You’ve just adopted a new puppy or kitten and you take it to the vet’s office for a first appointment. Would you expect your veterinarian to spend time talking to you about the financial burden of future veterinary care if your pet gets sick or injured over the course of its lifetime? Many pet owners discuss routine care like vaccinations and spay/neuter when they take a new pet to the vet, but it might be surprising if their vet brings up potential future costs of treating a disease like cancer, or surgery for a broken leg.
Veterinarians often find themselves in the difficult position of taking a client’s ability to pay into account when deciding on the quality of care a sick or injured pet can receive. A recent survey of over 1,000 small animal practice veterinarians, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Association, examines this very important issue.
Dr. Barry Kipperman, a veterinarian who conducted this study with several colleagues, outlines the key findings of the survey in an article on the website dvm360.com.
- 57% of surveyed vets reported that a client’s financial limitations impact their ability to provide the level of care they would like to give to an animal.
- 77% of the vets who reported some degree of professional burnout said that clients’ financial limitations were a contributing factor to at least some extent.
- While a majority of the vets reported discussing vaccinations and spay/neuter with clients, only 32% talked about costs of veterinary care prior to a pet becoming sick or injured. Only 23% reported discussing pet health insurance with clients.
- A majority of the vets said that pet welfare and client satisfaction (as well as their own satisfaction) improved when clients were aware of pet health insurance and the costs of veterinary care.
As Dr. Kipperman points out, few people entering vet school ever think about the sad reality of denying care to a pet because of a client’s inability to pay for services. He suggests that it is in the best interests of pets, their owners, and their vets to have conversations about potential future costs of care. It is possible for pet owners to prepare for future expenses…if they have a good understanding of what to expect. This increased awareness can start with a concerted effort to educate veterinary students, practicing veterinarians, and pet owners about the importance of talking about the costs of veterinary care.