Vet Clinic or Jiffy Lube?
October 9, 2006 10:58 AM   Subscribe

Is having "blood work" done to insure a dog is healthy enough to go under anesthesia a traditional and necessary part of having him neutered or did I just fall victim to the veterinary equivalent of "your air filter is dirty, do you want us to go ahead and replace it"?

I took my 7 mo. old pup (chihuahua) to the vet today to free him of his balls. My wife had received a quote over the phone of $138 for the cost of the procedure and $20-25 for pain medication following. So I was taken aback when I received my estimate this morning at the vet's office and saw an additional charge of $76, which the vet tech explained was for blood work preceding the procedure to check his organs to make sure he would be ok under anesthesia. I was a bit shocked that this aspect of the procedure was not mentioned when my wife received the estimate over the phone. I mean, if this is a requirement of the surgery, why not mention the cost up front?I couldn't help but feel a little bit like I had been to the doggie version of Jiffy Lube - bringing in my dog for a $138 procedure yet ending up with a $261 bill. Is this normal operating procedure of have I been had ?
posted by The Gooch to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Getting blood work is a normal part of any procedure requiring anesthesia, but it was unprofessional on the part of the clinic not to give you a full itemized estimate on paper beforehand.
posted by matildaben at 11:03 AM on October 9, 2006

Anesthesia is quite dangerous for dogs, and the blood work is never a bad idea, but you had the absolute right to know.
posted by vito90 at 11:06 AM on October 9, 2006

I used to be a vet tech, and we ALWAYS did blood work the morning before surgery.
you were not being "had".
I'm sure you were upset when the estimate ended up being higher than expected. It could be that the receptionist failed to mention the blood work when your wife spoke to her on the phone. It could be that your wife just didn't hear the entire breakdown.

When your brought your doggie in this morning, the tech gave you the estimate again. And while this was different than the one you had origninally heard. it was STILL an ESTIMATE as per your statement here:
" I was a bit shocked that this aspect of the procedure was not mentioned when my wife received the estimate over the phone."

It sounds to me like you did recieve an itemized estimate on paper (like matildaben spoke of). If you were so unhappy, why didn't you take your pup and walk out the door?
You could have brought it up with the Vet, or went home and called around to the other Vets in your area.
Instead you went through with the surgery, and then felt regret about paying the bill.

Well rest assured, you were not cheated, so don't fret too much. But, next time you feel you're being taken advantage of...LEAVE. Or at least ask for an explanation from the Vet....not the techs or the office staff.
posted by picture_yellow at 11:25 AM on October 9, 2006

Or at least ask for an explanation from the Vet....not the techs or the office staff.

I've gotta say that in my experience, vets are busy being vets, not so much handling billing procedures.

Estimates are supposed to be in good faith. The office staff should've included the cost of the blood work upfront , as it is a routine procedure & expense, not an unanticipated one. Now, if there had been some complications that required extra time/medication/hassle, they would be fair in charging fees beyond the estimate.
posted by desuetude at 11:46 AM on October 9, 2006

Response by poster: picture_yellow:

Yes, I did receive a written estimate when I went in this morning that I was required to sign. The fact that it was about $100 more than the verbal estimate my wife had received over the phone is what caught my attention.

Why didn't I just up and leave? Really, it was mostly just because I was already there, had already taken the morning off work, didn't necessarily want to spent a whole lot of additional time shopping around for more price quotes, the place seemed clean, the staff seemed friendly and helpful otherwise.

Is $261 pretty average for this type of procedure (total cost)?
posted by The Gooch at 11:49 AM on October 9, 2006

Is $261 pretty average for this type of procedure (total cost)?

I think it's still a fair cost, but it's probably a bit high for around here (New Mexico). I would expect to pay between $150-200 for the procedure and anesthesia combined, plus or minus maybe $30 on the extreme ends of the price scale. Keep in mind that vet prices vary depending on location and quality of service, though. Now might be a good time to call around and see what other local vets are charging for the same procedure.
posted by vorfeed at 12:11 PM on October 9, 2006

I'm sorry if my last comment sounded mean. It wasn't my intention, but reading back on it now...I sounded somewhat cranky.

as for the "fair cost". It varies depending on where you are located.
My vet (meaning where I worked) usually charged around $300+ total (but we were in a snooty "upscale" area).

I've gotta say that in my experience, vets are busy being vets, not so much handling billing procedures.
While that may be true, if a client has an issue, a good vet will tend to their concerns. While it is the office staff's job to make sure that the basic day to day needs of the practice are kept in is the Vet's job to make sure that their clients feel at ease (at least in the end).

From MY experience, Vets are there to serve their people clients, just as much as their animal patients. If your vet doesn't have time to address a mistake made by their staff (a mistake that may have cost you a day's pay, or more, had you left and had to reschedule), then is that really someone that you want to intrust the care of your brand new puppy?

Vets are people too. They may have been completely in the dark about the mistake made by the staff. Maybe someone new had just started, and needs to be trained better before dealing with the clients. Mistakes need to be pointed out before they can be addressed. It is the Vet's job to make sure that his practice is run by competent people.

Please, I've had receptionists at my Ob/Gyn tell me that I was a candidate for a procedure....made the 1 hour trip down to the office...only to be told by the Dr. that I was not told the truth (and that somene needed to be trained better). It gets better....I then make an appointment with my old Dr (went to a different one in the first place due to cost)....after speaking with their recetionist, being told...ONCE AGAIN...that I was a candidate, making yet another hour trip to their office. Being told by the nurses that I was a candidate while I was being weighed and what not...only to be told by the Dr, that it was NOT an option for me. Do you think that I just rolled over and took the news lightly? NO, I told the Dr. of the staff's mistake (and hopefully they were then informed of how to do their jobs correctly).

omg, this is too long. Basically, you need to go to the top of the chain of command to have your issues addressed. Sorry!!!
posted by picture_yellow at 12:34 PM on October 9, 2006

We paid $173 to get our 6 month old dog neutered a few months ago. We live in a suburb of a major metropolitan area. Our dog also weighed <20 lbs. Our vet varies the price based on the weight of the dog (higher cost for heavier dogs to cover the increased cost of anesthesia). The $173 dollar price tag included a supplemental blood work charge, which was $40. We also were not quoted the blood work cost over the phone, and the vet implied at check-in that the blood work was optional. We did the blood work anyway.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:52 PM on October 9, 2006

Best answer: Here's my wife, the vet tech:

The bloodwork should have been discussed with you if they absolutely require it for anesthesia. Most hospitals perform pre -anesthetic bloodwork on animals that are over a certain age or those with known medical "issues". It is a big controversy in the veterinary field as to whether it is "necessary" to do this bloodwork on young, otherwise healthy pets. There are advantages to having th bloodwork done, but it sounds like your concern is whether you were ripped off. I say if it is requred by that hospital for all patients then they should have told you that up front. If it is not reqired, they should have given you paperwork to sign saying that you authorized this and that you would be responsible for paying for it. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find good receptionists in this field too. So, Joe Shmo calls and asks "how much for the neuter?" and, little miss gives you only what you asked for...nothing more.

Long story short, I am sure your hospital is not trying to pull a fast one on you. It is good medicine to do this lab work in my opinion. I did work at a hospital that did not require it for young animals and we ended losing a dog on the table due to a bleeding disorder that would have been identified on routine pre-anesthetic bloodwork. The other thing is that if your pup ends up getting sick at some point, you will have a baseline to see what he "normal" values are for your pet, this is very helpful. Since vet medicine is not funded by drug companies and we don't have the support of insurance companies, our prices have to cover everything, however, you should voice your opinion to the hospital. Maybe they will change their protocol. Vets don't make much money contrary to popular belief; none of us are in this to get rich (sadly). We all need to be pretty competitive because we know most people price shop.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:16 PM on October 9, 2006

It could have been a lot worse. Your dog could have had Cryptorchidism, which is a common genetic condition in male dogs, causing one or both testicles to be retained, sometimes in the abdomen. In the case of a testicle being retained in the abdomen, the surgery then is both a neutering, and an abdominal surgery, often with some exploration and sequential dissection to trace the location of the retained organ via the vas deferns connection.

A fair percentage of retained testicles turn cancerous, so that removal is recommended for the future health of the dog.

My rescue pup had the problem, and the bill for the surgery came to about $600, with a 2 day post-surgical stay, making him the most expensive "free" dog I've ever had.
posted by paulsc at 3:05 PM on October 9, 2006

I've heard from more than one friend (both with cats, YMMV) who took their animals to be neutered, weren't offered blood work, and had them die of a reaction to the anesthetic.

Since then, I always insist on it, and the good vets will insist on it too.
posted by mmoncur at 8:07 PM on October 10, 2006

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