Recently someone asked me what is the worst part about my job as an RVT. I’m sure they were expecting me to say something about euthanasias, but really, the worst part is having to listen to clients tell me that we are only in this for the money, that we don’t care enough about their pets because we charge for what we do. I’d like to set the record straight.
The average cost of veterinary school (I’m not including the undergraduate degree in this) is about $200,000. That’s for tuition and fees only, so let’s pretend these students are living at home with mom and dad, which most of them aren’t. The average starting salary for a veterinarian is $67,000 a year (before taxes). I got these numbers from Google, so you can double check me. Hopefully by this time they’re not living with mom and dad anymore, so they have to pay rent, food, utilities, health insurance, liability insurance, and oh yeah – they have to start repaying those student loans. Their take home pay is … well, dismal.
Also, many veterinarians are also small business owners. This means they have to pay for their building, their equipment, their supplies, their staff, their insurance, and more taxes. This is starting to sound like a pretty good case for let’s get all the money we can out of our clients. The reality is so very different.
When you go to the veterinarian, they recommend vaccinations for your pet. These vaccinations prevent communicable diseases which can be hard on the patients, but also very expensive to treat. They probably recommend spaying or neutering as well, which will prevent accidental pregnancies, dogs being hit by cars (dogs out “looking for love” are the biggest demographic for being hit by a car), life-threatening infections and cancer. Hopefully your vet spoke to you about heartworm prevention, and the importance of keeping your pet on a heartworm preventive year round. Your vet may also have recommended a specific diet for your pet to go home with. Wow, this visit is getting expensive.
Well, let’s look at the long term:
If your vet was only in this for the money, they wouldn’t recommend vaccines at all. They would make so much more money off treating these diseases than they do off the vaccines. Treating parvo can easily exceed $1000. A parvo vaccine: $30.
If your vet was only in this for the money, they wouldn’t recommend having your pet spayed or neutered. The cost of treating a pyometra (a uterine infection) or chemotherapy for testicular or mammary cancer is going to vastly exceed what they make on your pet’s spay or neuter surgery. Un-planned litters? Job security!
If your vet was only in it for the money, they wouldn’t tell you about heartworm prevention. You can buy more than eight years of heartworm prevention for the cost of treating heartworm disease once. Treating the disease would make them more money, easy.
If your vet was only in it for the money, they’d tell you to feed the cheapest food you could find. They’d encourage you to feed table scraps and bones. Why? Because nutrition is the key to so many other problems, and they’ll make so much more money off treating these problems, or doing the foreign body removal to retrieve the rib bones your dog swallowed.
Veterinarians choose this profession because they have a love for animals, and want to be a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves. They develop relationships and love watching the relationships these animals have with their families. They truly believe in the human-animal bond, and understand the importance these furry friends bring to our lives. They cry when it’s finally time to say good-bye, maybe not in front of you, but that’s because they’re trying to be strong for you.
So they make recommendations based on what is going to be the best thing for your pet, because their goal at the end of the day is to keep your pet with you for as long as possible. That means they recommend vaccines, heartworm prevention, spays and neuters, dental cleanings, and good quality nutrition. All of this adds up, but it costs less than not doing it.
I can’t say that there aren’t veterinarians who don’t get caught up in making a profit. Not everyone is perfect, but I can say that of the dozens of veterinarians I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with over the years, all of them have been concerned with the welfare of their patients first, and making their overhead second. I’ve also seen one go out of business because she gave too much away. Where does that leave her patients?
I’ve never seen a veterinarian not try to work with a client’s budget, but please remember that we have our limitations. If it’s two in the morning, and your dog is having convulsions, then I’m not telling you to go to the “expensive” emergency clinic because I don’t care. That is genuinely the only place on earth right then who can help your pet. And I’ll spend two hours after you hang up on me, losing sleep, because there isn’t more I can do.
So the next time you think, “my vet is only in this for the money,” please, take a moment to consider what you’re really saying.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.
About the Author
Kathryn Carman is an RVT at a 3 doctor small animal practice in Newnan, Georgia.