Is my vet gouging me?
February 16, 2006 7:20 AM   Subscribe

1. Am I wrong to think that $110.00 is too much to pay the vet for a 10-minute appointment to look at my cat's eye and hand me a 3.5 gram tube of erythromycin ointment? 2. If the answer to 1 is "yes," can you recommend a good vet near Newton Upper Falls, MA, USA? 3. What's the etiquette for changing vets when you think that your vet is more than competent but you don't want to pay his prices anymore?

My vet is awesome. Friendly, caring and knowledgeable. But he charges too much, I think. But then I wonder, living where I do (in an area where services are expensive, but still), can I find good veterinary care for less money without driving for miles?
posted by Mayor Curley to Pets & Animals (24 answers total)
 
Sadly, it probably isn't too much for the area. I would bet there are cheaper vets in your area. Look for one that doesn't pay so much for overhead. You could also ask your local ASPCA if they recommend any more affordable vets in your area.

As far as changing vets, I'm not sure what you mean by etiquette. You just go to a different one and say here's my cat, it's broken, please fix it. Then you pay them. If you are personal friends with the current vet, then you can talk about it over a beer.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:26 AM on February 16, 2006


That sounds like a really reasonable price to me. Cats are very expensive!
posted by meerkatty at 7:27 AM on February 16, 2006


Did you get a detailed bill for the services rendered? What are they charging for an office visit?
posted by jerseygirl at 7:34 AM on February 16, 2006


I've been taking my cats to the Animal Rescue League of Boston for years. I typically pay around $50 for the type of thing you described. Great docs and a friendly staff.

It may be a bit of a hike for you from Newton Upper Falls, but they are totally worth it.
posted by zerokey at 7:35 AM on February 16, 2006


I go to Southborough Veterinary Hospital, which I love. They're so nice there, and I don't think it's that far from you.

I had a similar appointment for my dog for an ear infection. I think it was around $80-90, about $60 for the appointment and $25 for the medicine.
posted by MasonDixon at 7:38 AM on February 16, 2006


I've had experiences like this with my pup. I think the fees are pretty much standard, so even if it's 10 minutes or 45 minutes, they charge a set amount. They're not like lawyers or mechanics, who bill by the hour in increments. If you go to the doctor, you pay an examination fee, even if you're only there for 10 minutes. I am guessing that if your vet is in a multiple-vet setting, this is strictly enforced. However, you should at least be getting itemized statements, so you know where your $110 went. I would at least discuss the charges with the vet, perhaps s/he didn't mean for you to be billed on one of them.

That said, if a vet is smart and handles my pet well without seriously gouging me, I stay. You can't reason with a dog or cat, so if they have a good relationship you have a responsibility to preserve that. (If your cat hates your vet, go ahead and switch!) Otherwise, it's too stressful.

If you do change vets, you'll need to have your pet's medical records sent to the new vet (just like with people) so they can track vaccinations and stuff like that.
posted by MrZero at 7:39 AM on February 16, 2006


That $60 also included at least one, maybe two tests, to determine the cause of the infection.
posted by MasonDixon at 7:40 AM on February 16, 2006


As far as severing ties, I prefer being direct about it, "You guys are great, but just too expensive."
posted by jerseygirl at 7:51 AM on February 16, 2006


I'm very happy with Metro Cat Hospital in Washington Square, Brookline. It's hard to make a direct comparison of fees. They might be a little bit less.
posted by alms at 8:04 AM on February 16, 2006


1) Remember, you're not paying for the ten minutes of his or her time. You're paying for the years of training and sacrifice that went into developing the skills to properly treat your pet.

3) See jerseygirl above.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:12 AM on February 16, 2006


The thing to remember is that you're not paying your vet for those 10 minutes and the tube of goo, you're paying him to be available in that consistent physical location (which costs money) during normal business hours (which requires staff, see previous), to have that tube of goo on hand (carrying inventory, see previous), the ability to test for the need for the goo (requires equipment and supplies), etc etc.

$110 might be a bit on the high side but what could you really expect to pay? $90? Surely no lower than $70. So for the sake of $40 you're going to go somewhere you trust and/or like less? It's true that nickels and dimes are what make up a fortune, but in personal services for the health of your pet a little confidence is worth a lot.

I think you'd be better served if you stick with this guy and bring up the issue of cost if you find yourself back in for multiple visits. If this is just a one-off sickness for Fluffy I'd suggest you shrug it off. If you end up having to go back, just flat out tell Doc Feelgood that you love his services but the costs are mounting for you, can you work something else out for a loyal customer who's not taking up a lot of time with these visits?

It's worth something to you to be able to pick up the phone, get an appointment and a diagnosis you trust. It's worth something to Doc to have a loyal and consistent customer, assuming you are an annual visitor for checkups and shots (and license? surely MA of all states has annuals.). It's his practice, presumably - don't be afraid to discuss his fees with him.
posted by phearlez at 8:15 AM on February 16, 2006


$110 is pretty outrageous...at least it would be in my neck of the woods. The exam/treatment you describe probably wouldn't amount to much more than $50 here (eastern Indiana).
posted by Thorzdad at 8:19 AM on February 16, 2006


Unable to comment on price but the etiquette? Jujst go somewhere else and f needed, ask that your animal's records be forwarded. Why skirty around the issue if you think you are charged too mujch and can find a vet who is less expensive?
posted by Postroad at 8:20 AM on February 16, 2006


Am I wrong to think that $110.00 is too much to pay the vet for a 10-minute appointment to look at my cat's eye and hand me a 3.5 gram tube of erythromycin ointment?

Possibly. Remember its taken him most of life (and a lot of money) PLUS ten minutes to be able to do that. You might be getting off cheap.

What's the etiquette for changing vets when you think that your vet is more than competent but you don't want to pay his prices anymore?

What jersey girl said.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:25 AM on February 16, 2006


I think you can change vets at any time. If you want the records transferred (and you may have to pay for copies of the medical records), just phone the current vet's office personnel.

With regards to your current vet, you're paying for knowledge and competence, not time. Your vet may be extremely experienced and competent, as well as able to diagnose conditions quickly based on their experience.

That contributes to another way to look at it...a lot of pets are nervous about being at the vet. Perhaps your current vet can quickly diagnose your cat based on experience and another vet might take an hour plus two tests to get the same result where the cat might become stressed.
posted by jeanmari at 8:31 AM on February 16, 2006


But with every business/service, besides experience and competance, you're paying for their operating expenses/overhead as well as what the local market allows him to charge.

Growing up, we had a great vet. An elderly man, really knew his stuff, had a small office, very meager, but he had the facilities to do procedures as needed. Our pets never went without needed treatments. He retired, a young turk took over the practice, staff increased... prices increased. The building was remodeled with fancy skylights and flooring, prices went up again.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:45 AM on February 16, 2006


Does the $110 include the charge for the tube of goo, or just a prescription for it? In my experience, erithromycin (for people, at least) is fairly expensive. If they're charging for the tests and the diagnosis, and including the goo, then yeah, $110 seems about right. Do see if you can get a breakdown before you go somewhere else.
posted by booksandlibretti at 8:48 AM on February 16, 2006


That price sounds about right to me for an office visit (comparing to my vet in Seattle, which I believe may be a bit more expensive than other vets locally, but has really been worth it for the last 15 years so I'm not considering switching).
posted by matildaben at 8:59 AM on February 16, 2006


I don't think it's area-specific. My vet charges similar rates and they're in Winter Hill, Somerville
posted by soplerfo at 8:59 AM on February 16, 2006


Here in rural WA I'd consider what you've described not completely outrageous, but maybe on the high side. That itemized bill might go some way to explaining things. Cats can get surprisingly expensive, unfortunately.
posted by normy at 9:10 AM on February 16, 2006


Look for a nearby veterinary school. I've had my cats treated by vet students who did just as good a job as any vet (although I might not trust them for something critical) for 1/4 the price.
posted by luriete at 9:14 AM on February 16, 2006


I've been taking my cats to the Animal Rescue League of Boston for years. I typically pay around $50 for the type of thing you described. Great docs and a friendly staff.

Oddly enough, I lived on Chandler St. (where the ARL is in the South End), exactly one block west, for many years. But I didn't have cats until I moved to the Metro West.

Sounds like I'm just cheap. Which I knew was a possibility. I wonder how much my cats' pelts are worth.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:22 AM on February 16, 2006


It's called 'privilaged information.' It's the same reason that a 19 year old mechanic will replace a bolt for $800 because he knew where to look, and you did not.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 9:35 AM on February 16, 2006


Just a couple of weeks ago, our elder cat's right eye went from baby-blue to muddy brown, and she was walking funny...so we took her to our vet -- a real stand-up guy, with a brand-new animal hospital -- and he evaluated her, did some simple tests, and in about 15 minutes gave us some oral meds and we were on our way. Price: $120

Did I expect it to be that much? No. Am I happy paying it? Sure. I don't know all of the stuff that goes into that dollar amount, but given the education and nature of the vet, the large (and well-educated and compassionate) staff, the overall cleanliness and appearance of the facility, I figure it's a good price.

And FWIW: diagnosis is a detached retina -- probably an impact injury of some sort. Never occurred to me that a cat could suffer such a thing -- but any animal that has eyes apparently can. She's pretty much blind in that eye now, but she's adapted pretty well (for a 16-yr old cat). She walks a bit slower now, and is still a little wobbly, but she's eating, drinking, and using her litterbox.
posted by davidmsc at 5:16 PM on February 16, 2006


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