“No Obamacare for dogs”: 5 things you should know about the vet ER

Another week, another veterinary ER under fire. This time, it’s the Southwest Michigan Animal Emergency Hospital, now receiving angry calls and even death threats after declining to perform emergency exploratory surgery on a young German Shepherd who developed complications after a spay at a different clinic earlier in the day. The issue was the owner’s inability to provide upfront payment. It almost always is.

There is no doubt that this is a terrible and sad outcome for the owners of the dog, and I am utterly sincere in saying my heart goes out to them. As a result of going to social media, both the heartbroken owners and what is, by all accounts, a good emergency clinic are receiving heated scrutiny they probably don’t deserve. Here’s 5 things I wish everyone knew about this sort of situation:

vet ER.jpg

1. This may be once in a lifetime for you, but it’s once in a shift for the ER.

Veterinary care, and emergency care in particular, is expensive. It’s not price gouging; it accurately reflects the increased cost of running an overnight facility with high overhead. Due to the nature of emergency work, there are a high number of large estimates, and a good number of people who say, “I can’t afford that.” Good people, and good pets. None of that changes the fact that the costs are fixed. Because they weren’t inflated with a “just because I feel like it” tax to begin with, there isn’t wiggle room to negotiate it down. If you do, you go out of business.


2. “I can’t” doesn’t mean “I don’t care.”

When the doctor in this story said “I’ll be fired if I don’t charge appropriately,” I’m sure she (or he) meant it. When I worked an ER shift as an employee, lowering cost equaled theft of services. If an audit found treatment in the medical record not on the bill, it was either added to the bill or came out of my paycheck. There are only three variables in this: the practice owner, the vet providing the estimate (who often is not the same as the owner), and the client. Someone pays that bill. There is no “make up for it through inflating insurance charges to the insured” option we see in human hospitals.

Saying no is really, really hard. People ask me to do things all the time that I cannot do. Just because I have to say no, doesn’t mean I don’t go home and cry about it sometimes. Don’t confuse lack of ability to give you something you want with lack of wishing I could. Vets talk about this struggle every day, and every day work on ways to ensure pets get the care they need without going under. That being said, there’s only so many times one can apologize for wanting to get a paycheck for doing work. Like most vets I know, I give away plenty of services and time, but no one gets to determine the how and why of that except me.

3. We don’t know why the dog died.

It could be a surgical error, yes. Spays are major abdominal surgeries. It could also be many other things having nothing to do with the surgeon. A genetic clotting disorder, for example, is something no one can predict and can absolutely cause death in a textbook perfect surgical procedure. Let’s say hypothetically that this were the case, that testing was done and it was something no one could have predicted or prevented. Then who would be responsible for the bill? Still the original vet? Do we need to know who is at fault before attempting treatment?

4. If you want to blame someone for vets not offering payment plans, blame the other people in the waiting area.

Most vets have toyed with offering payment plans at one time or another. Of course that would be preferable to turning someone away, if they worked. The pet gets treatment and the vet gets paid. If people followed through, payment plans would exist, plain and simple. Truth is, 80% of the fees are never recovered. It’s an unsecured loan to a stranger who, history has shown time and time again, is very unlikely to repay you. The more someone swears up and down that they are good for it, the less likely that is to be true.

CareCredit, the financing option many vets offer now, is admittedly a shaky proposition, though it’s often the best we got. It’s hard to qualify for and the interest rates are often over the top (26% after the introductory period in many cases.) I’m glad to see other options being tossed around- MedVetPay being one I’ve just recently heard about- but it’s not the vet’s obligation to provide financing. Still, we try. We want this to work for you, too.

5. Every pet owner needs an emergency plan.

“I didn’t know I needed $2,000 ready to go,” said the owner. Many people don’t. Know your clinic’s emergency policies. If you are living in a relatively urban area with an emergency facility, it is fair to assume your day vet may refer there after hours, and if you run into an emergency such as coyotes, cars, or sudden collapse, initial treatment and stabilization can easily cost four figures. Assume this. Assume the ER vet has to charge you upfront because people before you didn’t pay up later. So what is your plan if this happens?

  • Have a credit card with this much available balance on it
  • Have an untouched savings account with this socked away
  • Have ‘that one vet your sister mentioned who will totally do midnight emergency services for $0 down’ on speed dial.
  • Have friends and family willing to front you the money on sudden notice
  • Have pet insurance (though you still have to provide the money initially, you get reimbursed a percentage later, reducing the long term cost)
  • Know your financial limits and be willing to understand that economic euthanasia is an option
  • Go on a social media crusade after the pet dies, knowing you’re going to get hit just as hard as the target of your anger, harder than either of you deserve; solving nothing.

Your choice.


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  • lvbevin

    As a professional, I fully understand the issue of cost. Clients of every professional seem to forget that we have to pay our office staff, pay our office bills and, hopefully, be able to take something home every month. It is hard to keep going when clients don’t pay their bills. When a client chafes at the upfront cost, I have to ask what else will cause them to be dissatisfied. Am I willing to devote my time, experience and training to someone who will be unhappy with the result?

    When I had to pay for an emergency vet, I swallowed hard at the price, but remembered what it is like on their side of the fence.

    Love has many costs. One is merely financial. Another, loss of a loved one, is high emotionally. We have to balance the costs to do what is right for each situation. And each situation is different. There are no guarantees in life that what should be easy or straight-forward will be. It is always a hard choice.

    • Thank you for your insightful comments. I agree, it is a lot to swallow- heck, I’ve been there even as a client at the specialty hospital myself! But it is what it is, and we do what we have to.

  • I would add: don’t wait for an emergency to meet a vet. My vet sees us at least once a year for a routine check-up. We are partners in caring for my dog.

  • Jessi

    Thank you.

    I’ve been on both sides of the conversation. My 2 year old Newf swallowed a ball and WOW was I grateful for my credit card.

    Then there’s the local emergency hospital that sends clients to the mid-level clinic i work at when they have no money in their pockets. It’s heartbreaking, but the expectation that we can give away medications, surgeries, and the like just isn’t realistic.

    • My ER clinic was the less expensive of the 2 in town. It was the worst, especially when you really helped someone and they said, “Yaay, I’m going to tell ALL my friends how you don’t care about money!”

      • Marissa

        Oh I hate that! Every day we see clients who say “Well so-and-so told me you gave him *whatever deal that was meant for only the first client* so I want that too.” and no one understands that if we could afford to give that rate to everyone, that would be our regular price, not a significant discount. And even if that was our regular price, they’d complain that it was too high!

  • Kari

    I carry major medical insurance on my horse because if you think small animal emergency care is expensive, try emergency medicine for something that weighs over 1000 lbs. I don’t ever want to have to make the decision between saving him or putting him down solely due to financial concerns, and the $7K in coverage I have on him makes that less of a concern.

    Incidentally, I had to use it literally the day after I bought him when he was four, when he colicked and ended up being hospitalized for four days at one of the top equine medicine hospitals in CA. He thankfully hasn’t had a recurrence (and he’s 16 now) and thankfully the company didn’t refuse to insure him after that claim. I’ve more than paid back those costs in premiums since then, but it was there at a time I was completely unable to afford a huge vet bill, so I’m eternally thankful his breeder suggested I get him insured.

  • TK

    Well written, but I disagree with the pet insurance comment. Because they require the owner to pay up front, it won’t help in most emergency situations. These are always heart breaking stories. But they happen every day. I hope that owner has realized she can’t expect other people to pay for her lack of understanding and sense of entitlement.

    • Kari

      I have had vets offer to work with me on billing/payment as long as I have proof that my horse is insured (and of his coverage.) The one time I had to make a claim on him (when he colicked), I paid an initial amount, gave them the insurance information on him, and they actually handled the rest of the billing directly with the insurance company. It was wonderful.

      Granted, they were a large equine hospital whose primary clients were breeders/trainers for the thoroughbred racing industry, so they were probably used to handling that kind of paperwork. But my current vet has also said that he’d work with me if I was going to file an insurance claim anyway.

      • I think large animal medicine/insurance and small animal are, to use a horrible pun, two different beasts. Especially when thoroughbreds and huge sums of money are routinely involved. I’m not aware of any insurance that directly works with a small animal vet, but maybe they are out there.

        • Carrie

          Trupanion will work directly with the veterinary practice if the owners are not able to take care of the upfront costs.

        • Really? That’s a huge deal.

        • Tony C

          Trupanion will pay the veterinary facility directly and cover 90% of the actual costs NOT off of a predetermined amount per condition.

        • You’re the second person who’s said this- I’d love to have someone from Trupanion talk about how this works (I didn’t see that on their website.) That’s a MASSIVE benefit to people!

    • You’re right, even with insurance you still need to have the upfront total available. The benefit is only long term.

  • Danielle Johnson

    As a vet who recently stopped doing emergency work, the thing that scared me a little about this situation is when I put myself in the situation of the vet who did the surgery. The day after this happened, I would much rather deal who is liable to pay the emergency bill than hearing that the dog had died and might have been saved. The owner of the dog in original news article makes an important point that the spay cost $200 and she really didn’t know she should have $2,000 ready in case there was complications. That’s why I’m going to share this blog article as much as possible. Owners need to know that even if their vet answers the phone after hours, she may not be able to handle this kind of complication (I wouldn’t). They need to know what emergency care costs.

    • Very true. I often wondered, in general practice, if we should leave our home numbers with our referral ER, but we never did.

  • Jenny

    I love love love this. Thanks for putting this out there! Hopefully it will stop the statement ” you must not care about animals” towards the vet staff.

    • Probably not, but every little bit helps, right? 🙂

  • Mary McCulley

    Good article except I didn’t like the option of “economic euthanasia.” That’s just
    unfathomable to me. Anyone who owns a pet should prepare for medical care and emergencies, just like you do with any family member. Care Credit is a good option if you don’t have the cash. I used it for my dog’s unexpected cataract surgery, paid it off in the alloted time, no finance charges. I also have a savings account for unexpected events.

    • Oh, I don’t like it either. At all. It is my hope that helping people see that lacking a plan leads to this will encourage more people to do as you did and consider a savings account, or other option.

      • BlueSky

        A friend took out a second mortgage on her house to cover her pet’s vet bills and she was glad she had this option available. Not everyone has, but I’m sure some don’t think of this.

        • glebec

          Bless them. But that option is not available under emergency conditions.

    • Dr. Hill

      It would be wonderful if there were better options for every pet than euthanasia, but more often than many would like this is not the case. Pet owners and veterinarians alike have the responsibility to their pets and patients to limit their suffering as much as possible. Whether this be emergency care (if they can afford it) or euthanasia (if they can’t or if the pet is suffering with an unrealistic expectation of improvement), both are viable options. I work mainly with horses, and recent economic conditions have led many people to turn their horses out on the side of the road or abandon them to starve in a remote location. Euthanasia in a controlled environment is surely preferable to that. As veterinarians, we never like to euthanize a pet, but we have seen plenty of cases where the pet is suffering but we are only able to provide minimal care due to financial restrictions. In cases where the choice is ‘some treatment’ or euthanasia, often euthanasia is the most humane and caring thing that a person can do for their pet.

  • Rachel

    I’m a vet student in The Netherlands (Europe) and I found this a very interesting read. Over here we have a law that basically states that vet and owner alike cannot deny necessary (especially emergency) medical care. It sometimes leads to situations where lost animals are found injured and the owner doesn’t get tracked down until after the animal’s out of surgery, and in such cases it sometimes leads to lawsuits over payment. But overall I’m not under the impression that payment after the fact is a huge issue for practices over here. Maybe there’s better legal options in place to ensure payment, I’m not sure. But it’s an interesting question to ask yourself, as a pet owner and veterinarian, who should bear legal responsibility for the care of an animal?
    I feel the law I just mentioned is a good attempt to do animals justice, as the animal ultimately pays the price while it has no control of ts care, though I have to admit that there still is a lot of work to do to better uphold this law: in practice, there are still a lot of people who deny their animal proper medical care, whether it’s because they’re afraid of what it might cost or because they’ve decided (without expert advice) that their animal’s done for and to let nature run it’s course.

    • Wow, I can’t even fathom that flying in the US. Taking a dog to surgery without the owner’s written consent is basically guaranteeing a lawsuit and giving up on any chance of payment. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, just it represents a completely different mindset.

      • glebec

        DVMs can stablize an animal that is in danger of dying or suffering but can’t do further care without consent of the ownr.

        • I know 🙂 but clearly not the case elsewhere.

      • Rachel

        I agree – it really does depend on what consensus there is in a country or a state. I realize The Netherlands is a pretty extreme example when it comes to these things. I mean, we’re one of the few countries with a political party whose sole purpose is advocating for animal rights.
        As for the ‘lost but injured animal’ situation I was referring to, our version of the ASPCA has ambulances to respond when someone finds an injured or lost animal and if care if needed, they bring it to a vet. (A bit like some of the animal cop shows you see on Animal Planet) Of course, the search for the owner immediately begins, but if it’s an emergency, then the vet might already get started, at least to stabilize the animal. I’ve read about one case where this happened to a pigeon and the owner refused to pay, leading to a lawsuit. I’m not sure what the outcome was anymore, but I could imagine that if it was someone’s beloved dog or cat, the owner might have responded differently. I guess the reasoning behind the law is that without the owner there, you have to rely on your own judgement and do whatever you can.
        I was thinking though, I’ve seen things like this happen on those Animal Planet shows too, so what makes this case different? Are the owners on those shows relieved of ownership?

    • Christine Maxfield

      What we have here (at least in my state) says we have to provide emergency care to ensure a patient is stable. If a patient is stable and can be transferred to another facility, or can go home, we are not under any obligation to continue further treatment. (You may want to check exactly what your law requires you to provide…) It sounds like this dog was “stable” in the sense that there was no immediate need for treatment (as evidenced that death occurred hours later. Sure treatment at the time would have been great and ideal, but the line between “we have not a second to lose” and “this patient is stable and you have some time to decide what you want to do” is a blurry one.

    • Vet Up North

      As a vet, it is my understanding that in Europe the stray-dog/cat dilemma is much less than in the U.S. Correct? Incorrect? I only bring this point up because it has been my understanding that in the EU, pet ownership is taken much more seriously, like a child. Here, it’s a full spectrum. From the “I’ll do anything you say!” to the “Well we rescued [no, you willing adopted this pet from a shelter and attested that you would take care of the animal, not saved it from a burning building] her three years ago and don’t really want to spend any money on her.” When faced with the latter, I cringe knowing there are good intentions, but how am I to make a difference if the owner doesn’t see the importance.

      • Rachel

        Hi! I think it’s correct to assume that there are fewer stray animals over here – all animals that can be adopted at shelters are neutered/spayed and have identification chips, and the practice of neutering/spaying your pet is common practice for most pet owners. I think most people do take having a pet very seriously; just in my own network I’ve seen an increase of people taking courses on how to properly train their puppies for example.

        But on the other hand I have also seen and heard of situations where owners are more lax about pet ownership – be it farmers who instead of spaying their dog, ask their vet to euthanize the puppies once they’re born, or people who are so afraid of the possible costs that they avoid going to the vet all together, even if their pets are suffering. In the first case, the vet is confronted with a person who’s not afraid to say that if the vet doesn’t euthanize the puppies, he’ll just do it himself in a less humane way. I’d like to think I would report such a person to the authorities, but there’s no ideal way to deal with such a dilemma. And in the second case, it’s just hard to track people like that down. There’s not much you can do if people don’t come to you first.

        The fact that economics often play a role in the care we’re allowed to give makes it extra challenging to do our job. I’ve had classes at vet school about how to give people bad news, but I feel totally unprepared in case I have to convince a pet owner to allow for the best treatment. I mean, I can understand how someone might not want to pay thousands for chemo and rather opt for euthanasia in that case, and that’s totally up to them, but it’s a different case when an owner has already made up their mind that their animal is terminally ill without consulting you and they just show up to get their animal euthanized when it’s already been suffering for weeks. I’m not opposed to euthanizing an animal when the treatment seems too expensive, but what’s too expensive?

        • So true. You have NO idea walking in what the owner will be willing or able to do, and we cannot make any assumptions. The owner sets the limit, and we do the best we can with the amount we are given. And the truth is, sometimes people won’t allow the best treatment, and you are going to have to learn how to be at peace with that. A single mother who just lost her job may not be able to afford chemo on her elderly dog, and losing her home over it may not be a smart choice. “Best” means many different things to different people.

          To answer your question, it is going to be hard. There are going to be people who do less than what you think they should, and those who do more. You will have a different philosophy than your colleagues and have to separate your own limits from those of your clients. You will have to decide when an issue is a personal value judgment versus a matter of ethics, and there will be pets you euthanize that you go home and cry about.

          There will be lovely owners and horrible owners and people that are good people but are hurting and lash out at you in ways you don’t deserve. It’s grief talking. There will be people who cannot accept you giving any less than everything you have, including your own income, your sanity, your time at home. Learn boundaries, with clients, with your bosses. They are necessary.

          To you, and anyone just entering the field, I can’t stress enough the value of balance in life. It is a very hard job sometimes, but at the end of the day you are there to do the best *you* personally have to offer, no less and no more. You are a veterinarian, but you are also Rachel. You’re going to be great.

        • Rachel

          Thanks! 🙂

  • Kristi

    If we (veterinary professionals) were in it for the money, we’d all be working in the human health care field. Owning pets is a privileged and a responsibility. Sometimes I think my vet peeps have a harder time emotionally than the owners who have no money and a sick animal do, and we see this constantly. Don’t tell me I don’t care about your pet when I present you with your financial obligation of pet ownership (also known as an estimate for emergency care) that you can’t afford. I care enough to do this job despite being called heartless, “in it for just the money”, evil, or insert your derogatory name here. And I care enough to go home and cry on my husband’s shoulder when hard decisions have to be made about a patient I just met, and an owner I wish I didn’t have to. Yet we return day after day, year after year, because we DO love our patients, and our jobs. We ALL wish we could do absolutely everything medically possible for your pet, but all that fancy equipment, the electricity to run it, all those drugs we use, all the staff that have advanced degrees and specialized training, and the building that all this is housed in, all have to be paid for. And when people skip out on their bills, there are no government subsidies for the veterinary profession to fall back on. When people can’t pay for services rendered, we have to close our doors. Period. No one would ever work a job where they didn’t know whether they would be paid for their hard work at the end of it…so the question becomes: why do some owners expect that we should? To those people making the threats…if you really feel that strongly, then donate some of your own hard-earned money to your local emergency hospital for those owners who can’t afford services. Not your responsibility to give up your paycheck for someone else’s animal? Neither is it mine.

    • Linda G. Whillikers

      “To those people making the threats…if you really feel that strongly,
      then donate some of your own hard-earned money to your local emergency
      hospital for those owners who can’t afford services.”

      Your local ER hospital (and all other veterinary practices that are not run by an animal shelter or other non-profit) cannot collect donations. They are for-profit businesses and the IRS would be happy to shut you down if you’re soliciting donations on top of the profit built into your pricing. (Call it overhead, call it profit, it’s still inflated.) But I can’t believe that you cannot see that it is a PROBLEM that veterinary expenses have become so out of reach for so many people that many loving, devoted pet owners can’t afford it and animals suffer because practices are totally unyielding in their business policies. At what point does placing your profits above animal welfare become unethical? I won’t even get into the implication that people who aren’t rich & don’t have an extra grand laying around for their pet can’t be loving, caring, devoted pet owners.

      For the record, I worked for plenty of veterinary hospitals and moved into the animal welfare field after watching veterinarians and office managers salivate over declaw surgeries because they are so profitable, turning away animals in serious pain because their owner had bad credit, inflating estimates and charging $35 for a freakin’ warm blanket after surgery, and trying to milk Good Samaritans who brought in animals they found hit by cars or otherwise injured for every penny. And the funny thing is vets all over the country are trying to SHUT DOWN hospitals and clinics run by non-profits because they present “unfair competition” and cut into their profits… because people are flocking to them, on account of them actually being AFFORDABLE.

      • Hillary

        You’re right, in an ideal world, all vet hospitals would provide impeccable care at non-profit prices. But ultimately good doctors deserve to make good money! Use non-profits services when you can, but if they aren’t available and you can’t afford regular vet bills, then maybe it isn’t the responsible thing to own pet(s). Not saying lower-income families aren’t wonderful, loving, amazing pet parents – I’m sure most are!! But when an emergency pops up, someone has to foot the bill.

      • drd

        Non-profits are financially supported by donations – not only by the income from the services rendered. So to compare their prices to “for-profit” practices seems unfair to me. The “profit” that you speak of is how the practice owner pays herself (not to mention her staff). Now you may think that she is too greedy and makes more than she needs, but if this is really true, the private market would invariably see someone else come in that is willing to give the same service for less money (competition). However, competing with a nonprofit that has the land for the practice donated, has the building paid for by donations, and has salaries supported by donations is not really possible in the private for sector. In my mind, the non-profits give pet owners (and maybe you) a false sense of what it costs to provide good, high quality care because others are helping pay the bill with donations. However, I am not unsympathetic to the rising cost to the pet owner of quality veterinary care. I just think it is not a black and white subject. This is an interesting topic that needs more exploration.

      • Brenda

        Aside from all the very logical responses given below, let us remember that getting into veterinary school is not only one of the hardest challenges any human being can ever imagine, but also cost upwards of around $300,000. Yes, that is a 6 figure of financial debt just to follow our dreams of saving an animal’s life. Not to mention, we pay this money to put ourselves through a very stressful, rigorous, exciting, and again, CHALLENGING curriculum in order to be trusted with good people’s animals. This lasts for four years. I would say every penny that you spend in an emergency hospital is well worth what the vets have gone through to be a helping hand to your pet. Think about that.

      • Cat Whisper

        How are donations not legal? I collect donations from people all the time. I run them through my practice management software as revenue, deposit the money and pay income tax on it. What difference does it make if Mary Smith brings her dog in and Alice Jones pays the bill? Revenue is recorded, income tax is payed to the IRS.

      • Denise E Greene

        There are many thing flawed about your argument. 1. there are ethical and unethical people in every field and to generalize this to the entire field is unfair. 2. There have been many attempts to start pet insurance but they did not succeed – why? Because people didn’t want to but them. Like Healthcare, they assume they will never need it then cry when they cannot afford the services they need. 3. If you don’t think this same situation exists in Healthcare – then please talk to the 40 million uninsured humans in the US. And before everyone thinks I am an animal hater – my daughter is an RVT and I have 4 dogs, a cat, a bird and a guinea pig. And I pay for their care because they are worth it to me.

      • Natalie

        My husband and I are completely broke and live pay check to pay check. But somehow we have been able to afford not one, but THREE major surgeries on our dog (TPLOx2 and an obstruction surgery). Not once did I blame the vet for cost. They cut my dog open, ground his knee bones and put them back together so he could live a life without pain. YES that is worth $5,000 to me to do it to both knees! They cut him open and rifled through his intestine to remove a piece of something he ate. His intestine was so infected that it was almost dead. They were careful enough that my dog survived the surgery that they managed to save his intestine and kept him alive through it even though he stopped breathing multiple times. Was that worth $3,000? Yes. They earned every single penny of it because my dog is whole again, pain free and living the life.

        Owning a pet is expensive. It’s something you need to think about before getting one. If you can’t afford it, don’t get a pet.

    • Greedy People Suck

      How about working out a payment plan with people instead basically telling people to cough up an insane amount of cash or their pet can just drop dead. Seriously, any veterinarian that does this, I hope your child ends up in the ER and you get told to pay more than you can afford or you can just take your kid home to die.

      • Zedkitkat

        I know that your remark was directed at another person, but the statement about your hopes towards a vet’s child was an awful thing to say!! Now, don’t think I am attacking any of your opinions, I would never do that, but I’d like to point a few things out to you… Veterinarians are not bad people who deserve to have their children denied treatment. They are regular people who need to make a living in order to support themselves & their families, and do so by following their passions to help both animals & their owners. As an RVT who has worked at both general & ER practices for many years, I’ve never meet a veterinarian who didn’t try to work with a client with limited or no funds. However, most will not offer payment plans since many clients do not following through on their payments, NOT because vets are greedy, horrible people! I have only worked with one vet who offered payment plans, but she only offered it to long-term, regular clients whom she had a good repore with. (When she tried offereing payment plans to all clients, she only recieved the full amount due to her less than 20% of the time). Veterinarians, and everyone else working in an animal hospital, care deeply about all animals AND owners that come through their doors. They do whatever they can to help them, I’ve even seen coworkers adopt critically ill animals whose original owner couldn’t pay. So, while veterinary professionals will do whatever we can to help, and it does make us sad (and even angry) when animala can’t get the treatments they needs, it really is NOT our responsibility! Its the respinsibility of every pet owner to have the funds, or the means to get them, to pay for your pet’s treatments!

      • DocSue

        Did you not catch the part about all the people that promise to pay “X” amount per month and then are never heard from again after the first payment?? This REALLY HAPPENS! I can’t tell you how many files there were from the original owner of the practice I bought into that were from people who came in once, never paid anything and never came back. It is the reason why most vets cannot afford to offer payment plans anymore. It’s why we stopped offering payment plans and now offer only CareCredit. And, by the way, if we are charging so horribly much for our services, how is it that my partner and I went 8 YEARS without a raise while we were hiring new grads at almost the same salary that WE were getting after almost a combined 40 years in practice? If we didn’t care about people and their pets, we would not be in this business but I’ll tell you, at the end of every 13 hour day, attitudes like yours are why I wish I could afford to retire early!

      • Leigh-Anne Gartner

        Did you not read the article? Because it had been shown/proven time and time again, that 80% of credit given is NOT payed back. 80%!! If we extended credit to every one, than we would have to run a business off of 20% of the cost….. Not feasible. Most People just don’t pay back unsecured loans, sad to say its a FACT. If it was legal, maybe we could say “we’ll keep your pet till you pay up” but that’s not legal, logistical, or morally right.

  • glebec

    Perhaps veterinarians could do a much, much better job of explaining all of this to clients. Perhaps every single vet clinic should have an education sheet about vet care costs in their reception areas? Posters? Perhaps vet clinics could / should have the list from HSUS of organizations that sometime provide funds for vet care? Perhaps vet clinics could / should also have emergency funds to cover costs for those who can’t pay and give their other clients the opportunity to donate to those funds. Where I used to live my equine vet did have such a fund and made an effort to make sure that we all (clients and local horse organizations) knew about it. I was happy to donate to it. Occasionally I would get a note telling me how my donation had been used (help a horse who had been hit by a car, for example) and I would donate again.

    Information about vet care costs and options – and recommendations for a minimum of $2000 available – should be in every single clinic – but also in almost every article about pets and vet care. People need to know this before they even get a pet – not just when it is dying in their arms.

    • Agreed that there is a major educational component missing here. Absolutely.

    • ihartpeekas

      Terrific ideas. Perhaps an appropriate time to have that conversation (emergency upfront costs) would be upon the pet/owner’s first visit to a veterinarian, whether that means as a new baby animal’s first visit or the first time an owner brings their pet to that particular veterinary practice.

    • Heather

      The problem with this is that by the time the owner is in our veterinary clinic, having that discussion, it’s too late. We do have this discussion with every new client…but they already have the puppy. I can’t tell you the number of people who listen to our vet say all of this, then say they probably wouldn’t be able to afford emergency care, and keep the animal anyway. This research needs to happen BEFORE the puppy ever even enters our clinic…and many times, it never does. I still one hundred percent agree with you that every clinic should have this information and every pet care article should, but the responsibility to do the research ahead of time still belongs to the owner (which is something veterinary clinic staff unfortunately can’t control).

      We do also have a donation fund, but it’s pretty tricky getting people to donate to it when they spend so much on their own animals. It’s usually not enough to cover all of the emergency issues that arise and can’t be paid for.

    • Jessica

      I have worked at several vet clinics, and all discuss pet insurance with owners since we know that emergencies come up, and the average person probably doesn’t have a few grand stashed away for their pet. The problem is that many people don’t believe their pet will be caught in that situation, even though we preach that emergencies always come up at the worst times. I have also read many vet articles–and lots of them mention pet insurance and the importance of having it.

    • Marissa Gulick

      Sure, a donation fund sounds like a good idea, but what happens when someone just comes in and says they can’t afford services? Do we take their word for it? Say that person uses up the whole donation fund and the next person to walk in the door has a dog who’s been hit by a car. That person’s bill (at a low-cost clinic) could reach $3000 easily, after x-rays, bloodwork, pain injections, surgery, etc. What happens when we tell them we have no money in the donation fund and they’re left to pay the entire bill? They’re going to be pissed. They were told there was a donation fund and there wasn’t.
      We do have what we call the “Angel fund”. Left over meds and equipment from pets who passed away that we can’t sell again, so we can make that available if another client needs it. We never tell anyone what is in the Angel fund, so they don’t come in expecting free things. They come in expecting to pay the full amount (or at least argue about it) but are pleasantly surprised when it’s a little less than expected.

    • swimmintink .

      Where I currently live (South Korea) puppies are sold at a ridiculously young age and are often harboring Parvo and distemper. As the area military veterinarian I was seeing these puppies daily, many of them dying from their respective illnesses (mostly 6-8 week old Yorkers with Parco or the ever popular Siberian huskies that were 12-13 weeks and had progressed to neurologic distemper). Needless to say my staff and I were frustrated and falling into compassion fatigue seeing all of these families lose their beloved new members. I thought “I know, I’ll put an ad on AFN! Spreading awareness will help!”. AFN is essentially the only available channel in English here so it’s pretty guaranteed to get the message out.
      Now my frustration is only compounded because when the client gets in the room I hear “I heard your ad on the radio…. but I got this puppy and now it’s vomiting.”. I’ve also put out ads and materials encouraging people to remember it’s going to cost money to get their pets back to the states and it could be up to $2k or more for a large dog. We consistently get clients that relinquish their pets to the local shelter because they “can’t” take them home…
      I would be oh so thrilled if people listened to the advice of their veterinarian but unfortunately the same people who listen are also those who wouldn’t have considered getting an animal they couldn’t afford.

  • glebec

    There have to be options other than letting the dog (or whatever) die versus letting the DVM go broke. Not enough critical thinking is being applied, nor enough communication with the public.

    • Linda G. Whillikers

      I also don’t think it’s fair to say the veterinarian will “go broke” for being more flexible about treating critical patients whose lives are in the balance. In this case, I have to wonder what more could have been done with the little money the family had beyond wrapping her up for $260 and sending her home to bleed to death.

      I think vets tend to have their perfect treatment plan in mind and are unwilling to work with clients who may not be able to afford exploratory surgery, the full gamut of blood work, and so on. If you’ve ever lived without insurance yourself, you may have had to negotiate with a doctor: “Is this absolutely medically necessary?” Often times, it isn’t, and when your start chipping away at what your doctor WANTS to do versus what the patient NEEDS, the price starts coming down significantly.

      • KJ

        for all we know, cutting costs may be what got these people and their pet and their vet into this predicament. Not all pets NEED pre-operative blood work, so it is often cut out for routine surgeries to save money… but maybe running a blood panel before the surgery would have found an underlying condition and the whole scenario could have been prevented.
        There’s a time for cutting corners and not… and veterinary medicine has been pushed to the limit there. Already the patients cannot talk, then you want to take away diagnostic testing as well…
        You simply cannot handle some emergencies without blood work and monitoring, it just opens the door for more complications and a prolonged hospital stay, and so higher overall costs.

      • Lauren Bowling

        Sweetie, I had to close my clinic and declare bankruptcy in large part to non payment when it was promised. Please stop spouting your ignorance because it is VERY POSSIBLE for a vet to go broke from this. By closing my clinic, six people became unemployed.

      • swimmintink .

        One of the things taught to me in veterinary school was that you have to be flexible, and that while an ivory tower solution seems like the best option, if the client can’t afford it it’s no option at all. Unfortunately in this case exploratory surgery is likely other only thing that would have begin to fix the issue, and that’s assuming it was something as uncomplicated as a loose ligature on a pedicle. If the dog had a bleeding disorder then the gamut of tests needed to determine definitive treatment along with that treatment would have brought the bill even higher. I’m loathe to say this because I’m one of the “Cheap” vets but the estimate given in this case was quite reasonable considering the involved procedures and potential blood transfusions in this pet’s future.
        I will concede that some vets get stuck in the mindset that you have to quote for everything and if they can’t afford it well then we can’t provide treatment. An emergency clinic near my last duty station would freak clients out with outrageous estimates that could have been pared down considerably. This was an extremely unfortunate case and I really feel for the family. This is one of the reasons I’ll never go into private practice and only solidifies my desire to move into diagnostic pathology.

        • VetJean

          😉 come over to the dark side! This very large and complex issue is one of the many reasons I decided in vet school that clinical practice was not for me. You can still “help” animals and make an impact to our profession in pathology. I look forward to starting my anatomical pathology residency in July 🙂

  • Mojosmom

    While I feel badly that Keri & Kevin had to endure this, I also feel that they’ve made veterinarians sound like completely monsters.

    Can you go to a grocery store with your starving children and say that you’re going to work out a payment plan and pay later? Can you go to a hospital without insurance (in the US) and demand care? Can you go to a mechanic and say that because you are a college student dealing with a young family and low income, you will pay later for your car? And can you go and get medicine for your child affected with cancer if you don’t have the funds to do so and tell a pharmacist/chemist that you’ll pay later? Then what makes you think that veterinarians have to be this godly angel from above to deliver services for free and bend over backwards and forwards for you all?

    Is it that maybe you feel that veterinarians earn SO much from other clients that they can just shell out some of those “excess funds” and pay for your services because of your sad situation? It baffles me that people think veterinarians earn this whole ton of money. The average salary for a *EXPERIENCED* veterinarian is $75000. Half the time, they cut your bill without even letting you know. They discount items here and there and yet you people still complain.

    Unfortunately, many clinics have seen first hand what happens to the majority of their “payment plans”. They don’t work. The majority, unfortunately, do not pay. As such, veterinarians have been forced to stop payment plans altogether, especially if they don’t have an existing relationship with those clients.

    Sure, veterinarians can definitely continue to go ahead with their payment plans. Pretty soon, all clinics will shut down and you will all just not get ANY veterinary care at all. There needs to be a sustainable economic plan and it blows my mind that people understand it for EVERY OTHER BUSINESS out there, but for some reason, NOT veterinary clinics.

    The fact that this GSD came in presenting the way he did, OBVIOUSLY they needed to do diagnostic tests. If no diagnostic tests were done (ie: x-rays), how would they have even known that the dog was internally bleeding?

    When I brought my puppy to the vet for a first puppy visit, they gave me ALL the numbers of emergency clinics near by and told me first hand that they are significantly more expensive than a normal clinic because they have a the diagnostics in house and people working after hours for you. That makes sense to me. I don’t know why it’s such hard logic for a lot of people to get. She also told me about insurance and that it is always a good idea to get it because some way along Mojo’s life, he (and I) might be surprised with a crazy emergency vet bill (and she emphasized that she hoped that it would NEVER happen). I have insurance for that very reason. Lo an behold, last year, he swallowed part of a toy and the emergency clinic I went to SAVED HIS LIFE AFTER HOURS.

    Honestly, I think payment plans are awesome and everything and that’s why there’s Care Credit, which was OFFERED by this emerg clinic. Care Credit only rejects people, as far as I know, if they have bad credit. Meaning that Keri & Kevin did. With bad credit, why should the emergency veterinarians even trust them (after meeting them ONCE) that they’d pay this $2000 vet bill for sure. Otherwise, they could have used their line of credit or applied for another credit card (which I believe they did and also got rejected).

    I also think that people who are “putting aside $40/month” towards their backup vet fund should highly consider insurance. $40/month would results in $480/year, not nearly enough to do anything. However, with $480/year towards Trupanion/PetSecure, etc, you could have 90% of your vet bills covered.

    I’m also sure that this emerg clinic must have offered humane euthanasia and these people probably declined it. On the topic of wealthy areas and pro bono work, there are TONS of clinics who offer fundraisers to help less fortunate clients and pro bono work DAILY by lots of vets. I know my own vet always cuts parts of my bill off ALL THE TIME. (My dog is a bit of a lemon). Not all regular clinics are equipped for emergencies and if the same vet gets up at night to tend to your emergencies after working throughout the day, you should be concerned because he/she is probably sleep-deprived to the max. Do you seriously want someone working 24 hours a day to be tending to an emergency for your dog?

    I just feel that there’s so many missing parts of the story. And what gets me is that these people issue out a story on Facebook, resulting in a bunch of non-thinking morons commenting on the fact that these vets were cruel. This was an emergency clinic. I’m sure they get on average…at least 10 cases a week with sob stories. If they offered payment plans to all 10 and only 9 paid, they’d be bankrupt. Why should these vets have been financially obligated to help that pet?

    Owning a pet is a huge life choice and a huge financial responsibility. And unfortunately, sometimes emergencies happen, no matter how responsible the owners. I think this clinic is unfortunately getting so much unnecessary bad press. What needs to happen instead, is that pet owners need to realize that emergency clinics are expensive and unfortunately, that is the reality. If you walk into an emergency clinic without insurance, you’d be stuck in the same situation or if they offered your treatment right off the bat and you couldn’t pay, you’d be stuck with tons of bad credit, guilt, and probably face a collection agency at some point and end up mad with that hospital anyway, despite the fact that they treated you. Veterinarians need to be aware and conscious to explain the costs of pet care to new owners and encourage financial planning in case of emergencies in some way or another (whether it be storing money, investing in insurance, getting a line of credit, etc.). Owners need to be aware that owning a pet involves emergencies and vet care and all of that is costly and as such, need to be aware and conscientious of that fact and as such, finance/use their money wisely.

    • ejrichardson

      Scum wouldn’t even wait till morning so I could go to the bank and take money out of a savings account. They would’ve still had my dog by the time I got back to them with the money the next morning which was a weekday and the bank would’ve been open. They would NOT have lost one single penny and wouldn’t have had to wait even ONE day for full payment. Instead I lost my dog thanks to those SCUM. I HATE EMERGENCY VETS. They are greedy SOBs with NO MORALS. Who carries around TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS with them? (BTW they wouldn’t take a check either). They rate right with (human) murderers and with abortionists. NO bad thing is bad enough for them.

      • tar

        So…you mad, or nah?

      • Kara

        I am going to assume something in this nature has happened to you before. I will even assume you are a person who dearly loves your pets and animals in general. However, when it comes to veterinary medicine, I can only assume you have no background. Pedafiles are scum, rapists are scum, animal abuser/ child abusers are scum, but veterinary professionals are NOT scum. We went into this field because our love for animals and helping them get better is our goal. I can not count the times people have come into my office with a unspayed female with a 5 day old pyometra and say fix my dog, we have no money. If you can’t pay the bill, we can not legally do the surgery. It’s terrible, I know. Don’t you think we have emotions and anger over this? Don’t you think our hearts ache because we can’t do it? You have no right to judge veterinary professional until you walk in our shoes. This is how the world works. We put up with so much sadness everyday. We have people coming in wanting to euthanize their 10 month old puppy because it’s urinating on the carpet and they don’t want to pay for a urinalysis or bloodwork. Don’t you think we are real people too? You think this doesn’t effect us? Hurt us? You are so wrong that I shouldn’t even put my time into writing you back because I know you are going to just keep spitting out lies and rubbish. Anyways, I’m exhausted from working 2 twelve hour shifts at my vet hospital and I don’t have time to talk with someone who clearly has no concept of reality or truth. I pray you find the time to work/ volunteer in a vet hospital. Maybe you would learn the truth. May God have mercy on your soul. – Kara

      • B!

        Hi ej,
        I think we all need to take a step back and just breathe for a moment. I am an emergency vet and I “daylight” as a regular vet in multiple hospitals around in my area. I would like to point out to you that our hospital does look at the surrounding primary care vets and makes our prices comparable to the area. Now, there are some Primary care vets who are actually more expensive than us, and quite a few who are much cheaper. I do feel for the clients who know their vet is one of the cheap vets, but I have no control over how little they choose to charge.

        I would like to address the being a greedy SOB with no morals- If I wanted to be rich, I would not have picked being a veterinarian. If I had no morals, I would not act as an advocate for patients who have no voice. And if I had no morals, was a greedy “sub-human”, why do I also practice medicine in a primary care facility and volunteer at the SPCA and wildlife refuges? I am still the same person. You say employees of your hospital moonlight in the ER- do they somehow morph as well?

        As for your plight with finances, I truly believe in the inherent good of most people. That being said, I and an innumberable amount of other vets have been burned countless times of people who said that they would come back in the morning, or on Friday when they get their pay check to pay their bill. Never saw them again. They gave us a fake address and phone number. And, sadly, because of those people, we now have to ask for everyone to pay up front and in full.

        You see, while you think it’s feasible for us to delay payments, if we do stuff for free, then we become unable to provide supplies and services to the next patient that comes in our door.

        Your sweeping statements are callous and hurtful. I do not discount that your experience with your ER hurt you greatly, but I ask you to take a moment that does the actions of one reflect the state of many? This is how prejudice is borne.

        My hope is that you see that I can feel your hurt, your pain- but I hope you realize that I try to do what good I can by ensuring that the animals in my area will never be without a continuation of care whether or not they need me.

        • <3

        • ejrichardson

          Dear Dr.

          A few responses to your very nice response to me:

          1. It sounds as though you genuinely love animals and have a concern for them. Thank you for that. From the experience I had and others of my acquaintance have had with Emergency Vets, I’d say you are in the very small minority. It seems that the majority of emergency vets are indeed greedy and uncaring.

          2. I offered a number of suggestions to the emergency vet place to reassure them that they would be paid and paid promptly. I didn’t ask for free treatment or reduced cost treatment. I was willing to pay whatever they asked to save my dog. We were there on a Sunday night. I suggested that they listen to the telephone balance line from my bank which would have verified that I did in fact have the money in the bank to cover the two thousand dollars they demanded to “begin treatment of the dog”. (that without even knowing what was wrong with the dog). Since the dog would need surgery, I knew she would still be there in the morning (Monday) when the banks would open. They could then go and cash the check OR I could go and withdraw the money and pay them their blood money in cash. I even said that my wife would remain in their lobby as a hostage to assure them of my return with the money. I showed them my drivers license to give them my address. The dog had a tag on it with our address. My wife showed them her State ID with our address on it. The day practice in that building takes checks all the time so why wouldn’t the evening practice? Thanks to their attitude, my dog died and I hate them for it. 3. That is not the only emergency practice that is all devoted to greed. I know people with Guide Dogs, and other service dogs whose dogs are part of their lifeline and were turned away by other emergency practices for the same greedy reasons. People with disabilities are about 85% underemployed or unemployed and money is tight for them but their dogs are not pets – they are what keeps assistance dog partners able to function. Should they not have dogs because their finances are tight? anyone who has seen a human and dog team working together would not think so but sleeze emergency vets are only concerned with one thing – lining their pockets. Love of animals does not enter into it for the majority of emergency vets. They are in it for the money money money. That you are not like that is great! I am so pleased that there is one emergency vet that loves animals. 4. I don’t and never used that vet practice for normal vet stuff I went there for the emergency because they were the closest emergency vet to me. The vet techs there do rotate from days to emergency nights but they are part of the whole money grubbing idea rampant there. Even their normal services (Vaccinations, Heartworm tests, etc) are higher than other vet practices in the area including the one I have used for over thirty years. 5. The vet techs from the vet practice I do go to do moonlight at various emergency vet places around the area and the vet techs where I go normally are nice kind caring people but vet techs don’t make the money grubbing policies. That is made by greedy emergency vets.

          Thanks for your nice letter.
          and thanks for being the exception to the rule.

      • John

        If you think ER vets are greedy, you are completely delusional. Most of them make barely enough to get by and pay off their enormous student loans. Also, they usually have absolutely no say in the financial rules the hospital they work in operates by, and will lose their job if they offer services without collecting payment first. There have been far too many instances of people “promising to to go to the bank the next morning to get money” and then never actually paying for veterinary hospitals to remain open while allowing that to happen. It makes me sad to hear such terrible things being said about some of the hardest working and most compassionate people on this earth. By owning a pet, you are taking responsibility for caring for a life and should have plans in place for paying for life saving emergency services. If you had enough money, and wanted to pay with a check, how did you not have a debit card for your checking account or a credit card? Sounds like you made a mistake and now are looking to blame others for it. I’m sorry you had a bad experience and lost your beloved pet, but don’t blame the people that dedicate their lives to saving pets by working extremely long, stressful hours and making very modest pay. They didn’t force you to buy a pet and then not have an emergency fund on hand with a debit card or credit card to use. Believe me, they wish they could offer life saving services for free or very cheap when necessary, and they wish they could just take peoples’ word for it when they say they’ll pay later, but it just isn’t possible. You can’t even begin to compare human medicine to veterinary medicine, because the financial situations surrounding them are completely different. It seems as though you won’t be able to comprehend this, because you are just speaking with blind rage right now and not using any common sense. Hopefully you will eventually come to realize that it is not the veterinarians you should be blaming for this. It is just an unfortunate reality of life that veterinary hospitals are forced to operate in the manner that they do in order to remain open for 24/7 emergency services. Convince most of the pet owners in the world to invest in pet insurance the way it is in human medicine and things will be much different.

      • Manuela McGee

        .. I am sorry for your loss of your dog. However, I’ll also be frank: if you were presented with a request for a deposit of $2,000, the final bill would more than likely have surpassed $4,000. The fact that your dog passed, means to me that your dog was in dire straits and critically injured or ill. Here is a question: would you have paid the bill if your dog would have passed and the final bill for all services rendered would have been $5,000? Because.. very few people do. And the way you are carrying on, I don’t think you would have, either. Why am I making that assumption? Because you are convinced that your critical pet would have lived for certain, had they just done whatever was suggested to be done. Fact is, however: patient mortality is quite a bit higher in critical patients. There is no guarantee that the patient lives, no matter how much money you throw at the problem. A lot of people don’t care about that amount, until the pet has died. THEN, they tell you that they won’t “pay for a dead pet” .You can’t make people happy in the ER. Which is why, after 18 years, I left the field.

        • ejrichardson


          Three years ago, I paid for a dead pet. I felt I was honor bound to pay what I owed to that vet and I did. That vet took the best care of my dog that was possible and was owed for services provided.

          Carrying on. You heartless SOB. That dog at the Emergency vet was my friend and I would’ve sold everything I had to save her.

    • ejrichardson

      Groceries don’t cost THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS. Also there are food pantries. You CAN go to an emergency room in a (human) hospital and be treated ANYWHERE in the United States WITHOUT INSURANCE and be treated. YOU ARE A MORON. Nobody asks a Veterinarian to deliver services for free. Emergency vets charge twice as much at night as regular vet does in the daytime for the same identical services. That’s nothing but pure GREED. And I have paid a regular vet payments for a large surgical bill – and I never missed a payment. I HATE EMERGENCY VETS They are sub-human monsters. One that I know of won’t even take a personal check. How the hell are you going to get a cashier’s check in the middle of the night? Who carries thousands of dollars in cash with them? If they do, they’re not very smart – asking to be robbed. Of course in this case the robber is the greedy emergency vet. Emergency vets are greedy blood sucking uncaring scum. Like Abortionists or human murderers.

      • hatersgonnahate

        Actually I dont know where your from Dumbass but you cant be treated at any ER without paying an Exam Fee dipshit,some hospitals yes but NOT all, get your facts right before you judge, Thats right Er Vet hospitals charge MORE because we are experinced staff and doctors with years of schooling and we have bills too,your regular vet prob has techs that have been there either more than 10 yrs with NO emergency skills or they are 20 yr old fresh out of school with still NO ER skills….. Can your regular vet stay open 24 hours for care, MRI, CT, Emergency Back Surgery, What if your dumbass leaves your drugs/OTC meds out and your dog eats them at 1am, what are you gonna do now?? wait till your dogs almost dead to bring it to your vet, which then He/she will just refer to the ER because they dont know how to handle the situation…. P.S its called a credit card

        • ejrichardson

          Not everyone has that much in a credit card but does in a BANK account. Of course greedy overpriced ER Vets do have that much in credit cards as well as in the bank from the very fact that they are OVERPRICED and Greedy. Actually my regular vet has many years of experience and his vet techs have been with him for many years and some of them moonlight a day or two a week at an emergency vet place so they DO have emergency vet experiences. I don’t leave medication out for my dog to eat. I take excellent care of my dog but emergencies do arise and unfortunately we have to deal with refugees from the Hitler Jugend like you-you unimaginable piece of sub-human dung. By the way the word you’re looking for is “you’re” – not “your” (as in “I don’t know where your from” – it should be: “I don’t know where you’re from”. You’re is a contraction of you are). If you are indeed a DVM you are a exceedingly dumb one who never even learned English. You’re supposed to learn that in high school – let alone in undergraduate college You can’t spell at all – even “experienced” was misspelled by you. Proves how truly ignorant you are. You ARE the dipshit. You are a greedy ignorant piece of manure. My ass is not dumb but your brain is and I pity any dog or cat subjected to your ignorant and very overpriced care. By-the-way EVERY (human) ER must treat any patient that comes in the door to stabilize that patient. That IS the LAW You are ignorant and greedy. Also not every emergency vet has MRI or CT. Might have ultrasound and x-ray and endoscopy. As for back surgery, I’d want my dog stabilized and held for an orthopedic surgeon. Same as for humans – ER docs don’t do surgery. They call in the appropriate surgeon and I certainly wouldn’t want my dog’s back operated on by someone as dumb as you are. Do the world a favor and go work in an abattoir. Anyone as ignorant as you shouldn’t be treating pets – especially on an emergency basis.

        • Marcus

          Do you have any idea where the money for “free” ER care for humans comes from? Any idea at all? It’s called the tax payers and increased prices for everyone who pays their bills on time and those with insurance. Have you ever even looked at the costs for human human medicine? A CCL surgery in dogs costs $1500-3000 depending on the technique used, medications, after care, etc. A human ACL (same ligament in the knee) costs in excess of $20,000-50,000 if you don’t have insurance.

        • ejrichardson

          No one wanted free care. I offered to pay by check. If that wasn’t satisfactory, the dog would still have been there in the morning when I would’ve gone to the bank and got them CASH. I pay my debts.

          Ernie Richardson and SD Ruby

          IN GOD WE TRUST

        • BK13

          your an idiot, your insurance pays for human medicine. PETS are pets. A dog eats a cat, it does not go to jail for murder. You can not use human ER laws and compare them to animals. If you own a dog you should be a responsible owner and prepare for an emergency. Are you going to buy a sport car and not be and to afford the insurance? You are!! Wow you are an idiot. Pets are not a right. You have the choice of being a pet owner just like you do with your nice sport car. YOU MAKE YOUR PET SUFFER. If you do not budget for a pet or have savings for emergency care, even if its just a couple hundred for pain management, then YOU ARE A PIECE OF SHIT PET OWNER.

        • Sue4466

          Before calling names and saying other people need to check your facts, you might actually know WTF you’re talking about. Human hospitals can’t turn anyone requiring emergency care for an inability to pay under the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act, which was passed nearly 30 years ago.

      • vahlvt

        I suggest you try working a shift at an emergency vet’s office and see what actually transpires there. You wouldn’t last an hour.
        Where do you think the doctors are going to get the money to pay for the drugs, the supplies, the equipment, the utilities, their dedicated employees who work all hours of the day and night including the holidays when you are sitting at home surrounded by your family while they are doing their best to save patients that cannot tell them what is wrong with them.

        • ejrichardson

          They OVERcharge for drugs, supplies, procedures, equipment,utilities, rent and employees so all that is paid for with several hundred percent profit. As for the hours, they chose that profession. Human Doctors and nurses and other hospital personnel also work the odd shifts as well. I have worked both afternoons and midnights in a hospital. The main issue is not the charges even though they are grossly inflated it is that they are unreasonable about the way they will accept payment. No personal checks. What if it’s a Saturday night and the banks will not be open until Monday and they won’t take a personal check? Your dog needs help now. If he or she could wait until Monday, you could go to your regular vet or even a specialist vet and still pay half of what the emergency vet is demanding. And no normal person has thousands of dollars in cash laying around the house. If they’d take a check, most of us would not cavail at paying their gouging prices to get our dog needed treatment. But when they refuse to take a check, then oftentimes the dog dies because of the greediness of ER vets. I think they are SCUM.

        • Marcus

          ER vets don’t take personal checks because, all too often, the checks bounce and the vet is left with the bill. Besides, it is 20-fucking-14, if you have a checking account you should have a debit card and debit cards don’t care if it is Sunday night.

        • HatersGonnaHate

          Actually, the veterinary clinic in this story DOES accept checks. So your argument is bogus in this instance.

        • ejrichardson

          In my case they didn’t and my dog died.

          Ernie Richardson and SD Ruby

          IN GOD WE TRUST

        • Leigh-Anne Gartner

          Your dog died from an illness, and because you were not prepared, it has absolutely NOTHING to do with the veterinarian or his staff. Period!

        • vet tech

          No, the don’t overcharge. The charge enough to compensate for all the bills they have to pay, the highly experienced doctors and surgeons that deserve high salaries, and the large amount of staff. You are overreacting and need to actually watch an emergency vet staff work because you have no idea how ANY of this works. It’s people who say “yeah i’ll pay $100 a month to pay off my 8,000 bill” and then you hear NO sign of them. Maybe other people should stop being greedy and pay their bills so people like you can get the “cheap veterinary care” you want. Or you could go to some cheap vet that uses old technology and outdated techniques to treat your pet. Which ever sounds better to you.

        • ejrichardson

          THREE times the charge for the same procedure during the night as during the day IN THE SAME BUILDING USING THE SAME EQUIPMENT. Yes that’s an overcharge and dogs dying because the SOBs won’t take a check whereas in the day time they will, I hope every one of them loses something equally as precious as my dog was to me.. I would’ve gone to the bank first thing in the morning and got the Son Of A Bitch CASH MONEY and taken back the check but NO No Check, No Service and then I had No Dog. I hope the SOB gets cancer and dies nice and slow and very painfully.And I hope everyone who sticks up for him does as well. Scum of the earth.

        • Your anger and your pain are palpable, and I am genuinely sorry you are hurting so much. I mean that. I hope you are able to find some amount of peace so that you can move forward and find some joy again as I hope that is what your loved dog would have wanted for you.

        • db

          Mr. Richardson, I have read your post and find you to be a very confused person. First you tell people you want them to die a slow painful death, and then post in god we trust. Give me a break. Then have you ever called a service man on weekends or after 5:00? Most the time you will be told this is after NORMAL business hours and you pay double or triple for service call. If you purchase parts they will cost more, and unless you know these people they will not accept a check. In closing if you feel strongly that these places are this way. GO TO SCHOOL, GET YOUR VET. DIPLOMA AND OPEN YOUR OWN CLINIC AND PROVE US ALL WRONG. I will even bring my dog to your clinic if it gets hurt or I’ll, and tell you my credit is good, I have thousands in the bank, but I never Carry cash or credit cards so do the work and I will pay you in the morning.
          By the way, with you being a spokes person for god, GOD HELP US ALL!!!

        • ejrichardson

          You apparently are not reading all I have said. I have clearly explained that 1. I offered to prove that the money was in the bank by calling the bank balance line and letting them hear my balance. 2. The same practice took checks in the daytime
          3. I offered to have my wife continue to sit in the lobby on Monday morning (if they had treated the dog, we would’ve remained there in the lobby) while I went to the bank and got them CASH MONEY for the entire amount asked for as soon as the bank opened at 9:00 AM so she would be a hostage for my return with the money (she doesn’t drive) 4. I showed them my Drivers License with my address on it which matched the address on the checks. My wife showed them her state identification card with our address on it which also matched the address on the checks.. 5. the dog died because they wanted cash money in the middle of the night (two thousand dollars cash in the middle of the night is not reasonable) 6. I didn’t ask for a reduced rate or for free service. I told them I was willing to pay whatever they asked to save my dog. 7. I have discussed the high rates as a general principle. It does seem as though the same procedure at the same venue using the same equipment should not cost three times as much at night as during the day. Using your serviceman example you might pay time and a half or even double time rates but not three times as much as normal rates.

          Ernie Richardson and SD Ruby

          IN GOD WE TRUST

        • Manuela McGee

          Let’s get some REAL info: what was actually wrong with your dog? I apologize if you have mentioned it before and I missed it. Depending on the actual medical situation, you may be right to be this mad. I’d be interested as to what they were quoting this amount for.
          Regardless, however: your dog died from the medical condition, and not from lack of giving you financing options.

        • Leigh-Anne Gartner

          I would like to see a copy of an estimate for during the day and at night that is 3 times as much. I call bull. And what decade do you live in that you don’t have direct debit payment with you bank account…. My5 year old neice pays debit for her purchases.

        • Leigh-Anne Gartner

          How many businesses that you frequent take personal checks?? next to nobody takes checks anymore…… What year do you live in? For the last 15 years I could pay for everything up to 2000$ on my debit card…. Weekend or not….. If your pushing to write a cheque instead of pay debut…. It’s because you don’t have the $$ and want to write crap cheque.

        • BK13

          Insurance pays human medicine do not try to even compare it to animals. No one forces anyone to own an animal. Walmart doesnt even take personal checks, and you dont have a debit or credit card, where the hell are you from? No one pays in cash but to like and say you dont have a debit or credit card. I think your SCUM. If you cant afford it dont own a pet. Its a privilege not a right. We can not take checks or word you will pay because fact over 80% DONT PAY. FACT many people walk out without paying. FACT YOU ARE SCUM FOR TRYING TO BE A FREE LOADER

        • ejrichardson

          I wasn’t trying to be a freeloader, ASSHOLE. I offered them a check which was backed by funds in the bank. I even offered to call the bank and have them listen to my balance. No go. I am not a freeloader. YOU ARE A SUB HUMAN PIECE OF SHIT. DO THE WORLD A FAVOR AND DROP DEAD – preferably in great pain.

          Ernie Richardson and SD Ruby

          IN GOD WE TRUST

      • Manuela McGee

        you write: “Nobody asks a Veterinarian to deliver services for free. Emergency vets
        charge twice as much at night as regular vet does in the daytime for
        the same identical services.” Let me add to that: if you want to see your daytime vet for 1/2 the money, then nobody stops you from going there…on saturday.. at 2 am. The difference between your daytime vet is: he only has 1/2 the staffing, does not have to pay a shift differential (because working at night DOES cause many health issues over time), does not HAVE to have diagnostic equipment that is available at your dayclinic via sending out samples to a lab. does not HAVE to have a surgeon who is well versed in a vast variety of surgeries or emergency procedures and does not HAVE to work with the reality that the majority of bills never get paid. You say nobody asks a Veterinarian to deliver services for free?! Have you ever worked at an emergency clinic? Because that is asked of us in that field at least 3 – 4 times a night.

        And I don’t even want to know where the abortion thing came in? THAT right there made you sound crazed.

        • Steve

          Very flawed logic. No one has an issue with a surcharge for emergency or overnight services, double and triple is not acceptable. When one is desperate for a ride, we need a Ford, not a Mercedes, and to only have the Mercedes option at inflated prices makes little sense. And to use that as an excise for the business decision not to accept payment arrangements is ethically reprehensible.

        • Wolfyhound

          You want vets to work for free then? The article is not exaggerating to say 80% of people will NOT pay the bill in the end. Take 80% of YOUR paycheck away for no reason other than your boss decided you don’t deserve it and get called a scum-sucking monster for saying you deserve a paycheck.

        • Seola

          Conversely, demanding the vet owners ride a scooter so you can have a Ford and that vet be the bank to finance your Ford, to boot.

          Yes, it actually can double or triple the cost of doing business as an emergency vet, in case you were wondering.

        • Manuela McGee

          I am not sure where you think that “logic” comes into play here. This is reality. If you WANT to play the “logic card”, I will tell you that it would be illogical to cuss and swear at people who a) work at night and risk the complications that come with it: high blood pressure, diabetes, insomnia and lack of a personal life to name a few. ALL people who are there at those hours to take care of your pet DESERVE to be paid. They DO NOT deserve to be held responsible for your lack of foresight. You have a pet. You decided NOT to be prepared for emergencies. AT ALL. I have asked people to pay me ANYTHING.. even the change in their pockets.. and they will straight out say that they have nothing to spend on the emergency. No attempt to call a friend or relative to ask for a personal loan. No attempt NOT to buy the bag of chips across the street while waiting for us to provide free care. If people showed the SLIGHTEST attempt to pay at least SOMETHING, we did our best. But somebody paying nothing.. or having an emergency with their pet that has a 20% chance of living and a 100% chance of racking up a $3,000 bill… and proceeding with the knowledge that you just wrote off $50,000 last month.. Sorry. THAT right THERE is ILLOGICAL.

      • BS99

        you are a troll

        • ejrichardson

          And you are an ASSHOLE.

          Ernie Richardson and SD Ruby

          IN GOD WE TRUST

        • VetJean

          I understand that you had a very traumatic experience and I am very upset to hear that your dog died. I can tell that you are very hurt by the experience and I wish that you had not experienced it. However, lashing out at people on this forum and condemning emergency vets is not going to bring back your beloved pet nor make you feel any better in the long term. This sounds like an incident with the ER practice that you went to. So let’s not generalize all emergency vets as we can see by the many other testimonies on this forum of ER gets saving lives. I pray that you eventually find relief and peace in your grief.

      • vet tech

        How absolutely rude of you to say such horrible things about people who work at night to care for your pets during emergency situations. Emergency care ANYWHERE is expensive. The ER for humans are even worse. You know why you are treated in a human ER? Because the government pays them and then allows them to charge unGODLY fees to make up for the uninsured. I think this is absolutely disrespectful and incredibly heartless to call emergency vets “bloodsucking uncaring scum” and comparing them to murders. It’s people like you that make working in the veterinary field incredibly difficult.

        • ejrichardson

          You want to talk about rude. The uncaring SOB I dealt with wouldn’t take a check so my dog died. Sunday night. The same building has a traditional vet practice in the daytime and they take checks but the “emergency vet” practice wouldn’t. Sunday night. You can’t get more than ONE HUNDRED dollars out of Bank ATM Teller Machine.He wanted TWO THOUSAND . I would’ve gotten cash from the bank on Monday morning as soon as the bank opened and taken the check back and given the SOB CASH but no. No Cash or Credit Card – no service. My Dog Died. I hate that man. If he was on fire on the side of the road, I wouldn’t piss on him to put him out. He let my dog DIE. Heartless, Greedy SOB.

        • Bee

          What kind of ATM do you go to? Mine lets me take out up to $600 a day. Also, who has an ATM card and no debit card in 2014? It’s YOUR FAULT that your dog died. End of story.

        • DocSue

          I am sorry for your loss, Mr. Richardson. My one question, however, is this: Even though it occupies the same property, is the Emergency Service run and owned by the same people as the day service? Several of the Emergency Services in our area rent the space for overnight hours and their payment policies often differ from the daytime vets that occupy those offices. If that is the case, that may be why they would not accept a check. Unfortunately, unknown clients are the highest risk for rubber checks so many ER’s won’t accept that as a form of payment.

        • Johhny

          Cant get more than ONE HUNDRED dollars out of the Bank TM Machine? Where do you live, because here in the US, I can go to ANY ATM machine and withdrawl a maximum of $1000 per account I have with that bank. Those are the limits the bank set for me based on my daily average, credit etc. Yes, even for a checking account or savings account. (I think someone is just making up stories trying to get an uproar out of everyone) 2) 🙂 Most ER clinics “rent” out the space during the day (for instance, Greater Cincinnati Emergeny Clinic, has 2 vets that rent their building out during the day 1) being a Dermatologist and 2 ) an Internist. However, the 3 practices are COMPLETELY different. 1 has nothing to do with the other AND they do NOT use each other equipment

        • Leigh-Anne Gartner

          You must have screw up royally with your finances to only be allowed 100$ at a time….. If you have that bad credit, or that little money, maybe the responsibility of owning a pet is something your not ready for. You are a sad and pathetic man.

      • BK13

        Emergency hospital charges way more than your regular day time doctor for the same services. Animals are not humans, they are not a right, they are a privalege and responsability. YOU ARE A MORON. If you do not have money to care for your pet you should not own one. No one is bending your arm saying you must care for this animal. We can not take checks because if they bounce we are out of money plain and simple. 2/3 of personal checks are usually bounced, walmart no longer takes checks, the automatically run in as debit. YOU MORON. No one carries thousands of dollar of cash with them, but if you have a bank, you should have a debit card. Its 2014 get with the program. You are greedy and probably just want everything in the world handed to you. Emergency clinics are not like regular vets, they do not make as much profit as you think. You dont go to the emergency vet for shots you go because your pet is critical and life threatening. Regular vets do not see constantly dying pets 24/7 they are there for routine care. YOU MORON. So before you lie and make shit up of your head know the fact. If they were money greedy they would be a doctor and make 5x more, less difficult college education, and would not have to deal with COMPLAINING GREEDY people like yourself. If you own a pet you should always have funding for care on the side. You should budget for your pet. YOU ARE LETTING YOUR PET SUFFER for being an in-responsible pet owner. If you cant budget and save back for your pet then you should not be a pet owner. There are many caring people that are responsible and do anything to care for their pets.

        • ejrichardson

          You are a piece of shit asshole sub human bastard. I had the money in the bank. I hope you die badly.


          Seriously? You reply with violence saying, “I hope you die badly”? No wonder your dog died. That’s called KARMA.

      • Wolfyhound

        I suggest YOU go spend $100000+ for vet school, go pay all the money to open a business and charge half the amount of regular vets, work massive overtime and STILL get called a ‘greedy monster’. Screw you! You think you somehow deserve someone else’s time and effort for nothing? Does your boss call you up at 2am, screaming and telling you that you have to do your job RIGHT now and even if it’s an emergency caused by your boss, you still are at fault if YOU can’t fix it and by the way, you’re not going to get paid unless the boss feels you aren’t “gouging” him by wanting pay for services? I bet not.

        • ejrichardson

          As I have repeatedly stated: I didn’t question the amount being asked for the services.I didn’t ask for services for free or for a reduced rate. I was willing to pay whatever they asked to try and save my dog. I tried to pay by check. I offered to call the bank balance line and have them listen to my bank balance so that they would know that there were sufficient funds on deposit in my bank account to cover the amount of the check. They wouldn’t take a check even though the day practice run by the same owners at the same location did (and does) take checks. I offered to go the next morning (Monday) and get them the two thousand dollars in cash from the bank and bring it back to the office and my wife was going to sit there in their lobby while I went to the bank so she would be like a hostage for the money until I returned from the bank. They would still have the dog in their custody as well, recovering from surgery. But NO! Cash only before services are rendered.I begged them. Yes I hate them. They killed my dog. By the way you’re pretty much of an asshole too. You can’t tell me you charge half the amount of regular vets. You charge treble the amount of regular vets for the same service identically – if YOU are a vet at all which I doubt.


          ejrichardson, I hope you never ever have a dog or pet for that matter because seriously, I feel bad for any veterinarian who has to deal with an asswipe like you.

    • Linda McGarrah

      I am a veterinarian and was going to write something just like this. I couldn’t have done as well. Thank you. And you have a great point that I think is part of the missing equation. We veterinarians need to communicate better about the economics of owning a pet when we see a client for the first time. Education and communication are the most important part of our job and yet they are the hardest to master.

      • Andy

        Im an RVT in a small rural area and the dr I work for relays this to every single new puppy / kitten owner that comes into the practice. She discusses the financial responsibility of owning a pet and possible emergencies (especially labs and goldens) 😀 Some people dont come back, others simply ignore her and 4 or 6 months later don’t have the funds to spay or neuter. (People need an education course on owning an animal BEFORE they are allowed to buy or adopt one.) Our county shelter will do a spay / neuter & rabies & microchip & dhpp & deworm all for $40 (PEOPLE GET UPSET WHEN we cant do it for that) Then we explain WHY we cant do it for that, blood pressure, pain medication, spo2 heart rate monitors, etc….PROPER VETERINARY CARE, not just mask down and cut.

    • Steve

      Almost every instance you mention is a bad example. Yes, you can get healthcare without insurance, in fact, doctors must provide it. Many grocery stores work out arrangements for those in need, as do mechanics. You pay utility bills, mortgages, and major necessities on credit, and then when your pet is dying and needs care, the vet hospital holds one hostage by 1. not allowing payment arrangements, and 2. charging crazy high rates that a larger group of pet owners cannot afford.

      • Leigh-Anne Gartner

        I don’t know what world you live in, but I was very poor as a kid with a big family, and there was not single grocery store that gave good on credit. And please show me a mechanic that does work on credit??!?! You must live in imaginary oompa oompa land. Mortgages are a SECURED loan, don’t pay, they come and take your house away. Don’t pay your bills, and you’re living in the dark mighty fast. What does a vet get for collateral if they give a loan? They can exactly keep the pets for 80% of their clients. Get your head out of the sand! Geez

    • Leigh-Anne Gartner

      Amen! I could not have said it better than you!!

  • Megan Taliaferro

    After reading about this terrible situation (it was trending on facebook!) I just felt horrible for everyone involved – the initial DVM, the ER DVM, the owner and the pet. It was so difficult to read all the comments that everyone was leaving, particularly when they kept mentioning payment plans. I don’t think the general public has any idea how few people repay their veterinarian, even at general practices with well-established clients. I don’t think these are bad people, they’re just people making desperate promises that they can’t honor. I can’t imagine any other profession where people would expect a small business to give away services solely based on someone (that they’ve never met) making a promise. It’s just a crummy situation for everyone involved – the owners, the pets, and the ER vet that has to go home and cry because her/his hands were tied. I wish I had a viable solution. At the ER clinic I worked for we had a donation fund for economic cases but it would have easily ran out in a DAY. We literally ran into heartbreaking cases and owners not able to afford treatment DAILY. What’s the solution? I wish I knew…

    • thomas whaples

      In the general case, if you cannot afford veterinary treatment up front, you have access to a payment plan is called “a credit card”. While soulless, credit card companies are better qualified to assess the risk of offering you credit, and between soullessness and competition they are sufficiently efficient that they earn no more than ~4% on your business (cf. their financial statements).

      If you cannot obtain a credit card or cannot afford paying the credit card fees and interest, this may, in fact, be tragic or regrettable — yet it would be unreasonable to expect that you can pay the veterinarian with any plan that they should choose to offer.

  • Kathy

    Being in the field for many years, in many different types of practices and a shelter, I can say client education is a huge part of the problem. Often times we see a new puppy or kitten and the new owner may have never owned a pet before. They don’t realize the cost of raising a puppy or kitten is much more than expected! I really feel its at that time- when a new pet is aquired- that the conversation needs to start. Lay it all out. Vaccines cost this much, exams are this. Spay or neuter will be this, or more. Then, a real discussion of pet insurance and possible emergency costs should be weighed.
    While most pet owners are capable of proper care, we still need to remember educating the client on what can happen is just as important as routine care!

    • Agreed! Education, education.

  • Von

    Emergencies, whether it be your own sudden toothache or your pet swallowing a chicken bone, always seem to occur late at night or Sunday afternoon or the first day of a holiday weekend. After hours care always costs more than a regular appointment-made visit.

    While I empathize with this family’s grief and stress over losing their dog, I think it would have been better for them to have contacted the practice owner with their complaint the next day in person or by phone, before going on social media to name and castigate the clinic, with all the angst and drama that ended up causing for both parties.

    • Agreed. This was not constructive, and ‘warning other people away’ would do nothing to help other pets in the future. Now this doc has to waste hours calling strangers, take down his Facebook, and probably have to deal with all the fake Yelp reviews sure to be coming his way.

      • Linda G. Whillikers

        The family’s intention was to raise awareness of the cost of emergency care for their pets, and they’ve stated in the press that they never intended to have people calling the veterinary hospital with threats and insults. Their Facebook post clearly outlines their intentions so if you read that, you should be aware of why they shared their story and what they were hoping to achieve.

        • “Keri Kellogg-Hill of Kalamazoo said she never intended that outcome when she poured out her grief and anger at Moiles’ practice, Southwest Michigan Animal Emergency Hospital, on her Facebook page. She asked in her post that others share her experience “so other people know where not to turn for help with their animals.””

  • MikeAnderson

    This is a horrible situation for everyone involved. I do believe general practice vets need to do a better job educating the clients. I also think owners need to understand its not a right to own a pet. If you decide to have a pet you also need to put in the time researching the clinics/hospitals around you so you have an idea. Its much easier to talk to an owner about potential emergencies and cost of said emergencies when they are calm and can process this information. Cat and dogs have some very common emergencies best on breed. If you have a Boxer there is a good chance it will eventually have cancer, seizures, or heart issues. If your not willing to treat/deal with the issues of a certain pet/breed please do not get a pet!!!! Rushing into an ER with their animal dying is not the best time to tell them surgery will cost $5000. Especially if they are not prepared for it. I’m sure there are a lot of vets who do a good job at this. I do think a lot of owners believe it wont happen to their pet and never worry about it until it happens. There are alot of ER hospitals so obviously it happens alot more than you think. Every ER hospital provides different levels of care. I’m sure we understand that Urgent care is different then John Hopkins. With better facilities, equipment, and more experienced doctors comes higher prices. I think everyone from owners, general practice, to ER hospital can do a better job with communication. We get in this field because we love what we do. We do provide fund if people can prove financial hardship. Even after giving $3000 to owners they still complain that they have to pay the remaining $600. We do everything we possible can to help out owners but it gets to the end of the line and there is no more help available.

    • MikeAnderson

      That line is subjective to each individual but to most business that line is usually black and white

  • Phoenix Niesley-Lindgren Watt

    Well said. I would only add that perhaps when discussing an elective surgery like a spay, the day vet should explain exactly what would happen should a complication arise after hours–where the emergency referral vet is located, how much stabilizing a dog after a surgical complication is likely to cost, etc.–as part of informed consent. I have a feeling that the owners of this dog would have delayed the spay until they were ready for ALL the potential costs involved and not just the day vet’s spay fees. Education and communication is way better than making excuses for another avoidable situation that makes the veterinary profession look bad.

    • Kristi

      The concern with delaying the spay in any case is that there is a higher potential for emergency complications to arise by NOT doing it: ie pyometra, unexpected pregnancy. I absolutely agree that education and communication are way better, but in an ideal world that level of education comes BEFORE an owner ever takes ownership of a pet. Also in that ideal world all pet owners have an emergency savings account already set up in place for each pet from they very first day of ownership. But since such a world doesn’t exist, owners need to be educated that you can’t always prepare for every complication, and sometimes when everyone involved is put in that hard spot, hard decisions need to be made. Emergencies are emergencies for the very reason that they are not an “avoidable situation”. We as veterinary professionals understand and don’t pass judgement when an owner is faced with the choice between the cost of paying for an emergency or the cost of feeding their children or paying rent. We support and grieve with the family when hard decisions have to be made. Sometimes even the decision of euthanasia is, in fact, made as an unselfish way to end their pet’s suffering. As veterinary professionals we take an oath to alleviate patient suffering…we hold true to that oath and hold it sacred, money notwithstanding. What makes a veterinary profession “look bad” is not the veterinary professionals, it is the owners who do not feel that they have the financial responsibility for their own animals. Do car mechanics “look bad” when they refuse to rebuild your engine if you don’t have any money to pay them for their work? Do grocery stores “look bad” if they don’t let you take home food you can’t pay for? Do clothing stores “look bad” if they refuse to let you take home clothes for your kids that they won’t be compensated for? Then why do veterinarians “look bad” when they don’t allow owners to steal services and supplies from them? Most areas have community resources that can be found through local animal shelters and web searches for owners who have financial constraints. But owning a pet is a choice and a responsibility, and if an owner does not have the financial resources to apply to that responsibility, then that is not the fault or the responsibility of the veterinary community to provide it to them.

  • Leigh

    Completely agree with #4. I am in charge of payment plan billing for our clinic. Our rule is “We don’t offer payment plans,” but my vet tends to break that rule in emergency situations. We have over $7000 out in billing right now to people who signed payment plan contracts. Only one of them has actually started paying.
    My estimate is that only about 1 out of 15 payment plan people end up paying their bill.
    Of course we want to help that animal in an emergency. But if we offered payment plans, discounts or freebies to everyone who asked, we would shut down in about 3 months.

    • Jessica

      Same with my emergency clinic–we have a HUGE binder of IOUs. A girl who has worked there for 15 years says she has only seen 2 people come back to pay their balance…and still, after all of that, my doctor still allows people to sign promissory notes for the balance of their bill, knowing they will likely never come back to pay. So when, in an emergency situation, people imply that he is heartless and only does it for the money, I become super offended. if people knew the realities of working in a vet’s office, especially in ER, I think the perspective would change.

    • Linda G. Whillikers

      You can sell debts to collection companies to recoup some of your expenses and have them hound the debtor for payment. That is what other companies do with unpaid debts and I’m not sure why veterinary hospitals don’t seem to recognize this as an option. This is also what human hospitals do. If you make a good faith effort to collect the debt, you can threaten to send the debtor to collections (which sometimes gets them paying), and then you can finally sell the debt to get it off your hands. This is Business Management 101.

      • Dr. WSH

        Veterinary hospitals DO recognize this as an option… however, recouping SOME of your expenses isn’t exactly ideal, and is often 50% or less of the original amount. Yes, it is better than 0%, but it is long way from a solution to the problem. Personally, I wish I could post a list of all the names of people that made promises to pay me, but never did. Unfortunately, this is obviously not allowed given the confidentiality issues. Perhaps if I could say that “I would love to give Owner500 a break, but unfortunately Owners1 to 499 have yet to pay me back, so I have no further funds available” it would make it more understandable?

        • Linda G. Whillikers

          Oh, I guarantee you that if you showed a client a binder of other people you’d worked out payment arrangements with to explain why you’re refusing them a payment arrangement, that would not go over well. “So, you offered all these other people payment plans but you’re refusing me because these people didn’t pay you back? So you CAN offer payment plans, you just WON’T, and you’re penalizing me for other people’s nonpayment?” And it’s not their problem that other people haven’t paid; it’s your problem and your business’ problem. And, honesty, if you get a client who can’t pay the full bill and you send the animal away, you’d still be making more if you had treated the animal, had the owners put down what they could, and then eventually sold the debt for 50%. Your expenses (staff, supplies, etc.) are still there whether you choose to treat or not. It’s not as if everyone goes home and you send back all the supplies you would have needed to treat the animal for a full refund every time you send a patient away. So, you can collect $0, or you can collect 50% of a bill, worst case scenario.

          And, really, if being unable to afford vet care is so problematic for so many people and these unpaid bills are such a problem for so many practices, perhaps the veterinary practice should re-examine how it operates. If vet care if out of reach for the average pet owner, something is terribly wrong, and the impacts ripple out a lot further than the doors of a veterinary practice.

        • Marcus

          There is a flaw in your “50% is better than $0”.

          1. While, yes, 50% is better than nothing 100% is better than 50%. You see, if I take you into my clinic and you don’t pay me, I may have had to turn away another emergency that night because I was busy with you (or more than one depending on what your emergency is vs. those I turn away).

          2. The supplies I use on your animal (which aren’t paid for) can’t be used on the next emergency. Unless I’m using a medication that will literally be past it’s expiration date tomorrow I am actually losing money because now I have to buy more medication/supplies to treat the next emergency.

          Let’s look at it another way. A 50% on a test in school is better than a 0% surely, but a 50% is still a failing grade.

        • Seola

          Or perhaps we examine not the service providers but the quality of those who own pets. I find it incredibly arrogant that you are arguing for vets to reduce their costs to provide for people who can’t pay… after insulting them for running their business by providing services on promises to pay.

      • Lauren Bowling

        You know how much I collected from that type of firm in 5 years? NOTHING. So it isn’t that simple, as you seem to think. We can’t sell our debts because they’re too small, so we turn them over to collections, which does jack all.

      • Leigh

        We do send them to collections. We give them four months to start paying toward their balance, then they get sent to collections. But even then, the majority of them never pay.
        When we do receive any payment, Dr. WSH is correct, we only get 50% of their balance back.

  • Christine Vezina

    Building a good relationship with your vet really helps, too. If you show up every 3 years when your dog has already been sick for weeks, whine about costs and fight payment every step of the way, and then don’t follow treatment protocol correctly anyway, you’re not very likely to get any help when you run into that really expensive emergency.

    My vets have helped me out in the past, and I’m sure a large part of that is that I’ve been with them for years, proving that I am a reliable client. I show up for routine care, I pay up front, and I work with them to make sure my dogs get better. I don’t expect them to foot the bill for $5k of care or anything, but it’s nice to know they’re willing to work with me as far as payment plans and reducing costs where possible (generics vs brand name drugs, etc).

    Of course, it’s near impossible to build that sort of relationship an E vet, so I do have a credit card I carry a low balance on, just in case.

  • David Gill

    Thank you for this blog, it is spot on. I have been an emergency veterinarian for most of my 30 years in practice. Any scrutiny of billing/accounts payable will demonstrate that 9 out of 10 people who promise to pay never do, it is a plain and simple fact. I always find it hard to fathom why people expect the practice should loan money to them, a perfect stranger, when their own family, friends or employers are unwilling to do so. And as for the prices, they are a true reflection of what it costs to provide skilled people and functioning facilities 24/7/365. Emergency care is often difficult, expensive and untimely; that is pretty much the definition of an emergency. I have a great deal of sympathy for this pet owner, but I cannot afford to pay her bill. If a good Samaritan is available 24/7 to pay the bills for all those people who can’t (or won’t) pay their bills, please post your contact information here and I can guarantee a constant stream of requests from every veterinary practice in America.

  • Susan Shields Montgomery

    So very true. My vet is fabulous with this. They understand not everyone has insurance or the money to pay for costly procedures. They are up front about the costs and the options. When we took or Finn in on a Sunday morning for what turned out to be an emergency spleenectomy, I’ll never forget the look of relief on his face when I said ‘we have insurance, do it.’ I can’t imagine the heartbreak of knowing you can save the pet, but the owner just can’t pay. I know quite a few vets and staff with extra dogs and cats they adopted just so they could give them the life saving surgery thier previous owner couldn’t afford.

  • ejrichardson

    “Economic Euthanasia”. Emergency Vets are SCUM. The DREGS OF SOCIETY. You literally KILL dogs because you are SO GREEDY. Prices for the same procedure during the day are sometimes HALF the price you horrible people charge at night. I wish you nothing but bad luck. You deserve that. You HEARTLESS SHIT.

    • mijan126

      So… your option would be that these people work for free, never getting paid for their JOBS, and subsequently, the vet goes bankrupt and ceases to exist? Did you totally miss the part where the inherent overhead cost of running an overnight emergency service is higher?

      Do you work for free? Do you think it’s fair to pressure people into performing work services for you without compensation? That they should pay for your pet’s treatment out of their own pockets? That they should buy the supplies to sustain YOUR pet? Do you know what would happen if they did that nonstop? The vet would be bankrupt, homeless, and starving, and the veteranarian’s clinic would SHUT DOWN. That’s right, boys and girls – if you don’t pay for vet services, the vet clinic goes bankrupt, and there will be nobody left to help your precious Fido or Fluffy in the middle of the night.

      Listen, becoming a vet is like going to med school. It IS med school, and the degree is a doctorate. Vets get paid a fraction of what human doctors get paid, and then, people get angry because they want to get paid at all. These are folks with the brains and tenacity to get through med school, but they CHOOSE to become vets because they love animals. They know they’ll be treated like dirt by pet owners like you. They know they’ll make a fraction of the income of their human counterparts. They know that sometimes, they’ll have to euthanize animals because the money isn’t there, even though they want to save every animal they can. These people are practically saints, and you’re acting as if they’re heartless murderers.

      Having a pet is NOT a right. It’s a privilege, and a luxury. If you choose to become a pet owner, you’re responsible for being able to care for that critter. I know – I’ve owned everything from goldfish to horses, mice to snakes, as well as birds, guinea pigs, cats, and dogs. I have two beloved dogs and a cat now, all adopted or rescued. I don’t make a lot of money in my job (I’m an EMT), and I’m in school. Still… I know what it costs for emergency vet services, and my wife and I have a plan if something happens.

      DO NOT BLAME THE VET for your lack of planning. If you cared about your pet half as much as you claim, you’d have planned ahead to take care of that animal.

      Remember kids, Bob Barker reminds you to have your pet spayed or neutered.

      • ejrichardson

        ER VETS do NOT love animals . They love money. The clinic I’m speaking of has one entrance for emergencies at night and another one for a traditional vet practice during the day. Same equipment day and night, same building day and night, same utility costs day and night, vet techs switch shifts between traditional and emergency. Two to three times as much for a given procedure at Emergency entrance (night) as the traditional entrance.(days) . Day practice takes checks. Emergency Practice does not. That’s BULLSHIT about not having cash. Nobody but a fool keeps thousands of dollars in cash. You keep checks. Can’t use an ATM because of withdrawal limits. The dog would’ve needed surgery so would still would’ve been there in the morning and I could’ve gone to the bank and paid cash in the morning. In the meantime they’d have had a check which was perfectly good and covered by sufficient funds to cover it in the bank.

        • Andrew Waymire

          Hey, look, someone who has no business experience talking about the costs of business!

          During the day, the clinic schedules appointments every 15-30 minutes throughout the day, with an appropriate number of surgeries. Staff is scheduled to exactly fit those needs.

          During the night, the emergency clinic must remain fully staffed to handle any situation that arises, and typically only deals with a handful of emergencies. Let’s say a clinic sees 20 pets a day and 4 emergencies a night. Since the staffing and utilities cost the same for the 12 hours of day as the 12 hours at night, the only way to pay for it is to either charge everyone more, day and night (driving the regular appointments to other, cheaper clinics) or charge the emergencies 5x as much– which is the fair thing to do, since it accurately reflects the costs of doing business during the night. Why spread that to dhte day appointments?

        • ejrichardson

          Have had experience in business. The point of my rant is that the costs are the same day and night and the facility is the same and the equipment is the same and the costs for a CT is the same day or night. Same thing for OR supplies and drugs. Same cost. A drug doesn’t know whether it’s day or night. It costs exactly the same 24/7/365. Utilities are the same day or night, the only variable is labor costs which it is argued are more. Fair enough. While I think it is gouging, I was willing to pay whatever they wanted. The main issue then became payment which they demanded before starting and which they demanded in cash (no check) or credit card. The vet practice in question also operates a conventional vet practice during daylight hours in the same building and costs are like one/third as much for identical procedures. Even given that, the price was not my main frustration. The frustration which remains to this day is that during the day they take personal checks and the Emergency part of the practice at night does NOT take checks. I made a number of suggestions to solve this issue and they weren’t at all flexible about payment. They should take checks at night if they do so during the day. Same ownership and management for both day and night. Since the dog would’ve required surgery and would’ve been in recovery and probably would’ve had to stay at least one additional day and night, they could’ve cashed the check the next morning (Monday) OR (and I suggested this) my wife would’ve stayed in their lobby as a hostage until I went to the bank on Monday morning (we were there Sunday night) and got Cash money to pay them. I also suggested that they listen to the bank balance on the phone which would show them that the money to cover the check was in the bank. They wouldn’t agree to anything except cash or credit card.. Again I repeat that no one but a fool carries large amounts of cash in a big city. It’s an invitation to get robbed. To this day I hate that vet practice and wish everyone that works there nothing but the worst of bad luck.They are total Sleezes.

        • Seola

          There is no way whatsoever you have had experience in business. You can’t even grasp the fact that staying open at night is more costly. Let me explain this in simple terms.

          40 people seen over 10 day hours during the week at a cost of $100 per person = $20,000 a week.

          Average of 3 people seen over 14 hours during the week at a cost of $100 per person = $1500 a week.

          Average of 6 people for two weekend days in 24 hours? $1200.

          Now, do you see how $20,000 made in 50 hours is more than $2,700 made in 118? Or $400 a workweek hour compared to $1.69 off-time an hour?

          Either the off-hours pay more (which also means people are less likely to use it for non-ER situations) or you charge the other people using scheduled surgical equipment (i.e. ability to plan for and have appropriate staff on hand as opposed to FEDERAL LAW requirements for overtime and on call staff) at a lower cost of doing business.

          Or we can just shut down all emergency vets for being “mean” about having to cover the costs to stay open during non-business hours and then we’ll all have no one to take our pets to.

          BTW, in case you actually DO understand a little bit of business, I’m sure you’ll also realize the extra cost of carrying workman’s comp, taxes and even higher insurance rates (less staff at night means higher risk for things like theft/robbery and having an employee on site during those hours and covering them for all needs of the business) also means those hours COST MORE than regular working hours.

          It’s not just about having the “same utility” cost – which is also not true because in the winter, most businesses have automatic thermostats that turn the heat down at business close or in summer A/C gets turned up. It’s about the EXTRA costs of having someone there, having someone on call and having all those people covered while complying with federal labor laws.

        • ejrichardson

          This is all beside the point which was that I had agreed to pay their full asked-for amount without asking for any reduction of that amount. Didn’t even mention the cost. I was agreeable to pay that amount. I offered a check for the FULL AMOUNT asked for and they refused the check even though I presented my Drivers License showing the same address as was on the checks. My wife showed her state picture identification also showing the same address as that on the checks. The practice took checks during the day but not during the night. NOBODY has TWO THOUSAND cash at their home let alone carrying that amount in Cash on their person. You yourself alluded to the possibility of robbery. In fact the lobby of the emergency side of the practice has the receptionists desk enclosed in thick bullet-resistant plexiglas. I offered to go to the bank that very morning to get them CASH MONEY while my wife waited in the lobby as a hostage so they’d be assured of my return with the money (she doesn’t drive and we therefore have only one vehicle). They also would’ve had the dog still in their care while I went to the bank. I stood on my head to assure them of full payment while the dog was still there and was still turned away. They are sleeze balls.

        • Seola

          Also, as I’m sure you’d be aware of IF you had business knowledge is that taking a personal check during off hours is the same as not taking payment and using someone’s word they’ll pay you. They don’t typically take personal checks because they can’t call the bank and verify the funds or put a hold on the funds until the bank clears the check. While now, some banks will allow a business to scan checks and a computer generates the transaction during off hours – most banks do not yet. Then turn around and tell your customers (and also train your staff) on which banks take which transactions and when? I’m sure you’d also make the argument “Well, this major business takes checks when banks are closed” and I’d be forced to tell you that the businesses who take checks after hours typically pay a 3rd party processor to do an ACH transaction for a hold of funds on the bank account before the bank clears the check and that 3rd party processor guarantees/insures the transaction. This service is far too expensive for the average small business that vets are but is certainly valuable to places like Wal-Mart. I seriously, seriously question that you have any business experience whatsoever.

        • ejrichardson

          Spent my whole life in businesses great and small. And yes I see your point but they could’ve waited till the morning and put the check through OR I would’ve gone to the bank -while my wife waited in their lobby (the vet practice not the bank) to show them that I’d be back with the money since my wife doesn’t drive and we only have one vehicle. We were going to wait all night to see how the dog was doing in any case. No they were greedy.

          Ernie Richardson and SD Ruby

          IN GOD WE TRUST

  • michelle

    I would just add that even though owners may not be able to pay for expensive vet care it does not mean they don’t care about their animals. I’m a responsible pet owner–my adopted cat is an indoor cat on prescription cat food and up to date on her shots. I brush her fur AND her teeth. But, if I got swamped with a $2,000 vet bill, I would not be able to put up this kind of money. I don’t make huge amounts of money.
    I think to myself–what would be worse–helping stray pets have homes with people who might not be able to afford $2,000 vet bills OR having shelters overstocked with stray pets that have no home.

    • ApatheticyetConcerned

      It’s really a fine balancing act, to be honest. Yes, you can be a great pet owner who cares deeply, and in all likelihood your pet will have a long, healthy life with you. And I can’t think of anything most vets would want more than for a pet to live a long, healthy, emergency free life. And based simply on the number of quality years that a stray can likely get with someone, even if they can’t afford that last minute surgery, it is probably better from a welfare standpoint for them to be adopted out.

      However, in the event that emergencies do happen, I personally wouldn’t blame someone who couldn’t afford a $2-3000 dollar bill out of nowhere. Hard times happen to good people, and it really doesn’t make sense to call someone irresponsible for lacking the funds to pay that. On the other side of the coin, it’s not fair to blame a vet who is unable to render services without payment. Emergency vets make their livings from emergencies. As said before, in numerous places, they have massively higher costs than other vet clinics.This translates to significantly higher prices. It doesn’t make the vet heartless if they refuse treatment, it’s just a harsh reality of the world we live in. Nothing is perfect, and acute emergencies are even less so. But that’s just how the world works.

  • JazzBelle504

    In 2011 when my one year old greyhound broke her leg running around our house very early one morning our first stop was the eVet. They told us to take her to our regular vet and charged us $80+ for exam and bandage. They called our vet and said soft tissue injury. Because of this, she did not Xray our girl. 2 days later we realized the leg was clearly broken as the swelling went down. Back to regular vet who did an xRay and came out crying to tell us how bad a break it was. She credited us for the procedure she did perform which was closing the wound. At orthopedic vet it was $3000 for her surgery which involved hardware and a second incision. Two weeks later when she was supposed to start PT, it was realized that her patella was displaced. The ortho vet decided to repair it but did not charge us his personal fee for this her third surgery in 2 weeks. I have great vets. We had insurance on her which only paid about 18% of her expenses but it helped. Initially we were so overwhelmed with all the expenses that our adoption group offered to help us. But I realized, if I can’t afford to have 4 dogs, I should NOT have 4 dogs. So we sucked it up and paid everything ourselves. We paid over $4000 even with insurance and considerations from our 2 personal vets. However, the experience at the eVet was not good, not professional and cost our dog additional surgeries. Not a fan of eVets but what are you going to do when its 5 pm on a saturday and your dog had a catastrophe…because believe me…it rarely happens during regular business hours. We do have an emergency fund and we do have an emergency credit card because stuff happens.

  • Gone_Walkabout

    I’m not from the US so please bear with me. While in my country there’s also people who just don’t pay the bill after they promised to, there’s a bit more chances to make them legally accountable because we have a National ID system that includes fingerprints for everyone. I know the US has all those constitution amendments that probably would make it very difficult to implement such a system but maybe Veterinarians could anyway make people sign a contract and stamp it with their fingerprints? That altogether with some sort of ID and dwelling proofs may help you to chase them down if they bail. Again, I’m a foreigner so please don’t skin me off if I’m wrong! 🙂

    • No skinning here. 🙂

  • Carrie Engle

    I think it is very good there is discussion happening, the follow up article was very good. I see both sides of the issue. I am low income, I can’t afford my cats, do you want them? I didn’t think so. I do the best I can and they are healthy and live long lives as a rule. I did not say ” I think I’ll get a cat.”, if I had not taken them in, they would be dead by now. The only option for them many years ago was a kill shelter. I understand my financial limitations, have never asked to make payments or stiffed a vet, and have had to make that financially based decision. It comes down to too many animals being produced, too many healthy animals being killed in shelters, and not enough people with enough money to give the ones they save optimum medical care at any moment. Discussion without anger, and finger pointing can help create understanding and solutions.

    • Seola

      However, having said cat and not being able to provide for it – in many cases – is a far poorer outcome than euthanasia. Demanding other businesses provide for services because “if I didn’t own the pet, it would have died”? It not only lessens the quality of care for the rest of the animals in the vet’s practice but lowers the quality of life for the pet in that home. Yes, things can happen but pets are not cheap and far too often, people take in animals that don’t get regular vet care in the first place. “I’m too poor to pay for care” is not an excuse. Many dogs and cats are dropped into those unwanted/kill shelter situations because people adopted them, never took them to the vet and they developed medical problems. You know what that means? They will die anyway. It’s not ethically right to adopt sick animals out, fosters can help but they are a drop in the bucket and even if we can get them healthy again (I do fostering for a local no-kill), they are older and harder to adopt out if at all and many end up “warehoused”. There is a huge drop off in adoptions for animals between weaned and 1 year then another huge drop off from 1 year to 2 years. Animals over 2 years old are rarely adopted (in comparison) and generally that’s when the medical expenses start to kick in from lack of continued care or lack of care in a medical emergency. And the pet still suffers.

      There is no “discussion” to have and that’s the problem when you make the comment you do. A business cannot operate without funds no matter how “nice” the owners are or how much they love their pet. Making them responsible for the care of your pet is no different than having a child and demanding someone provide that child a life with you that is free from cost. I would rather people who can’t afford a pet not adopt them – because they often come in far, far sicker than they would otherwise, they come in in later adult stages making them hard to adopt and they often are suffering. Even regular vet checkups are needed to catch certain diseases and your animal may be suffering without you knowing it (and that happens far more often than people want to admit). People think an animal is only suffering from poor medical care if they drop, get lethargic or have diarrhea for days. Most don’t even know what their animal weighs. Regular vet checks can find weight loss the owners cannot tell.

      You may not have ever asked to stiff your vet, but you also admit you’ve never had to make that decision. Unfortunately, the comments of “if I hadn’t done x, y, z” actually contribute to the overpopulation issues.

  • tonya

    What I do because I’m on a limited income for when the time arises and it will. I put so much a month on an acct I have set up at my vets off and when something happens I have money already on my account to cover it.

  • Dogs Cats and Horses

    I just want to put in my 2 cents about Care Credit. The article above stated it is, ” admittedly a shaky proposition”, but I feel this is an unfair characterization of Care Credit. Six years ago, I had a situation with my German Shepherd, where I could not afford what became a $3000.00 bill. The vet suggested Care Credit. I would have paid anything to save Heidi if I could. In the end, we lost her anyways but Care Credit allowed me to know we did what we could. Their interest is no different than any other credit card. For six years, I have used this when needed at the vets office for my other pets. They always give me a six months same as cash and I don’t have to pay any interest if I pay the bill off in that time. I think Care Credit is awesome and would urge anyone to look into it before you need it.

    • Trust me, I’m not anti anything that allows people to get care. We’ve used it regularly and I’m actually a fan. What I meant by “it’s shaky” is that it is not always a solution because many people do not qualify, so it’s not something one can always count on. The lawsuit had to do with offices who were not trained to clearly explain the way the interest free grace period worked and many people were caught unaware. That’s all.

      • Dogs Cats and Horses

        I understand, not everyone will qualify and that’s why I would urge people to look into it before they need it but if people think it to be a “shaky proposition” they might not bother, so I just want to be a positive voice. So far, my only draw back with them is, my equine vet does not take Care Credit (and that’s more of a drawback with my equine vet than Care Credit) and I have a 27 year old gelding that I can’t get insured due to age. I have had to come to the realization that if expenses get to the point I can’t cover them for him, out of pocket, it may just be his time and although it may be painful and economics will play a part in the decision, it will be what it will be. To me, Insurance is more of a shaky proposition than Care Credit. I had VPI for a while for my dogs and after one ear infection, VPI would no longer cover anything in the future that was an ear infection for that dog. Talk about shaky. Not cool.

  • Luvs Bostons

    My late Boston Terrier almost died. We were on vacation and had her groomed just before pickup. When we got there she was wrapped in a wet towel barely breathing. Nobody but the groomer really knows for sure but most likely the dog was put in a “drying cage” and forgotten. Since she was dripping wet from top to bottom I believe she was dunked into cold water to bring her temp down and she went into shock. Well, NO bostons can tolerate a drying cage! We flew down the highway to the emergency night hospital. They were expecting us. My baby went one way, my then boyfriend went the other…with credit cards. She had hypoxia and the odds were not good. We said try. That night, they called and said she came out of her coma and we could come say good night, but she needed to stay in her oxygen tank overnight. Had my boyfriend not been able to pay, I know I could not have. When we lost her to old age, it shattered our world. She was part of our courtship and wedding. After many calls to the attorneys on their side, we agreed to reimbursement for only half. To get the full amount would have meant paying an attorney on our side, with no guarantee we would win. With 4,000.00 payment on our side, it was not worth it. Our Boston Terrier was NEVER able to go into a cage after that! Luckily dog sitters were just coming into being and we found a wonderful sitter.

  • SD Mom

    I took my service dog into a local vet service with an excellent reputation who also participated in a low cost spay/neuter program. I went there because that was what I could afford. I made that clear up front when offered other services.We have excellent vet care elsewhere but their S/N prices were far beyond our means. We discussed complications and would happen and were told that as long as me made regular payments, even if they were small that would be fine. There were complications and she had to go back several times and we nearly lost her. In the end she was ok and recovered and has saved my life many times since. However, the bookkeeper was NOT ok with small payment and wrote nasty little comments on my bill about how I needed to pay more. There was no more to pay with. They also charged over $9 a month in interest. It took me three years to pay the bill and in the end the majority of it was interest. Interest that I had not been told about and in fact did not realize was there until I called after one of the nasty notes. No, we won;t be going back or recommending them. I appreciate having my service dog and that she was there to save me of course, but the hidden interest? Not cool.

  • Shelly

    I have had a dog that had surgery and then developed gastric torsion in the early morning hours 4 days later. I had to make the decision to put the dog down because I could not afford the surgery. I do not consider this to be the Vets fault in any way. As painful as it was to put my dog down, I did not expect the Vet to float me a short or long term loan. Your vet is not your banker, plain and simple.

    • I’m so sorry about your pup, Shelly.

  • imjenndoe

    When my dog needed to be treated in an emergency clinic, including emergency surgery, the clinic worked with my husband and brought the cost down as much as possible. Luckily, we had most of the cash and I was able to write a check that they held until the Monday night deposit…. emergency happened on a Saturday night….. They are awesome and the work that these individuals do for the animals is not for the money, it is for the love of the animals…

  • Andy

    I am a Technician and I have to say, I live in a very rural area and most of our clients arent able to financially afford an emergency (even at our clinic, only be a few hundred dollars) If it werent for me and the other technicians, the DR would be doing every for free. She has a great heart for the animals (sometimes at a fault) and thats why I love working for her. However, even her, as the practice owner (single dr practice) has to be reminded that she cant keep giving away medications and services. Most vets do this job because they have a deep passionate love for the animals.