“I can’t afford it,” is quickly becoming an all too familiar statement made by hospital clients when treatments or procedures are recommended to help their ailing pets these days. The problem is not that I am overpriced for my demographic – in fact, my hospital is known to be one of the more reasonably priced animal hospitals in the area. What’s more, just 6 months ago, most of my clients had no qualms about investing in their pet’s health when medications, treatments, or procedures were necessary to maintain optimal health. What has changed from 6 months ago when my hospital was still in the midst of enjoying the continued growth that begun in 2004 when I took over as owner? While I am no economist or politician, I do watch the news and pay at the pump to fill my gas tank. As such, I am inclined to opine that soaring gas prices and our depressed economy have finally begun to reek their havoc on the animal health industry.
As a veterinarian, this becomes extremely frustrating, as client inability to afford gold standard work-ups, treatments, and procedures, leads to my having to practice medicine with one hand tied behind my back. Not only am I faced with the professional disappointment that I am often precluded from practicing the best quality medicine, but I have to live with the knowledge that some of my patients fail to receive the very best modern veterinary medicine and my abilities have to offer. Finally, while some less fortunate pet owners that cannot afford quality care for their pet react to this dilemma apathetically or even callously, for many, it is an utterly heartbreaking, hopeless experience – which in turn is an utterly heartbreaking experience for the attending veterinarian.
From receptionist, admitting technician, and attending veterinarian, to pet owner and pet, all who are involved in the animal health process are deeply affected when finances get in the way of quality pet health care. While this aspect of veterinary medicine has always been and will always be a frustrating, ugly side of veterinary medicine, it seems to occur now more than ever, and increasing in prevalence with time. For sake of the family pets of our nation and for many other important reasons, we should all hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel for this struggling economy.