After getting a dermatology bill in the mail for $571 for the biopsy of a dark mole on my shoulder (don’t worry, it was benign) and a $282 bill for a pathologist’s interpretation, I showed it to Dr. Laci and asked her what we would have charged for the same procedure.
I mean, $853 dollars for a mole? We both agreed that we would have removed the mole rather than biopsy it because the cost of biopsy at a veterinary hospital is about the same as removal when local anesthesia can be used. We wondered why people with veterinary jobs would have charged at least one seventh and why it took 1.5 weeks to get the results back when we can get results from board certified dermatopathologist in
As the quality of veterinary medicine increases and medical advances are made, the cost of cutting edge vet medicine is rising – but not at the same pace of human medicine. More often than not, people feel that they are getting ripped-off by their vet and that their fees are way too high. The studies verify these sentiments and it is all over the veterinary industry news. Some pet owners feel many of their simple pet medical questions go unanswered. Many people also assume that their vet is raking it in. Is this true?
Compare the median salaries and schooling of several professions:
- Veterinarian: $80,000 (8 yrs school +/- 1-2 yr internship +/- 3-4 yr residency) 1
- Nurse Practitioner: $87,618 (6,7,or 8 years depending on the program) 2
- Average Physician: $186,000 (8 years + 1-2 yr internship +/- 3-4 yr residency)
- Family doctor: $150,267 4
- Psychiatrist: $163,144 4
- General Surgeon: $255,438 4
- Dentist: $147,010 (5 to 7 years depending on the program) 5
- Attorney: $145,000 starting and up (7 years) 6
In addition to lesser business revenues than other professions, vets have a higher cost of goods associated with doing business. They have to purchase a veterinary practice website. And what percent do they get to keep after taxes (net income/profit)? Veterinary hospitals, when compared to other professional practices, have lower profit margins in addition to the veterinarians having lower salaries. Here are some examples of the average profit margins generated in different professions:
Veterinarians have very stressful jobs leading to a the highest rate of suicide of any other medical profession. Have a look at this UK study on the incidence of suicide in veterinarians.
- Veterinarians: 12%
- Optometrists: 29%
- Accountants: 30%
- Architects: 26%
- Attorneys: 36%
- Physicians: 36%
- Dentists: 23%
- Chiropractors: 27%
It’s always interesting (and scary) to compare the cost of human medicine versus veterinary medicine in the United States:
A hysterectomy surgical fee for a woman is $30,000 to $70,000 but for your adult Rottweiler it is $200 to $500 dollars including anesthesia and post-operative care (up to 35 times higher)
A registered nurse makes an average of $62,527 while a registered veterinary nurse makes an average of $33,000 per year and unregistered vet techs make less ($23,588)
A total hip replacement surgical fee for a person is $90,000 to $150,000 but for your boxer its only $4,000-6,000 including anesthesia and post-operative care (up to 37.5 times higher)
I am not claiming that veterinary care is cheap or that vet fees should be drastically increased. I am not implying that $79,000 is chump change either (although nearly a third of vet students have an average debt above $150,000). Despite their amount of schooling, their debt, and the long stressful hours at the hospital and on-call, people with animal health jobs wake up every morning (and at all hours of the night) to help your pet, not for the love of money, but for the love of animals.
Human healthcare costs were attained from http://www.oshpd.ca.gov. Veterinary salary data was attained from the AVMA website. Cost of veterinary websites taken from VMF. Average salaries: various online sources cited via a superscript hyperlink.