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MJ Wixsom: Waiting until last minute is not good for animals

I’m getting a late start to my article writing this Saturday afternoon because we had an emergency come in after we closed.

While some of us finished up the end-of-the-day procedures, four staff members and I stayed and worked with the emergency patient for almost two hours.

We worked quickly and efficiently and were able to help the patient, but I’m not sure the people were happy when they left. I think they might have spent more than they wanted. While I am quite sure that we were incredibly fair in the charges, I’m sure this happens more than anyone would like.

Today, I would like to explain some of the ways you can spend extra money at the vet. (I think Andy says “we can’t be doing that.”)

The first way and perhaps the best way to make things cost more is to wait.

Today’s emergency was a 55-gram lizard that was pregnant. She had not been moving and was a dark color for four or five days. Seeing them on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday would have save $50.

Because they didn’t call until 20 minutes before we closed and lived 45 minutes away, we added an additional $75 emergency fee.

While that might seem steep, remember that five people stayed for two hours to go over husbandry, communicate, take radiographs, recommend treatments and revise treatments to fit within the owner’s constraints. While normally some of those people would have been doing other things while we were getting answers, remember we were already closed at the end of a long, COVID-19 hard week.

Normally, we would have sent this family to the ER, but they are not really seeing lizards.

The ER is probably the second-best way to spend extra money with your vet. I usually volunteer at the ER one weekend shift a month. I do not do anything with the estimates and charges there, but I notice things cost more than I’m used to.

Drugs cost more. Procedures cost more. Seems everything there costs more. And it should.

It costs a lot more to get staff to work all night and weekends than during the day. The doctor that I relieved on a recent Sunday morning was totally wiped after an all-nighter of multiple surgeries. Honestly, you cannot pay me enough anymore to be up all night and then try to work during the day.

Waiting almost always makes conditions worse. That spot on the back leg, we might clip it up and clean it with a wellness plan or annual for free. Wait until we have to do local anesthesia, drains and pain meds and it will cost more.

A dog bite may be a clip and clean with topical treatment. Bite wound abscesses may require surgery and intensive care.

You need to know when it is an emergency and when it is not. It is amazing what can be done at the ER to help pets, but there are also limits.

The yellow lab with an eight-month history of vomiting did not get a barium study (a six-hour test) on this Saturday. We are open weekends are made for people who work all week and evenings, not for things to wait until Saturday.

A great way to spend more is to not vaccinate your pet as your vet recommends.

Over half of our cases of parvovirus have a history of an over-the-counter vaccine. Almost all of the rest will not have been vaccinated at all.
Leptospirosis can cause a fatal kidney disease treated with three plus weeks of IV fluids and antibiotics and intensive care. Lyme disease can lead to years of NSAIDS.

Speaking of NSAIDS and chronic medications, it is best to get them filled at your veterinarian unless your veterinarian recommends otherwise. When you have a refill at your vet, they can keep track of your medications and your history. Most vets are not looking for a mansion, but they do have to pay expenses and salaries. You might spend a little more on heartworm prevention, but then the exam fees and diagnostics don’t have to absorb as much of the veterinary hospital expenses.

Either way the vet has the same bills to pay, so you might save a few dollars online, but you will pay more for something else.

Finally, don’t listen to your vet. Don’t get your dog fixed, but prepare to pay six times the spay cost for a C-section or a pyometria surgery.

Read on the internet and decide to spay them later and then have to pay for cancer surgery or chemotherapy.

Don’t listen about puppy bad behavior not being cute and prepare to pay for a trainer.

Don’t listen that early dental care prevents expensive dental care, heart and kidney disease and pain.

Don’t listen to our information that grain-free diets have been associated with cardiomyopathies and death, because to be honest, we make more on a cardiac workup than an entire month of the clinic’s food profit.

I don’t know how veterinary medicine attracts the folks that genuinely care about animals and people more than they often do themselves, but almost all vets just want to help you help your pet.

Yes, we realize we have to be paid, but, I for one, truly appreciate that you trust me enough to let my help you and spend my life caring for your pets. Yes, quality vet care can add up, but there are ways to avoid extra costs.

MJ Wixsom, DVM MS is a best-selling Amazon author who practices at Guardian Animal Medical Center in Flatwoods, Ky. GuardianAnimal.com 606-928-6566