On January 23rd Seattle’s KOMO 4 News ran a story about the city’s best local veterinarians and consequently got some things wrong in the process. Check out the story and video here.
The story focuses on Checkbook.org’s recent survey of consumers at local area vets and posits that there is little to no correlation between cost and quality; you know that saying “you get what you pay for”. Sometimes that’s true and sometimes that’s not, no matter the type of business.
What they aren’t saying: why there can be such dramatic price differences for the same procedure – though they do mention it’s important to keep in mind there’s multiple factors that make up price but that doesn’t give pet owners the real low down.
People tend shop for veterinary care like an oil change for their car rather than how they might shop for their own doctor and folks in the vet community are trying to change that. A low cost clinic may be committed to quality care at low prices but in order to stay in business they must do a larger volume. Is that bad? No, but you may not receive the individualized attention and relationship that other vets can offer. While low cost does not equate to poor care, you have to understand they may cut corners to get there. YOU have to decide if those corners are worth cutting.
Let’s use their example: a 6 month old cat spay for the low price of $67, an average cost of $252, and a high of $620. So for the low price of $67 you likely won’t be getting pre-operative blood work (to make sure all body systems can handle the anesthesia). Your pet may not get an IV catheter and fluids with multi-modal pain control during surgery. You’ll get minimal monitoring before/during/and afterwards. Are those things important? You decide. Regardless your pet will get spayed, but it’s the route to get there that varies with that price tag.
The dentistry prices they cite are also problematic. There’s no such thing as a ‘standard’ dental as all pets (like people) wear down their teeth differently. And most pets won’t let you look in their mouth or probe around until after they are under anesthesia so estimations of what actually needs to happen are difficult to guess with any accuracy. That is where estimates get tricky, for dentals in particular.
The big problem of the story is the attitude by both the news crew and Checkbook.org’s executive editor is that there’s little to no difference in care by low cost vs high costs vets. Prices can vary for different and sometimes important reasons. That is what you need to know to make an informed decision for you and your pet. Remember, a service can be rendered by low/high cost clinics alike but it is how you get there.