Veterinary Costs New Insights
The veterinary costs detailed inside the latest Nationwide Purdue Veterinary Price Index show interesting drops and increases in what people pay for veterinary care for their pets -- particularly in the immediate aftermath of The Great Recession as well as in the most recent couple of years. My general sense is that my experience overall has been different as a Dog Mom in Colorado, where the recession wasn't particularly bad, with costs going up and up. However, one point about veterinary costs at primary care / general veterinary hospitals versus at specialty veterinary hospitals rings true. Eerily true.
Veterinary Costs - General Practice vs. Specialty Practice Prices
I often hear people balk at perceived higher veterinary costs for seeing a veterinary specialist versus seeing a primary care or general practice veterinarian. Yes, it can be more expensive for certain things -- especially in an emergency situation.
In the last year, Clover had numerous complete blood counts (CBC). Some were drawn at our main practice and others through the specialist. After pulling the invoices, I see how the following observation from the latest veterinary costs price index data is true.
"Specialists started at much higher price point, fell further than general practitioners during the recession, and are now much closer in price." - Source: DVM360
- Veterinary costs of CBC at our main hospital = $115
- Veterinary costs of CBC at the specialty hospital = $114.50
Sure, the examination by the specialist that goes with the CBC typically costs more than the primary care veterinarian often charges us. However, the test itself is virtually the same cost. The same test. Same reference lab. All the same.
Veterinary Costs & Overall Value of the Experience
So as we continue to monitor Clover's mystery neutropenia, it's good to look at the differences in cost. We should also look at management and overall experience for both of us. In other words, if something essentially costs the same, then the decision is less about money and more about other elements. I ask myself, "What makes the veterinary experience more valuable, productive, and progressive?"
Another reason to stick with the specialist: The hospital keeps Clover's pet insurance paperwork on file and automatically submits claims for me. All I have to do is ask the front desk staff at check-out to add Clover's invoice to the insurance log.
I still PAY UP FRONT, but I usually have the 80% reimbursement from the pet insurance company before my credit card bill is due. I'll have to check. We may not be over our annual deductible yet, so I might not get help with our next bill. But, it is nice not have to have to wrangle the paperwork myself.
More Neutrophil News Soon
We go again Saturday (April 17) to see the specialist about Clover's neutropenia issues which started back in February 2017. In December at our last check, her values were *finally* back in the normal reference range. Still LOW normal, but normal-ish.
As you can see from the photo above, Clover continues to feel fine. Other than a few quirks:
- I found her hiding in the back bathroom on March 12 for some unknown reason. Something must have scared her.
- She seemed a little restless on March 14 and again March 16.
- Also, Clover did have a couple of days of mystery barfing (March 30 and April 1), where she threw up 3 times in quick succession, then was fine.
I will share all that with the specialist at our appointment Saturday. We'll draw a CBC and maybe other tests if the specialist thinks it wise.
We hope to see even better neutrophil numbers in the lab work. Fingers crossed!
So, How Do You Decide General Veterinarian or Specialist?
At one point last year (2017), I did ask the specialist if we could do the CBC tests at our main hospital and just send her the results. She pointed out that meant our main veterinarian would be "managing" the case.
Makes sense right? The veterinarian (specialist or otherwise) who regularly examines the dog, who regularly decides what tests to run (or not), who decides if treatment is necessary, is really the one in charge of the medical case -- along with me of course.
So, for now, we're sticking with the specialist.
Our main veterinarian kept the case at her hospital for a couple of months, and when Clover's numbers did not improve / continued to fall, she sent us to see the specialist.
If Clover's numbers do continue to improve over time, then we may go back to having our general veterinarian monitor things.
Let me know in the comments what criteria you use to decide which veterinarian / hospital will manage your dog's case.