Why the leading practices won’t compete with low-cost veterinary care.
In this age of ever increasing prices, we all like a bargain. In fact, finding the lowest price for a product can even be fun. This is the case for a hotel room you want to book, the shampoo you bought online or the insurance premiums you were able to save on by shopping around.
When you are searching for a specific product, what you get will be the same, no matter where you buy it from. It makes sense to do your research to find out how to acquire it for the lowest price.
With services, however, you aren’t always comparing apples with apples. Getting a bargain on a service usually means you end up with a lot less than you were expecting.
Products vs services: What’s the difference?
A product is tangible and is the same no matter who the supplier is. In the veterinary world, a box of flea control tablets such as Revolution is the perfect example of a product. Whether you buy it at the local vet, the pet shop or online, you are getting the same product for your money. You can either choose to buy it at the cheapest location, or support local small business (who may charge slightly more due to higher overheads).
In comparison, services are not physically tangible.
Consider deciding between two hairdressing salons. You can go to the cheaper place, walk in and get a quick trim within half an hour.
At the expensive salon, you book your appointment, you have your hair washed, and your colour assessed by a stylist. You may receive a hand massage and a coffee, and your cut will be designed to suit your features and look great as it continues to grow.
At the end of both appointments, you will have shorter hair. But the experience is entirely different. What’s more, you are much more likely to have to cover a cheap haircut with a hat for several weeks than an expensive one! And furthermore, if you head to the cheap salon expecting the service you would receive at the upmarket one, you will be disappointed.
Veterinary services: comparing apples and oranges
The hairdresser example is a basic one, mainly because you can clearly see and judge the end results. With a service where a lot happens behind the scenes, it can be harder to determine what you are paying for.
Let’s consider costs for a routine pet sterilisation. You ring one vet and are told the price is $250. Another vet quotes you $650. Is the second vet ripping you off?
To help you understand why the quote is so vastly different, it is worth noting that there are few regulations for standards regarding veterinary hospitals. The only requirements are that sterilisation of cats and dogs must be performed under anaesthesia and in a veterinary hospital.
The vet who quotes $650 for a sterilisation procedure is likely to include the following whereas with the $250 these options are likely excluded:
- Intravenous fluid therapy: intravenous fluids help to maintain blood pressure during surgery and also help flush out the anaesthesia drugs. This makes a faster and more comfortable recovery for the pet. It also provides immediate vascular access should this be needed in an emergency, making the anaesthesia much safer. Remove IV fluid from the cost of a sterilisation, and we just saved $140. However, the procedure has become riskier and more uncomfortable.
- Pre-anaesthetic blood work: pre-anaesthetic blood work checks how the pet’s liver and kidneys will cope with anaesthetic. If a problem is detected, there may be changes made to the anaesthetic to prevent any organ damage. This treatment is valued at around $95.
- Anaesthesia nurse: during surgery, an anaesthesia nurse will closely supervise your pet while under anaesthesia. Again, an added expense, but a worthwhile one.
- Electronic monitoring equipment: this will oversee your pet’s vital signs, including respiratory rate, heart rate and blood pressure. The alarm will be raised immediately if something goes wrong.
- Medications: local anaesthetic at the surgery site, anti-inflammatory injections and strong painkillers will all be given to your pet. If you really want to save money, you can choose not to give your dog or cat any pain relief once they come home. But would you select the same option for yourself after major surgery?
- Fresh surgery kit: Each kit has been sterilised as part of the surgical process verses using the same kit for multiple surgeries.
- Sterile masks, hats and gowns: to reduce the risk of surgical infections.
- Quality anaesthetic drugs: they may be more expensive but are the safest and most reliable available.
- Quality suture materials: the use of which will reduce inflammation around the site of the incision compared to the cheaper options.
- Intradermal (under the skin) sutures: which limits the time your pet will need to spend wearing an uncomfortable e-collar.
- A qualified nurse: to comfort your pet as the anaesthetic wears off. Not having one saves on labour costs but your pet is likely to feel alone and very scared when it comes to after its operation.
If the more expensive vet left out all these factors, which I personally feel are essential for your pet’s good health and wellbeing, they could compete with the $250 price tag for a sterilisation.
As you can see, the different levels of service offered by vets are nothing like comparing apples with apples! Yes, you can save money, but if you truly value your pet as part of the family, you would surely avoid the cheaper surgery option.
In my opinion, responsible pet ownership means caring enough to give your animal the most effective. This is why it is important to have a chat to your vet about what is involved with a service-based quote, to understand why they charge the way they do, and learn what your pet will miss out on if they don’t.