Here’s a thing: If you suspect your vet is ripping you off, they just might be ripping you off
You know the thing where people either don’t have health insurance or do but mistakenly get sent an itemized medical bill and they see hospitals charging like $80 for an aspirin and $150 for a blanket and $5000 for a paper gown*? That shit goes on in veterinary medicine both with procedures and drugs prices. Only difference is, almost nobody on the planet has pet insurance so almost all vet bills come out of pocket. And there’s an added layer of mystery because much of the time your animal can’t (or doesn’t) indicate if something is wrong. Even more so than with with human medicine, people are entirely at the mercy of what their veterinarian tells them is necessary.
I won’t go so far as to say vets deliberately mislead people to make money. I will say that I’ve seen prices for pretty standard procedures cost as much as 100% more depending on which clinic you go to. And I don’t mean ‘normal vet office in suburban neighborhood vs mobile vet bus in downtrodden area’. I mean like, down the street. Sometimes things cost what they cost though. That’s why I say the biggest problem I see with vets ripping people off is in their policy on expensive, invasive procedures. In my time I have seen vet’s offices recommend annual full dental cleanings (anesthesia, x-ray, and all, every single year), and whole hip replacements for 12 year old dogs with like the normal joint/skeletal degeneration you’d expect from a 12 year old dog–while not telling owners that said replacement will mean the animal may also need to be on blood thinners, pain killers, and anti inflammatory meds for the rest of its life.
And I know this shit is bad practice because I’ve seen good, responsible, pragmatic veterinarians who sit down with owners and explain that having a tumor removed from their 4 year old guinea pig is probably a waste of money, and there’s a higher-than-normal chance that such a small animal could die under anesthesia. I’ve known good vets who will tell you their whole office policy is to try to not do invasive surgery on dogs over 10, because it’s super stressful and carries higher risk. I’ve known responsible vets who just straight up say yes your dog has epilepsy, but the meds to help that are expensive and will damage its kidneys, so unless it’s having a seizure a month I don’t recommend it. I’ve known pragmatic vets who straight up tell people, “Your pet is old. It’s going to slowly degenerate. When it gets to be too much you can have it put down, but burning money to make it act like it did when it was young is fighting a losing battle that will ultimately decrease its quality of life and bankrupt you.”
Those are the sorts of vets you look for, because those people know that animals are animals, and people have budgets. PLEASE don’t internalize messages that the amount of money you’re willing to spend is evidence of how much you love your pet. Sometimes shit is extremely expensive, and it’s just not responsible to spend thousands of dollars on a pet. IME I’ve noticed a difference in the kind of clientele certain offices get? Like, ‘upper-middle class people who can afford dog chemo and will shell out a mortgage payment so Fluffy can live 1 more year’ vs ‘everyone else’. You can tell quickly which kind of client your vet is used to servicing based on what kind of shit they recommend. It’s tough to draw a firm line on that, because young animals need rounds of vaccinations like young humans, and some animals do have health problems, or special concerns. But if you have a healthy 5 year old cat and they have you coming in every 6 months for blood work, and they’re trying to sell you on pet insurance**, I’d say that’s a red flag. Some vets are pretty down to earth, and will work with you, or offer alternatives to expensive procedures. Some live in a beverley hills bubble and look down on owners who won’t sell all their possessions to have their dog’s brain transplanted into a rocket-powered cyborg body.
So if you have doubts about either the cost of a procedure or a diagnosis, shop around/get a second opinion. I just had to do that for my dog. She needs her teeth cleaned and her regular vet was charging $600 for it before the x-ray. I called around one afternoon and found a great place who will do it for $240, x-ray included! So we now we have a new vet!
*for those not familiar with the widespread phenomenon of outrageous hospital markups and soaring drug prices:
**Lots of people have good things to say about pet insurance. I’m not one of them. I think it’s a scam. It maybe comes in handy in the first year of your pet’s life when they need all their shots, and to get spayed/neutered. And maybe at the end of its life, depending on how much money you’re willing to spend to delay the inevitable. But most of the time, your average mongrel dog or cat won’t need any serious medical intervention, ever (barring getting in a fight with a porcupine or car).