Monday, November 18, 2019

Enter Title


The Cost of Veterinary Care

The bond we have with our pets is amazing.  They love us unconditionally, make us happy, provide companionship, and help fulfill that innate need we have to nurture.  In most cases, they are considered a part of our family and they are a wonderful gift!   As such, we want them to be happy, healthy, and live a long, full life.  Veterinary healthcare is essential for their well-being.  During the past few decades, advancements in veterinary medicine have brought the level of pet healthcare to a level similar to that in human medicine.  It is wonderful!  But with these amazing advancements, the cost of veterinary care has increased.   And if you are like most people, you want to make sure you spend your hard earned money wisely for veterinary care.  You also want to make sure your furry family members receive the excellent care they deserve.   So how do you choose where to take your pet?  Do you make that decision by calling around and choosing the veterinary hospital that is the cheapest for what you are shopping for?  Because after all,  they are all the same….right?  The truth is they aren’t the same. Many people don’t realize that there can be major differences in the level of care, and the self-imposed standards when comparing one veterinarian or veterinary facility to another.  There are also significant differences in their medical, surgical, diagnostic, and laboratory equipment capabilities.   And don’t forget about the staff.  You will be working with them as much as you will with the veterinarian.  This makes it difficult to compare apples to apples when choosing a veterinarian/veterinary hospital for the medical and surgical care of your valued dog or cat.  There is an old saying that states “you get what you pay for”, and in general that is true in veterinary medicine!  It is difficult to know about our services and standards through a phone call.  So let us help you understand what we do, and why we charge what we charge for our services.    You will see that there is significant value in what we have to offer.  If somebody is quoting you a lower price for a service, this may help you understand why.  Some of these are a bit lengthy, but there is no other way to give you a full understanding.

Office Visits:  We schedule a minimum of twenty minutes for each office visit.  It is difficult to get a history, do a thorough examination, and diagnose a problem in less time than that.   There also needs to be time to explain things, formulate a treatment plan, and answer questions you may have.  If tests or imaging need to be done, we can generally take care of that while you wait.  We will give you and your pet the individualized time that you need.  Your pet is a part of your family and will be treated as such.

Annual Physical Examinations and Vaccinations:   An annual physical examination is crucial to evaluating your pets’ health status and addressing any issues that may be present.  A typical physical examination includes checking the eyes, external ears, ear canals and ear drums, mouth and teeth, lymph glands, skin, fur/hair, feet, palpation of internal abdominal organs, heart and lungs, rectum, and reproductive organs where applicable.  We frequently uncover problems that owners are unaware of.  The physical examination is also an essential component of our preventive health programs.  

Vaccines are usually a part of the annual physical examination.  We administer vaccines from only reputable and reliable manufacturers.  We can customize your pets’ vaccinations to fit their individual needs.  When your pet receives a vaccination, it will receive a physical examination at that time.  We can’t overstate the importance of a complete physical examination.  It is so important, that it is considered malpractice in some states to administer a vaccine to a pet without doing a physical examination first.  At Red Hills Animal Hospital, one vaccination is generally included in the cost of the office visit for vaccinations.  With cats, we follow the AAFP guidelines in giving the individual vaccinations in specific locations.  This allows us to reduce risks of an adverse reaction(which are extremely rare), and be able to identify which vaccine caused the problem.  

Surgical Procedures:  Whether we are performing an elective procedure such as a dog neuter, or an emergency surgery on a critical patient, we take anesthesia and surgery seriously. There is no such thing as “no risk” anesthesia.   Before anesthesia or surgery is started, our patients are examined twice.   Once by a veterinary technician, and then immediately before any drugs are administered  by the veterinarian in charge.  If there is a problem which could become a potential complication, the owner is called and advised before going forward.  To increase the safety of anesthesia and treatment, we use a program that calculates the dose of drugs for each patient based on weight and species.  It includes everything from pre-anesthetics to pain medications and rescue drugs.    There are many different drug combinations available when a patient undergoes anesthesia.  We base our drug choices on safety and efficacy, not cost.  The best anesthetic drugs simply cost more.  And there is no such thing as a “one size fits all”.  Our veterinarian in charge makes the anesthetic drug choices and doses for each patient individually according to their species, age, pre-existing health issues, and type of surgery being performed.   We take several other steps to increase the comfort of your pet and decrease the risks associated with anesthesia and surgery.  Our patients receive the following:

a. An IV catheter with IV fluids for all surgeries which require general anesthesia to maintain blood pressure and to provide immediate access for rescue drugs if an emergency occurs during surgery.   

b. Pre-meds prior to starting anesthesia to decrease stress and pain.  Pre-meds also make for a smoother and safer recovery.  

c. Propofol induction and endotracheal tube placement with isoflurane gas for maintenance of anesthesia on all patients except cat neuters and some simple procedures such as torn toe nails or simple lacerations.  This protects the airway and delivers constant oxygen to the vital organs.  Isoflurane gas is much safer than injectable anesthesia alone.

d. Constant patient monitoring and recording of oxygen levels, respiration, blood pressure, heart rate and ECG.   Cat neuters are monitored for respiration and heart rate and mucus membrane perfusion.

e. A pain injection to decrease pain during and after the procedure.

f. Local line block.   Incisions are infused with a local anesthetic called marcaine to minimize the immediate pain associated with surgery.  Line blocks generally last 5-8 hours.

g. Take home pain medications are sent home for each animal that has undergone a painful procedure.  We feel strongly about pain management for our patients.  Not only does it keep them more comfortable, but the healing process occurs faster.  There is a small fee for pain medication.        

**Laser Surgery:  We are the only veterinary hospital in southern Utah that has a surgical laser.  Laser surgery allows us to do surgery with less hemorrhage, pain, and complications.  It is especially useful in the surgical removal of tumors and cat declaws.  Cats that are declawed with the laser experience significantly less pain.  They rarely require bandages, experience minimal bleeding and are usually up and walking on their feet shortly after surgery.

Dentistry:  Oral health is likely the single most important factor in keeping dogs and cats healthy and comfortable.  When the gums and teeth become diseased, not only is your pet in pain, but the bacteria that are present frequently find their way into the bloodstream and cause damage to the heart, the liver, and the kidneys.  To prevent these problems, regular dental cleanings are essential.  Generally dogs and cats need to have their teeth cleaned and have x-rays taken to evaluate the health of each tooth every 12-18 months.  This is especially important in cats.  They are predisposed to painful cavities.  Some smaller breeds of dogs such as Poodles, Yorkies, Shih-Tzus, Pomeranians, and Chihuahuas often need  proper dental every 6-9 month.  We include the following for each dental cleaning that we perform:

  1. All of the precautions and monitoring as explained under Surgical Procedures above including IV catheter and fluids, drug calculations sheet, monitoring, etc. (See above)

  2. Radiographs (X-rays).  All patients undergoing a dental cleaning at our hospital receive full mouth digital radiographs.  It is included in the cost.  Recent studies show that 60% of dental disease is found underneath the gum line, where it usually can’t be seen.  The problems are in the roots and the bone surrounding the roots.  Without x-rays, up to 60% of your pets dental problems are not being found.  When that happens, your pet is in pain, and infections spread through the bloodstream damaging the heart, liver, and kidneys.   We recently had a patient come in for a dental that looked like the only problem it had was tartar, plaque, and mild gingivitis.  We never would have guessed there were further problems.  The digital X-rays revealed nine teeth that had abscessed roots.  Abscessed teeth can’t be saved,  and are very painful, thus extractions are indicated.

  3. Scaling of the teeth with a precision ultrasonic scaler.  This removes all of the calcified tartar and plaque on each tooth and beneath the gum line.

  4. Polishing of the teeth.  All teeth need to be polished after being scaled to remove microscopic scratches which otherwise attract bacteria.

  5. Fluoride treatment.   To help the teeth stay healthy

  1. Local anesthesia.  All patients that have extractions performed receive complimentary local anesthesia to numb the mouth, helping to minimize the discomfort.

  2. Extractions are performed by a veterinarian.  Unless a tooth is loose and ready to fall out, all teeth are extracted by a veterinarian, not a technician.    

  3. Oral Surgery.  Our doctors perform oral surgery to remove most premolars, molars and K-9 teeth unless they are loose.  This decreases the pain, trauma, and chance of complications such as broken off root tips.  Oral surgery is generally done by  carefully elevating a flap of gingival tissue over the tooth to give access to the bone surrounding the roots.  The bone is then removed using specialized dental instruments to expose the roots.  The tooth is then sectioned and removed one root at a time.  The bone is then made smooth and the gingival flap is sutured over the hole where the tooth was to keep the socket covered and comfortable while healing.  Dissolving sutures are used and fall out within 2-3 weeks on their own.

  4. Antibiotics are included with each dental.  They are sent home and given for about one week after the dental cleaning.  This helps prevent any damage to the internal organs from the bacteria that were broken loose during the dental cleaning.  It also helps to clear up the gingivitis.

  5. Bloodwork:  To minimize risks associated with anesthesia in our patients we strongly recommend pre-anesthetic bloodwork.  In our patients 7 years of age and older, we require bloodwork.  This can be done on the day of the procedure in our laboratory.  The minimal database screens for anemia and checks the internal organs responsible for metabolizing anesthesia.  If your dog or cat has had bloodwork in the past 6 months and it was normal, that usually meets the requirement.  Bloodwork is an additional cost.

We are sincere when we say we strive to provide the very best veterinary healthcare possible.  We understand the human-animal bond.  We are thorough, compassionate, knowledgeable, and dedicated to providing the best in veterinary medicine and surgery.  We love our profession and love being able to offer newer treatments and better equipment as it becomes available.  We also stay current in our profession by regularly attending continuing education labs, lectures, and conferences in addition to the use of our veterinary medicine information networks.

Copyright 2010 by Red Hills Animal Hospital - All Rights Reserved