VETERINARIANS - SOME IMPORTANT BACKGROUND INFORMATION
 
Today's veterinarian is a highly skilled professional dedicated to protecting the health of both animals and people. Veterinarians have completed a minimum of seven years of intense college courses to obtain their medical degrees. In many cases, they have also taken several additional years of study as interns or residents in a specialized field within veterinary medicine - cardiology, surgery, ophthalmology, etc. 

There are only 26 schools of veterinary medicine in the United States, each with limited admissions to its freshman class - usually between 60 and 100. There may be 5 to 10 applicants received for each available position. The candidates chosen by the selection committee of the schools are typically among the top undergraduate scholars in the country. 

At Tufts University, the only veterinary college in New England, the yearly tuition costs alone run $24,000 per year. Students assume a high burden of cost and years of schooling because their special love of animals and their dedication to a sensitive, compassionate, caring profession. 

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WHY IS VETERINARY CARE FOR MY PET(S) SO EXPENSIVE NOWADAYS? SOMETIMES I BELIEVE I'M SPENDING MORE ON MY PETS HEALTH CARE THAN MY OWN!!
 
Relatively speaking, veterinary care is a great deal! The cost of veterinary care has risen very little over er the last 20 to 30 years, especially when compared to the cost of human health care or almost any other service. It is important to bear in mind that your veterinarian is not only your pet's general physician but also surgeon, radiologist, dermatologist, neurologist, psychiatrist, dentist and pharmacist. 

your veterinary bill is a reflection of the inherent, constantly rising costs of maintaining suitable facilities, equipment and support personnel required to provide the level of pet care sought by owners in today's society. It is important to remember that the original purchase price of the animal has no relation to the cost of keeping that pet in a healthy state. 

One reason you sometimes think you are paying more for your pet's health care than for your own is the use of health insurance for your own health care needs -you are never faced with a true bottom line figure. If you have ever been without health insurance and been sick you know what a bargain veterinary care is. Even with health insurance, if you sat down and added up your insurance costs, deductibles, and pharmaceutical costs, you would still find veterinary care costs very reasonable in today's marketplace. 

You may see advertisements in papers or magazines promoting "low cost wellness clinics." These ads can be false and misleading - comparing apples to oranges so to speak. They are selling a product - in many cases a vaccine - at a low price. There is usually no other service connected to this product - including the availability of a trained professional to answer your questions or perform a complete physical as part of a preventive health care program. In most cases, these clinics are not equipped to provide full service, quality medical care for your pet. Patronage of local, full service hospitals ensures their availability, understanding and compassion for you and your pet. 

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SHOULD I BE WARY OF "BARGAIN BASEMENT" VETERINARY CARE? WHY?
 
As with most products and services, you usually get what you pay for. Comparing price alone, however, does not reflect the level of service veterinary practitioners provide. You are entitled to ask your doctor for an explanation of all charges and the services connected with those charges. In veterinary care, the development of a close doctor/client/pet relationship is of the utmost importance. The knowledge your veterinarian has of your pet from past physicals, along with his or her recognition of your concerns-financial, personal, and pet orientated - enables him or her to guide you in selecting the best health care choices for your pet. At this level, veterinary medicine epitomizes a profession whose primary oath of service is to both the patient and the client. 

The Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association (MAVMA) endorses the best possible care for each animal taking into consideration the owner's financial constraints. Remember that a low cost treatment choice may not be the best and may even cost you more in the long run. 

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ARE THERE ANY REALLY LOW-COST SPAY AND NEUTER CLINICS IN MASSACHUSETTS? WHAT ARE VETERINARIANS DOING TO HELP?
 
Across the board throughout Massachusetts, MAVMA veterinarians routinely perform spays and neuters at approximately 1/3 to « of their actual costs. We have been doing this for years to help the pet over-population problem as well as to promote better pet health, both physically and psychologically, for our patients. In general, an altered pet is a healthier, happier pet. 

In addition to the above, many of the MAVMA members are also SNAP (Spay-Neuter Assistance Program) members. SNAP is a cooperative effort established by the MAVMA and the MSPCA whose purpose is to offer low cost spays and neuters to those people on fixed incomes. People may apply for a SNAP certificate through the MSPCA. THE MSPCA is responsible for the paperwork involved with this program but it is the individual, local veterinarians who donate their surgical skills, anesthetic equipment, surgical supplies and technician time, with no outside reimbursement, to this program. Many MAVMA members are also actively involved with local humane organizations - performing low cost surgeries for stray animals before they are adopted. 

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MY VETERINARIAN SAYS MY PET'S OFFICE VISIT/SHOTS/SURGERY MEDICATIONS, EMERGENCY CARE. ETC ADDS UP TO A COUPLE OF HUNDRED DOLLARS OR MORE! I JUST DON'T HAVE THAT KIND OF MONEY ALL AT ONCE. WHAT ABOUT TERMS - A PAYMENT PLAN, THAT'S FAIR FOR BOTH PARTIES?
 
Your best, immediate course of action is to call your veterinary hospital ahead of time and inquire about various payment methods. 

Routine physicals for your pet are one sound financial investment you can make that will result in lower overall health care costs through early detection and resolution of health care problems before they become major issues. 

Discussing your pet's overall health care needs is one way to diffuse the cost over the year. The early establishment of a solid doctor-client relationship based on mutual trust and loyalty, will widen your payment option should an emergency of major medical problem arise. 

Please recognize that veterinarians receive no state or federal support funding. They re not tax exempt, and in the majority of cases, they are not on payments plans with their drug and supply dealers. They re committed to timely payments of supply bills, staff salaries, utilities, etc. To remain financially solvent, veterinarians need to have "payment at time services are rendered" policies especially for any elective services, just as with other medical professionals. 

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WHY IS THERE SUCH A WIDE RANGE OF PRICES FOR THE SAME PROCEDURE(S) AMONG VETERINARIANS?
 
Prices are set by each individual veterinary practice and each one has different expenses that are covered by fees charged (i.e., state and local taxes, salaries, rent, utilities, equipment overhead, continuing education, etc.) Often, the different prices do not reflect the same set of services, even though there may be certain basic procedures in common. The choice of potentially better but more costly drugs, the availability and use of newer surgical and medical products, and the choice of an individualized, safer anesthetic protocol for your pet represent some of the many reasons for "cost for service" variations. 

MAVMA veterinarians are compassionate, caring professionals. They are very willing to with established clients - medically and financially - to achieve the best care for a pet. After all, the client and the veterinarian share the common goal of a healthy, happy pet. 

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I RECENTLY TOOK IN A STRAY THAT APPEARED INJURED, POSSIBLY HIT BY A CAR. I TOOK HIM TO A VETERINARIAN AND PAID THE BILL. I AM UNABLE TO AFFORD FURTHER TREATMENT. IS THIS MY REWARD FOR TRYING TO DO THE RIGHT THING?
 
If you "adopt" the animal, you become the owner and therefore are responsible for the animal's care. Hopefully, a healthy animal is your reward for trying to do the right thing. 

If you find an injured animal, you can call your local veterinarian for help. MAVMA veterinarians will administer emergency care to any animal under the guidelines of "an injured stray" at no cost to you. Once you hand the animal over to the veterinarian you relinquish any further control over it's care or final disposition. If you elect to retain control, then you essentially become the owner and at that point assume the responsibility for it's medical bills. 

In order to help injured or sick strays in the Commonwealth, the MAVMA has established the MAVMA Stray Animal Fund. This is a federally and locally registered non-profit charitable fund for the care of injured, stray animals. Monies collected at each participating hospital are sent into the general fund office and a credit in that amount is noted on that hospital's ledger. At a later time, when someone brings in an injured stray and release it to the hospital, the veterinarian may elect to treat it and find a home for it. Once the animal has been treated and placed in a new home the veterinarian can apply to the Stray Animal Fund for a reimbursement of costs. The amount of reimbursement is limited to the amount that has been credited to that hospital's donation account. 
 

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I SEE A LOT OF CATALOGS OFFERING VACCINES, NEEDLES AND SYRINGES, AND OTHER ANIMAL PRODUCTS FOR SALE. WHY SHOULDN'T I JUST BUY FROM THE CATALOGS, GIVE MY PETS THEIR REGULAR VACCINATIONS AND SAVE SOME MONEY IN THE PROCESS?
 
The dangers of owner administered vaccines are potentially far greater than any cost-saving benefits. Vaccines are easily rendered ineffective if handled improperly in shipping, storage or administration. 

An allergic or other reaction is possible whenever a vaccine is administered. Acute vaccine reactions can be life threatening. If your pet reacted badly, would you know how to treat it? 

Pharmaceutical and veterinary supply catalogs now offer clients the opportunity to order medications at prices below what your veterinarian charges. In many cases these prices are offered at less than your veterinarian's costs for the product. Why the, should you consider paying more through your veterinarian? 

Certainly, if costs is sole concern, talk to you veterinarian. 

It is important to recognize that the medication charges set by your local veterinarian take into account the costs of stocking, record keeping and doctor's time and knowledge in dispensing these items as well as the individual cost of the product. The fee also supports a portion of the salaries of the highly trained hospital personnel that service you. Income from this area is also reinvested in the hospital - in the purchase of special, costly diagnostic or emergency support equipment, the upgrading of the facility, and as an aid in the purchase and stocking of infrequently used but critical lifesaving drugs. 

As MAVMA members, we are dedicated to providing your pets the highest quality veterinary care available. Your support of your local MAVMA member veterinarian and hospital helps ensure the survival of the personal and professional veterinary care you have come to expect and have a right to receive. 

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