Monday, March 14, 2011

Health care funds are going to the dogs -- and vets

Monique McAlister`s English bulldog, Izabelle, was just 8 months old when veterinarians said she would need a hip replacement to resolve a genetic disorder called hip dysplasia. McAlister said she was told the surgery would need to be done by a specialist in Colorado Springs and would cost $5,000.

"I almost fell over when I heard that," McAlister said. She eventually found a cheaper surgery method, but she is now going through the same decision process for the dog`s other hip. A hip replacement now costs closer to $10,000, she said.

Over the last decade, veterinary care has become more specialized, more advanced and more expensive. Local veterinarians and pet owners said the trend has hit Durango as well. Nationally, the total spent on veterinary care for dogs increased 38 percent between 2001 and 2006, according to the most recent data collected by the American Veterinary Medical Association. In the last three years, the number of veterinary specialists has increased more than 15 percent, according to the association.

Local vets said the driving force behind these trends, especially in a pet-loving town like Durango, is an increase in customers` expectations about health care for their furry friends. To meet the new standard for care, more veterinarians are going into specialty practices, using more sophisticated equipment and providing more complicated procedures.

"The technology is available now, and the expectation of care goes up, which is great," said Brian Marshall, owner of Baker`s Bridge Veterinary Clinic. "But if you want advanced care, cost is going to go up."Digital X-rays, ultrasounds and blood chemistry machines are a few new technologies that have become standard in many veterinary clinics.

"Those machines are expensive, so in order to offer those services, we have to charge more," said Claire Lodahl, owner of Kindness Animal Hospital. Drug costs are higher as well, and new drugs constantly cycle into the market, said Greta Varien, a technician at Aspen Tree Animal Caring Center.

To provide more advanced care, Varien said general practice clinics use the services of traveling specialists. A surgical specialist, an eye specialist and an ultrasound specialist visit Aspen Tree periodically to do certain procedures, she said.

The rising cost of veterinary schooling has become another factor forcing clinics to charge more for their services, Marshall said. "It`s approaching what human medical physicians` debt load is, but vets make a lot less," he said.

But the rising cost of care isn`t the only factor at play in the equation. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, increased spending on veterinary care may also be attributed to pet owners choosing to pay for procedures. Varien said people want to spend more money on their pets because they have much closer relationships than past generations.


Post a Comment

Copyright © 2010 Pets Tabloid

Back to TOP