vets treat animals like this and charge ridiculous prices with no empathy and no proper sit downs to discuss stuff with you (as I was in unknown land for 3 days) but they should not be allowed to get away with it.
    I have no trust in this veterinary practice at all.
    Back to prices though, I do agree with them but in terms of charging you for what is needed, this is the main issue… The decisions for what treatment to give to what the animal actually needs. Vets don’t seem to have this right. This is why people complain about costs. I believe it’s not the actual costs it’s the vets treatment process that needs looked into. People shouldn’t be charged for wrong treatments or additional stuff that vets have added in.
    -I’m glad I seen this as I needed to get that off my chest and it is just my opinion with my experience.

  30. I recently took my elderly spaniel to Medivets on a mid-afternoon as she was appearing very poorly. The vets thought she should be kept overnight. They charged me for 1 xray, blood tests, setting up a drip, and removing liquid from her lungs. She ended up passing naturally early next morning despite all the treatment. Yet for this brief overnight stay and treatment, I ended up with a whopping bill of about £800, even after them deciding to waive a £60 overnight stay fee. Then, to have her cremated, it was an additional £170 as all the vets in this area of London seem to use only CPC which seems to have a monopoly on the market for pet cremations, so total bill came to nearly £1000 for a 1-night treatment of a pet that could not be saved in the end. I have other scary vet bill stories and complaints, such as why do vets charge 3-5x as much for meds compared to online prices or charge £10-£20 fees for writing prescriptions, but I think my recent experience shows that vet bills are definitely out of control, and while individual vets may be caring, the clinics they work for are really taking advantage of customers who love their pets and want to do best for them by charging such outrageous prices. I’ve heard that some owners who have taken their pets to the Royal Vet College for treatment and other specialist clinics have ended having to remortgage their homes to pay for the treatment of their pets. That’s just so wrong, and there really does need to be a governing body like Ofgem for energy to regulate vet fees.

  31. Just paid £1000 for a tennis ball to be removed from my dogs stomach . In what Galaxy can this be justified? But there was ample parking.

  32. Please sign if you agree that vet fee’s should be banned! And no don’t mean so vets don’t get there salary because ovbiously need money for treatment, building maintence e.g but it doesn’t make sense we don’t pay to go to the doctors or hospital? The NHS covers that? Yet nurses and doctors still get payed? So why can’t animals be treated there same be the voice to these beautiful creatures and lets all help together make a change, sign my peition on banning vet fee’s.

    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/751/971/814/cant-afford-to-pay-for-your-injuredsick-pet-ban-vet-fees-pet-care-should-be-free/

  33. We all know what VET stands for, Very Expensive Treatment.
    Of course they are in in for the money, they take advantage of people’s emotions and love for their pets, and they get away with it. I will not be consulting a vet ever again, they certainly know how to bite you!…..I paid $2,500 between 2 vets just for them to tell me my dog was going to die.

  34. I have been with the same surgery for over 13 years and paid thousands of pounds on bills for several pets…..i always get the rescue cats n dogs that no one else seems to want because of their ailments etc. 2 days ago I had to cal the vet out, 20 minutes after the surgery closed, to have my 17 year old cat put down when she took a turn for the worse. I appreciate that medication etc for animals seems expensive, but I put it down to there being no NHS for animals! However, the meds to put her to sleep was £55 and the call out fee was £160. I can’t see how this charge can be justified.

  35. So according to our trusted vet, Dr Pete, “For every £10 you give the vet, around £7.50 to £8 goes towards the running costs of the vet clinic”. Okay, so of the bill I just received of £120, £96 is due to fees. That leaves just £24 for the vet. Our trusted vet, Dr Pete, assures us that “The hourly rate for vets ranges from £15 for new graduates to around £25 for vets with many years experience.” Right, I hear you say, that means you saw an experienced vet charging £24 and hour. Wrong. I spent just 15 minutes with this vet. So his hourly rate actually stacks up at £96. I make that £184,000 a year. “A fraction of what a medic would earn” says some vet above. He must be talking locums charge out rates, or is he just loco?

    So here is what you just don’t get. Read this slowly and inwardly digest. It’s not a factoid made for regurgitation, solely to blind an old lady with science when prices get embarrassing. It is something you need to not only know, but understand and empathize with. Here goes. You have costs. Fine. We accept that. But so do your customers. They also have bills and taxes. But probability tells you in all likelihood that will be earning median salaries of somewhere around £25k. After tax that’s £20k. By the time you’ve taken off essentials, like food (£5.5k?), heating (£1.5k), mortgage or rent (£12k?), council tax (£1k), you have …. ooh, wait a min, the square root of sod all. And then you hit them for £1000. Now, it doesn’t take much by way of empathy to work out how this will be received by all but the studpidest of customers. Naturally they will recognise that you are being paid FAR in excess of their earnings: how else could you even propose such a charge? Then they will start to do the maths and figure out that you are either greedy or very bad at procurement. To then deliver poor results is the last straw. Conclusion: suck up the criticism and feel good about being the Gordon Gekkos of the animal ‘care’ world, or do something about reducing costs, because as far as many of your customers are concerned, there simply is nothing they can do other than abandon their pets.

  36. Tortoise_owner – no need for a sarcastic tone.
    I don’t know of any vet earning £184K per year.
    I agree that £120 for 15 minutes is astonishingly high. What exactly did you get for that? Were there any blood tests? Any medication? Was it after-hours? Was any specialised equipment used? Did the vet have specialised knowledge that he had spent time and money gathering? There must be some back story to this – it is not what would normally happen in a regular situation.
    Of course we vets realise that many people have financial woes. We don’t take it lightly when we “hit” people for £1000. It is not our fault that a dog breaks a leg, or that it costs so much for the materials to fix it, or that the operation will take so long… You make us sound very glib and arrogant. Perhaps that’s your view, but it doesn’t reflect the reality that I encounter when I talk to my colleagues.
    Look – there is choice out there. There is an open market, with a range of vets offering different levels of service. Phone around. Find out what is on offer. You can choose to get the optimal care for your pet – at a price – if you can afford it – or you can choose a budget vet for basic treatment at a price that is easier to afford – or you can choose euthanasia if you cannot afford anything else. In the absence of a National Health Service for pets, tell me what else is possible?

  37. I have an enormous respect for Veterinary Surgeons. Just about the hardest university course to get on with too few universities equipped to provide the course and the longest undergraduate training. The time, money and dedication required to be a vet should result in just rewards for the highly qualified professionals entering the profession.
    I have absolutely no problem with the veterinary consult fee. You are paying for the services of a regulated professional.
    However things have changed in how those services are delivered (this is, in part, true of all services, including medicine for humans) and the costs involved in using modern diagnostic and treatment techniques and the development and use of veterinary medicines mean a rise in costs. The cost of treatment for pets even two decades ago was relatively more affordable.
    The big thing for me is that two decades ago my vets operated on an accounts system. They talked to me, we discussed cost and treatment options. My animals were treated. Then I received my account. 30 days to settle with any outstanding balance after 30days attracting interest until it was settled.
    No question of affordability, you would pay interest but you could settle your bill over time if necessary. This was absolutely commonplace in large animal practice and indeed still is to my knowledge and was a system operated in a number of small animal practices. This is what has changed and what I find difficult to reconcile with caring about the animals involved.
    My husband and I are self employed, we have to operate this exact system when billing our clients.
    When you are standing in a veterinary hospital on a Sunday morning, you’ve had your consult and the attending vet has secured your signature on consent forms and given you an estimate of costs. They have checked that you have insurance and taken away your pet. You are upset and emotional at your pets plight. Then the receptionist demands 50% of the estimated costs right there and then. Basically you can’t leave until you’ve paid it. When questioned they admit that they won’t treat your sick pet if you don’t pay or they will not return your pet to you unless you settle ALL outstanding monies. We had left home in a frightened rush with our pet, driven 25 mins to the hospital and in that rush had both left our wallet/purse at home. I had to call my elderly father to pay on my behalf over the phone.
    That’s not compassion and it’s not caring and it’s not an acceptable standard for ‘private medicine’ animal or human.
    As a result I have had to leave my favoured veterinary practice as I will not deal with these out of hours people again.
    That is what is wrong. The feeling that your beloved family member and pet is nothing more than money to the professionals who should care about them almost as much as you yourself do.
    I don’t want to hear about the difficulty of chasing unpaid accounts. That is life, that is business and that has always been. In insulating itself from late payments the business of veterinary practice has reduced its noble profession to a commodity without compassion or caring.
    I’m not angry, I’m very sad.

  38. Why do people complain about the cost of vet’s fees/unnecessary work? When you see a vet you are getting a highly qualified professional – far better qualified that a doctor who you are quite happy to wait 3 weeks to see to be fobbed off with “there’s a lot of it about”. I would wager that most of those who complain have no qualms about having the oil changed on their car by some snotty nosed grease monkey and paying over £250 for the privilege

  39. We have just spent £3,500 at a specialist vet with more to pay. Our little Italian greyhound went in with a broken leg and ended up dead with brain damage. She died for 10 mins and they brought her back why? We were then told that she may come through this and for 2 days my little girl was having seizures,given meds that didn’t help. When I said I wanted to bring her home to die I was told no. In the end the only ultimatum I had was to sit and hold my poor baby while they put her to sleep. My faith in vets has gone they pretend they care when they don’t . My heart is broke we have had a week from hell and are still in it and will be for a long time.

  40. I remember when my vets advised me not to raw feed my dog, advocating all sorts of reasons as to why it was unhealthy, not natural etc… and guiding me to the healthy, ‘nutritionally balanced’ kibble available on their shelves as the only feed that responsible owners would provide their pets. They told me only about all of the dangers of raw food, the things that would go wrong, effectively suggesting I would be killing my pet with food poisoning, chicken bones stuck in throats and intestines etc…They frowned and shook their heads when I made any positive comments about raw feeding. Two years on and the same veterinary practice sells raw food products… I think wets have real issues surrounding nutrition for animals and are in the hands of the large pet food manufacturers. I fear it is the same situation with regard to vaccine manufacturers also, and I am always a bit sceptical about advice from vets regarding vaccines. I have had appalling experiences from vets who insisted on x-raying my one year old GSD for hip dysplasia on only the most circumspect evidence. None of the vets I visited even asked to see the dog run before advocating costly (and traumatic) x-rays. I’m sorry to say but in this situation they put the potential profits way before my dog’s wellbeing.

  41. Well my vet has called tonight to say they would like another £1,146.00 I have told them they can do one. I am contesting it I wanted to bring V home to die and they wouldn’t let me, and now they want another 2 nights intensive care for my little dog that was in a coma for god sake, at least they gave me a week to grieve for her. Anyway I will see them in court.

  42. well the vet i go to don’t like me any more,because I go in with my cat with a researched idea of what it wrong with my cat ,I pay the £35 consultation Fee,get a prescription for the condition (£25 an item) BUT i do not allow him to dispence the drugs at his inflated prices, I take the script and buy the drugs on line (animed.com) for next day delivery.
    Example antibiotics vet wanted £128 for 30 tablets ,Animed same tablets £32 including next day service
    So my vet don’t like me anymore !

    ask yourself do you buy your tyres from your main dealer ?

    1. Hi Gary, if you feel you’re getting a bad deal at your vets then it’s your prerogative to choose where you buy your pet’s medication so thank you for your input into this debate. However, I’d encourage anyone who is disgruntled with vets fees to read our blog in full and understand what goes into providing a service that is able to prescribe these medications in the first place. On line pharmacy’s aren’t able to diagnose your pet’s condition or treat your pet at 2am in an emergency situation. Taking medication sales away from the vets could potentially drive up the costs of other services thus the issue becomes a self-perpetuating one. Unfortunately there’s no NHS for pets. Once again, thanks for joining the debate.

  43. I still think the charges are excessive, I can’t understand why when you register with a vet the first question they ask is are you insured why? If you can’t afford to pay they won’t treat the animal so what difference would it make, and if you said no what would they do then ask for proof you can pay for treatment. They would get a lot fairer hearing if they would allow payment in instalments but they won’t. And I know the answer to that is that they would get ripped off, but if you are not in a position to pay in instalments you would probably not be at the vets but at the PDSA where you pay a voluntary payment. So I really don’t see why they can’t be a bit more accommodating and understanding.

  44. I don’t think that vets’ fees are especially expensive or unreasonable, but having recently relocated to the UK from my native US (via Belgium for 5 years), I’m having a hard time finding a vet I trust.

    I’ve had several negative experiences so far, but the best was last week after having my dog’s teeth cleaned (which I have done regularly, every 2 years, and I don’t complain about the costs!): my new vet wanted me to purchase painkillers for after the procedure, and she wanted to book a follow-up appointment to check the teeth!! It was a Grade 1 Minor scale and polish… and I’d never been offered pain meds by either American or Belgian vet.

    Had the follow-up consultation or pain meds been vital, I would have happily paid for them, but I feel vets are trying to milk you for all you’re worth, leaving you to decide what you (as a very non-qualified non-professional!) think is vital and what is just extra.

    Need to find yet another UK vet. This will be #4 in just 17 months. 🙁

  45. I too find it difficult to justify not only the charges made by vets but also the variation on prices at different vets. When i had my ferret neutered i rang around various vets and the prices were from 45 pounds to 120 pounds….i obviously chose the cheaper one and they were great. I recently changed vets and rang to book a general health check for 2 of my ferrets, price 25 pounds each, all they do for this is weigh them, look at their eyes and teeth and listen to their heart…..50 quid for perhaps 20 minutes work…..bloody excessive if you ask me

    1. Thank you for your input Kimberly, we would just like to make the point that not every neuter is the same and there are different standards of veterinary care out there. We would urge anyone ‘shopping around’ for veterinary care to assess more than just the price and ask any prospective vet what their practice does to safeguard their patients and ensure a comfortable, quality service for pets.

  46. Just quoted £600 for a regular X-ray (with sedation) of my cats leg (limping for a while) by local Vet. As a medic I KNOW this is a total rip off.

    1. I am not commenting on that price to justify it or not, I don’t know anything about your cat etc. However how much would it really cost the NHS to x-ray a leg (several views), sedate a patient and monitor whilst under profound sedation (sedation for X-ray would require as much monitoring as a GA), have a radiologist examine the radiograph, then a Dr to talk to the patient afterwards re diganostic plan? It is incredibly expensive for vet practices to have all the equipment, staff and training to do this.

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