Wednesday, January 8, 2014

SHOP AROUND for animal will do your wallet good!

This morning Maryann brought two animals to the vet clinic called Crooked Tails in Prineville, OR.  One animal was one of our foster kittens, Timmy, who was scheduled to be neutered in preparation for being put up for adoption at our local humane society.  The other was our dog, Idgy, who had a nearly tennis ball-sized hematoma on his right ear.

                                                      Aural Hematoma (not our dog)

This blog is more about the clinic than the animals.

I wrote briefly on Facebook a couple of days ago about Maryann bringing Idgy to a local veterinarian clinic to have his ear looked at.  Because we had fed him that morning, the vet could do nothing but tell Maryann to bring him back and scheduled an appointment.  He was going to need to be anesthetized, then the ear cut open to drain it and then stitch the ear to prevent the hematoma from coming back.  The hematoma was caused by him shaking his head because of an ear infection or mites.  A blood vessel burst and was filling the ear with a mix of blood and pus.  The procedure, which includes cauterizing the blood vessel, is relatively simple and would take about 10 minutes or so to do.  If we had the drugs here, we'd have taken care of it ourselves.
Ear after surgery (not our dog)

When the original vet clinic made the appointment, they also gave Maryann an estimate of cost--about $362 - $382+ !!! There was a breakdown of costs including about $11 for suture material and $15 for ONE antibiotic pill!  Other costs included the office visit - $50, the surgery - $125, the anesthesia - about $140 and an injection of an antibiotic - $22.

I was mortified! We've all heard stories about the costs hospitals charge for supplies and services.  Apparently this has filtered down to veterinarians.  I can buy 25 YARDS of suture material for $2.99.  This surgery might use two feet including the waste.  I can buy a bottle of the antibiotic pills - 50 of them - for $35!  The anesthesia cost, if I can get it online, is about $3.00 including a sedative given prior to the injection.

I contacted another clinic, Crooked Tails, and told them what was needed for our dog.  The estimate they gave me was $125 - $175 for the surgery.  Pain meds and/or antibiotics would be somewhat extra. I tried to schedule an appointment with them for as soon as possible unfortunately for Idgy but the earliest they could get us in would be the following Monday, a week later.  The vet tech and the vet were going to try and get us in earlier if they could but the schedule was full. I thanked them and hung up the phone.  Maryann and I immediately took it on ourselves to start Idgy on a course of general oral antibiotics that are human grade but are prescribed for our herd and other animals.  As I said above, we're capable of doing the entire procedure because of our experience with as many as 144 horses here but alas, I no longer have a vet who will give me whatever I need.

Yesterday I received a call from Crooked Tails to tell me that they couldn't fit me in at all.  I told the vet tech that we had the dog on the oral antibiotic and that the hematoma was almost visibly growing.  She put me on hold and when she came back she told me the vet, a Dr. Jones, was going to take care of Idgy during her lunch time, that no dog should have to suffer like he has been.  If I was there, I would have kissed her feet!

Maryann took Idgy in this morning and just left a little while ago to pick up the now-neutered kitten and Idgy - who will soon have a normal left ear again.  All I can say is KUDOS to Dr Jones and her staff for going the extra mile and at less than half the cost of the other clinic.  I know I'll have no reason to go elsewhere with the house animals.  Unfortunately, they are only small animal practitioners.

Based on my Facebook post, a number of folks have been in a similar predicament...minor surgery on their dogs and cats with the cost in the 4 and 5 hundreds!   One friend of ours, rather well-to-do, drives 75 miles to go to a vet who can save them a great deal of money  It's worth calling around if you need to have your animal taken care of.  Prices are NOT set in stone.  I understand the costs of running a clinic or a practice - the vets have bills, too.  A veterinarian friend told me he had to produce $150 an hour JUST to run his clinic. I don't think that included his wages...but with office visits at $50 and most often the time the vet spends with an animal around 10 - 15 minutes, that $150 is easily made and then some...add to that markup for materials and any extra services done, the vets may not get rich but they should be comfortable.

A case in point regarding veterinarian pricing:  gelding horses is pretty common around here.  I often have two or three boys I need to have cut.  I used to call around locally for a "group price" for gelding.  Prices ranged from $200 for three down to around $130.  These are miniature horses, mind you.  150 miles from here there's a vet who will do a group of three horses for $85/horse.  What's the difference???

So, CALL AROUND...and don't be afraid to let the vets know the costs that have been quoted to you. If you are in Central Oregon, check out Crooked Tails in Prineville!


  1. Larry and MA..I am glad you got Idgy and the kitty finally done and yes for a better price. It certainly does pay to shop around. Learning to do minor stuff yourself is a good thing to know. I know some people are a bit squimish about that, but then they will always need to pay a vet. If you can and want to learn as much vet work as you can do yourself, sure pays in the long run. I know from all the experience that you all have, that, that has surely paid off 100 fold+. It has for us already know our stories. Mel has learned a lot about treating all sorts of animals that they had and if he can do something himself, he'd much rather do that, then call and pay for a vet, me too. I know the vets have to make a living, but one wonders what they really do make. Hope you don't have anymore vet bills..well I can't really say that with having animals :) At least no big ones! My best to Idgy that his ear heals up 100% and he feels much better soon. Take care...Jenny :)

  2. This is an excellent review! It is difficult to find good care in our area too (AZ). At one point, I had to impersonate one of my employees in order to take a feral cat in to be fixed. (Her vet was no longer accepting new patients.) Don't get me started about the horse vets. They won't even drive down the hill (45 miles) to care for an ailing horse, but will notify us ahead of time when they'll be in town to give shots.

  3. PS - I hope your cat & dog are feeling well!


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