The high cost of veterinary care

mrmoeJune 13, 2009

I took my cat to the vet yesterday to have his teeth cleaned. I was a bit shocked at the price - $290.

I like my vet and his staff, and they take good care of my cats. But I wonder if I'm being over charged, at least compared to other vets. Here's the breakdown of the bill:

Teeth cleaning $185

Preanesthesia panel $68

Antibiotics $25

Pain mamagement $45

I was given a 10% discount, which I appreciate, but the total was still $290. No teeth needed to be extracted, just cleaned. And did my cat really need pain mamagement just for cleaning? I don't know.

BTW, about 3 yrs ago I had my cat "fixed", given his shots, and a physical exam. The cost was $400.

So tell me what you think, are these prices excessive, or the norm. I live near Los Angeles, if that matters.

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Hi mrmoe,

I just had some dental work on my 10 year old cat. He's always had teeth problems and just recently had to have 5 teeth extracted. Here is a breakdown of the bill:

Fluids - IV during anesthesia - $81.00
Anesthesia - first 30 minutes - $88.00
Anesthesia - (additional) min - $30.00 - $60.00
Scaling/Polishing level 2 - $99.00
Radiographs dental - $42.00
Pain relief injection - $31.00
Surgery dental extraction time - $150.00 - $225.00
Fentanyl pain patch - $65.00
Hospital - minor, for day - $31.00
Clindamycin drops 25MG/M - $34.28

The low end of the estimate was $586.28 and the high end was $756.28. The final bill came closer to the higher estimate.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2009 at 10:15PM
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Also, forgot to mention, I'm in Seattle, and the place I take my cats is a little high end and only specializes in felines. There are specialists for everything - Timmy had an anesthesiologist, a radiologist, etc.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2009 at 10:20PM
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I'm near LA too. I think $290 sounds par for the course, if not very reasonable, based on my experience. I'm not sure if I have the bill breakdown for my kitty having her teeth pulled last year (not too many to clean when they were done pulling bad ones). I think my vet charges a little over $400 for basic feline dental. My old cat needed lots of health precautions and teeth pulled, so it was a lot more than $400 when all was said and done.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2009 at 10:20PM
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Thanks folks for the information. Looks like I'm not alone.
I have 3 cats, all stray, and they adopted me. Guess they can tell a sucker a mile away :)

    Bookmark   June 13, 2009 at 10:52PM
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I told my cat that he needed to get a job to pay off his big dental bill.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2009 at 1:39AM
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Wow,I am shocked at the high prices you people have to pay.I had my older labs teeth cleaned several yrs ago[she has since died]and I didnt pay more than $100.00 for everything,that included the ansthesia,teeth cleaning,antobiotics and pain meds.I am so thankful for my small town vet.I am in Mississippi,so I am sure that plays a factor in the fees.The vets here in the town I live in are at least double of what I pay 15 miles away in a small town.


    Bookmark   June 14, 2009 at 3:11PM
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I too live in a small town in northern Wyoming. I am so thankful that our vet (large and small animal) is sooo reasonable. Two years ago I took my mini dachshund for a teeth cleaning- they didn't seem dirty, but she had horrid breath. She had a newer sedation- she was awake, but in 'slow motion'- did not need oxygen. When I went back to pick her up 1 hour later he said 'he teeth were not very dirty- charged me $25. The vets 30 miles away in Cody are much more expensive! I had to take her in to the Cody vet in the middle of the night because her heart rate and respirations were elevated- acting 'funny'. She had been bitten by an insect and was having a reaction. 1 xray, 2 meds IM- was in the office for about 1 hour, outside in the truck with her resting for another hour- bill was $225! Expensive for here, but still much better than when I had to take her to the vet in San Antomio, Texas for a minor thing! A health certificate here in Wyoming is $5-10, depending on what kind. I had to get one for airlines in San Antonio, and it was $55!! Yikes- no wonder so many people don't get good care for their animals- it is just like health care for people- when it is too expensive preventative just can't be done- especially in these hard economic times. I feel so bad that many people are having to give up their pets now- deciding if they can feed their children or their animals...
A couple weeks ago I had to get medication for one of my peacocks- antibiotics and dex- 3 days worth...$3 Love my vet....

    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 6:05AM
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The high cost of vet care is one of the primary reasons that we haven't gotten any more animals at this point. Yes, I can justify the expense, but with our current cat needing to go to the vet often, and having the ongoing expense of medications, she is a decent chunk of the budget. When her brother was still here, I worried he might also go into chronic health conditions like hers, and was panicked at the thought of having 2 that needed to visit the vet every 3 months or so. In the end that didn't happen.

I'd really, really love to get another cat, but worrying about our current vet bills and not being sure that Muddy would be very accepting of another cat, it just doesn't seem like a good idea. I'll have more cats eventually, but it has gotten to the point of my questioning whether we can afford more than one.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 9:02AM
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What do you feed your animals that they need teeth cleaning???? I've had pets all my life and have yet to have dental work done on any of them. All are healthy and those that have passed had healthy lives and died with clean mouths.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 9:32AM
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For carmen grower:

Did you have your vet do a dental exam on your pets?
Unless you do, you won't know if they have tooth decay or other problems. They could be in discomfort and you may not know it. A "clean mouth", however you define that, is not an indication of good dental health.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 8:10PM
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Some more thoughts on this:

Even thought the economy is bad, every time I visit my vet's office, there's always at least 2 or 3 other people in there. So he has a steady stream of customers. I guess there's no need for him to lower fees. And in his defense, he does have a lot of overhead - rent, insurance, staff, utilities, etc. All this is expensive here in LA.

Since I have 3 cats, they're not gonna get teeth cleaning every year. Wow, that would be $900/yr just for teeth cleaning! Every other year will have to do.

For myself, when my cats leave this world and go to kitty heaven, I'm not going to replace them. One cat is enough.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 8:29PM
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I've learned that, like humans, some cats and dogs are prone to "dirty" teeth and it has nothing to do with what they eat. Some animals have more bacteria in their mouth and that results in dirty teeth a lot more often than say the average animal. I've had cats and dogs who needed their teeth cleaned every year and had a 12 year old cat who never needed a teeth cleaning in his life. So it somtimes is just their make up.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 11:32PM
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My kitty had reabsorbtive lesions (sp?) which I don't fully understand, but I think they are a little more like an immune system malfunction and tend to go along with kidney problems.

We also had her genetic littermate who passed away from cancer in January. He ate, drank, and lived the same lifestyle she did, and did not have his first dental cleaning until he was 14+ years old (last summer). He had beautiful teeth with almost no buildup, and we would not have had dental done on him had it not been for him breaking a tooth and needing to have the root removed. I looked up his bill on our CC and it was $515 for his day at the vet, which (if I recall correctly) included the extraction of the root, but no other tooth loss. It also included a fecal analysis, and some medications for a skin problem he had. Being an old guy, they also took extra precautions with IV fluids and used the higher priced anesthesia (not sure if that's standard or special with most vets). He also got a double length dose of antibiotics because of the impromptu dental procedure and his skin problem warranted that as well. Without his skin problems, the basic dental for him probably would have come in around $425-$450, including the one extraction.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2009 at 11:13AM
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