2001-Thu Dec 14 21:47:16 EST 2017
Vetstreet. All rights reserved. Powered by Brightspot.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
If you follow me on Facebook, you probably know that I got myself into some hot water with one of my recent posts, in which I described how an owner felt compelled to choose one pet over another after both of them got into a bottle of ibuprofen and ended up needing thousands of dollars of care.
Since she had only the money to save one dog, the client decided to euthanize the sicker pet — the one we'd deemed hardest to save.
It was a horrible story, but it seemed all the worse to those of you who took issue with the role of the veterinarians.
Here’s a sampling of your comments on the subject:
“My country vet would never expect you to choose. He would make payments available to save both. If that couldn’t happen, he would lower the cost. I would like to think that most vets would do the same.”
“There would be a way to treat both. If you have a relationship with a decent vet, there would be no issue.”
“How could a veterinarian require an owner to make that choice??”
“I wouldn't have a vet that would make me choose and wouldn't help me.”
That’s pretty harsh stuff to hear when you’re a vet, especially since I was involved in the case. But while I wasn’t the one delivering the multi-thousand-dollar estimates — most general practices are neither equipped nor qualified to treat cases of perforating gastrointestinal lesions — I can’t see how anyone can blame the specialty hospital for requiring payment.
According to a 2011 study conducted by Veterinary Economics and Wutchiett Tumblin and Associates, well-managed animal hospitals generate, on average, an 18 percent profit on their services, which means that a $10,000 estimate (it was just under that for one of the two dogs mentioned above) requires that the hospital effectively pay about $7,200 to save the dog. Even if the veterinarians involved donate their time, we’re still looking at around a $4,200 outlay on the hospital’s part.
That’s a lot of money. But regardless of whether we’re talking about a $1,000, $100 or $10 estimate, I do wonder why a vet should be expected to pay for a service.
When it comes to life-and-death decision making, however, lower sums start to mean a whole lot less, and veterinarians often choose to cover their clients. But, even then, the sacrifice should be considered a gift offered by someone who's electing to help, not an expectation. After all, euthanasia is considered a perfectly moral and ethical decision in these cases.
Allowing an animal to suffer because someone can’t pay for euthanasia? That’s cruel and horrible. Failing to offer to pay for a pet’s care? It’s a terrible position to find yourself in as a veterinarian, but here’s the truth: If I covered all of my life-and-death cases to the extent of my ability with all the equipment, supplies, services and assistance that it entails, I can promise you that I’d be out of business and not helping anyone.
As it is, at least a couple thousand dollars comes directly out of my pocket every year on payment plans for life-and-death situations that only about 50 percent of my clients pay back. I know it's a big risk to offer this option, but what can I do?
I suppose that I could do what many hospitals do and euthanize my patients when their owners can’t pay. Don’t get me wrong — I find myself doing this more often than is psychologically healthy for me. But if I didn’t, it wouldn’t be fair to me or my family.
To read more opinion pieces on Vetstreet, click here.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Bartonella is a type bacteria that can be transmitted to cats, dogs and humans from exposure to infected fleas and…
Want to give your pup yummy, low-calorie treats? We’ve got the skinny on which foods are OK to feed him.
Not sure about food puzzles? Our veterinarian reveals why the payoff for your pet is well worth any extra work.
With these simple dental care tips, you can help keep your canine’s adorable smile shiny and healthy for life.
The friendly and inquisitive LaPerm has an easy-care coat that comes in a variety of colors and patterns.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.