No doggy NHS – a response to vet-bashing

‘You vets do know how to charge, don’t you? Our last cat cost us a bloody fortune on treatment when it got cancer’, the barber told me, the clipper blade vibrating on my temple as he neatened my sideburn. ‘And they had the cheek to charge us when we had to have it put to sleep anyway’. I thought it wise to leave the seal unbroken on that can of worms. I had only had my hair cut two weeks prior, but being the eve of my wedding day, thought I would nip in for a quick tidy up, though I was beginning to regret my decision. Luckily my upcoming nuptials sufficed as an alternative topic of conversation.

By NHS England

What is for certain is that the people of Britain love their pets. We are gripped by the emotional stories of poorly pets on the various popular vet television shows that seem to be on at all times of the day. The iconic James Herriot made a return to screens last month in a brand new remake, achieving viewing figures Channel 5 has historically struggled to reach. ‘SuperVet’ Noel Fitzpatrick has sold out arenas with his live show.  But I find that in reality, the public have a rather more ambivalent attitude to the veterinary profession that cares for their furry companions. For many, their opinion of the profession is coloured by resentment at fees paid for treatment.

This was reinforced for me by a piece written by Rachel Johnson (sister of Boris) in the Spectator last week available here. In the article subtitled ‘are we being sold a pup when it comes to pet care?’ she told the story of how her adorable designer-crossbreed Cockapoo (the most ill-considered portmanteau ever?) became seriously unwell after making the unfortunate decision to swallow a peach stone. Undigestible, and too large make its way out the other end, it caused an obstruction in Ziggy’s intestines, requiring her to have emergency surgery and racking up a bill of £2500.

‘There is no market mechanism, no mix of public or private to keep any sort of lid on fees. Vets have you over a barrel’. My heart sank, because the allusion, put bluntly, is that vets are greedy. Do pet owners really feel like this – as if they are being held hostage in some way by their vet. That presented with an unwell pet and distressed owner, a vet’s intention is to extract as much money as possible? I really hope not.

Private vet fees are not cheap, but this does not mean they are poor value, or over-inflated. The trouble is, most of the UK population has no yardstick in terms of medical fees – we are blessed in this country to have the NHS and so most Brits will thankfully go their whole life without ever being presented with a bill for their own healthcare. Veterinary medical fees are significantly lower than what we would pay to ‘go private’. For the sum paid for Ziggy’s op, Rachel couldn’t have  afforded much from Nuffield’s menu of procedures if it were herself being treated; it wouldn’t cover half of the cost of a bunionectomy. It would enable Rachel to have 1.5 moles removed. Gall bladder removal would set her back £6415, and a hip replacement the princely sum of £13985. By comparison, Ziggy’s enterotomy was a steal.

The crux of the matter is that healthcare for a dog is not automatically cheaper to provide, just because the patient has a tail. While it still lags behind human medicine, the standard of veterinary care provided by your average local practice has advanced massively in the past couple of decades, and expectations of the general public have similarly soared. Running a vet practice is a costly endeavour.

Ziggy would have been looked after by a large team of nurses and vets, staffing the practice 24 hours a day during her hospitalisation. Part of the fee Ms Johnson paid would have gone to pay their modest wages, as well as those of support staff such as cleaners, receptionists and administration staff (for reference, most veterinary nurses earn little more than minimum wage, and the average vet salary package [which includes covering the cost of professional fees, insurance, and training] is £42K; substantially less than the £60-90K a human GP earns). There is the cost of all the consumables  – catheters, bungs, fluid lines, syringes, needles, suture materials, drapes, sterile gowns for the surgeons, all of the drugs. The hospital will have been kitted out with all of the expensive equipment utilised in her treatment – the X-ray machine, plates and processor, blood analyser machines, blood pressure monitors, the anaesthetic system, breathing circuits, anaesthetic monitoring equipment, suction, surgical instruments, theatre lights. £2500 sounds like, and is, a lot of money, but the practice is unlikely to have made much of profit margin on the cost of treating little Ziggy

Spending more time than ever confined to their homes, Brits have gone dog-crazy this year. The RSPCA reported earlier this month that Google searches of ‘puppies near me’ increased 650% during lockdown, and imports of dogs from abroad  more than doubled over the same period. With dog breeders swamped with demand, there seems to be no ceiling to what prospective dog owners will pay; a client I saw last week parted with £2700 for a poodle crossbreed puppy. For me, every day in August felt like a puppy-vaccinating groundhog day. And the wave of puppies continues to roll.

But a dog is not just for lockdown. Next year, when we with any luck reach a time when everyone is spending less time working from home, we are waist deep in a recession and the lockdown puppies are no longer puppies, the RSPCA anticipates we will be facing a welfare crisis, triggered by many being no longer able to afford, or having the time to care for their pets.

More times than I care to remember, I have had to manage heartbreaking situations where pet owners have been unable to pay for the cost of their pet’s treatment when they have fallen very ill. Economic euthanasia is an awful reality all vets have had to deal with on occasion. But it is wrong to lay the blame at the door of the vet profession. A dog is a luxury, not an entitlement. Nobody is forced to get one. If your dog eats a peach stone, and has to have it removed from its gut, it is your responsibility to pay for the surgery. There is no doggy NHS, and no such thing as free treatment, though it would make my job much easier if there were. So if you don’t think you can afford to pay for private healthcare for a dog, then you need to think twice about getting one in the first place.

The cockerpoo owners of 2020 want supervet standards for a bargain price, and meeting those expectations is a near-impossible, emotionally exhausting task, such that many disillusioned vets are calling it a day on their careers after just a few years. As a result of the high dropout rate, the profession has arrived at a situation where many vet practices are chronically understaffed. The drivers are complex, but tragically the suicide rate amongst vets is a shocking four times the national average.

Veterinary fees are expensive, and are likely to keep on rising. But let’s be clear; your average vet is not motivated to do their job for money. They do it, because they love animals – the same reason they dreamt of a career fixing poorly pets when they were bandaging teddies aged nine. Sadly, it transpires that money makes being a vet a very tough job for an animal lover.

An extract from this piece was included in The Spectator this week as a letter, responding to Rachel Johnson’s article.

67 thoughts on “No doggy NHS – a response to vet-bashing

    1. I’m sorry but this doesn’t address the fact that vets charge around 10 times the price for medicines than they are available from online pharmacies.

      Vet care is great… but they absolutely rip people off with the drugs.

      I use aimed and tell everyone to do the same. Its despicable

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      1. Because there’s a lot more to it than that. These online pharmacies can buy in bulk and mostly short dated and have space to hold more stock. Vets usually have very small areas to have a mountain to different drugs and all will just be thrown out as soon as they reach their use by date which is very short for a lot of drugs.
        The mark up they can put on drugs will usually cover other things like receptionist admin time when she’s booking your next appointment, the nurses time when she’s making up your drugs, the label printed with the instructions on it, the disinfectant and paper towel used after you’ve left, all of which doesn’t happen when you’ve ordered it online.

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      2. Ben, like many other online businesses, online pharmacies buy in bulk, are able to get very good discounts from wholesalers (relatively often cost price of a drug at a veterinary practice is same or even more than the amount is sold for online), and have very little overheads. Part of the cost of a drug from your vets is 20% VAT, a dispensing/prescribing fee and a mark up (this will vary between practices and covers the building, storage, member of staff who hands out the medication and gives you advice on how to give it, what side effects to watch for, etcetera, etcetera…). The veterinary practice is a business that needs an income to keep providing a good quality service, and will make some money from medication sales.
        You can always buy medications from online pharmacies if you prefer, and it does sometimes makes sense for long term medications, just ask your vets for a prescription!
        But don’t blame them for the price of the medications please…!

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      3. I think you missed the whole point of the article… They have to mark up the drugs to help cover the costs listed. Or would you like them to break the bill down into electricity usage, cotton swabs, sterilising fluids, PPE, board memberships, equipment etc. Because that’s what the price of drugs is covering.

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      4. If you read the above article you would have seen that the fees (includung medicines) include all veterinary overheads needed to run a practice and provide a service for your pet.

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      5. That’s not true. The stuff YOU buy on line IS NOT GUARANTEED BY THE Manufacturer and could have all kinds of stuff in it from “your better purchase” on line. Be careful
        Your vets office vendors are getting their meds from the protected , tested site

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      6. Online pharmacies can bulk order direct from drug manufacturers , thus giving them greater discounts , said online pharmacies do not have the amount of overheads a small veterinary practice has either . Working in veterinary medicine we always advise clients that on occasion certain drugs may be cheaper online but you will still need your written prescription and your postage and packing fees to consider.. in the main however most medications that are prescription only often do not work out cheaper buying from an online pharmacy. . Maybe you should price up the cost of medication you would need if you had an ongoing illness and you had to pay for your medication. We live in a very blinkered society where by the general public have little or no idea how much you would be paying if we had no NHS but for certain you would be paying a minimum £120 just to see the gp !!!

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      7. It does explain the costs, the problem is people have very little experience in the real costs of the NHS because you never receive the bill for your treatment. If you did, you’d never call an ambulance out.

        The problem is people not appreciating how qualified Vets and Vet nurses are expected to be, for a fraction of the cost – if anything they should be paid more than they are. No practice should have to fully explain the ins and outs of how they run their business and how much it all costs – it’s Private Healthcare at the end of the day.

        Look at it this way, if you can’t afford the surgery then you should get good insurance. If you can’t afford the insurance, you can’t afford the pet.

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      8. Everything is cheaper online. There are overhead costs for physical businesses that online businesses don’t have. Stop vet bashing. You have no idea what you are talking about. When I was an ICU nurse, the average cost to support a patient was around £2000 per day – and that’s without surgical intervention. There is a high suicide rate in the veterinary profession. Reviews like ‘despicable’ don’t help matters, to say the least. Please show more respect for professionals who put in a 60 hour week.

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      9. Online pharmacies have their place, but they have very few of the costs a veterinary practice has and they have huge buying power for short-dated stock and probably a lot more storage capability. They don’t need to accommodate the operating theatre, the consult room, the lab and the prep; they don’t have to pay the mediocre wages of the vet, the nurse or the support staff. It won’t be the online pharmacy who fixes Fido out of hours, let’s just hope that by the time you need your vet, they are still there to be able to help you.

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  1. Este impresionant
    O lectie pentru toti cei ce au alaturi un animal
    Pup tata
    Ps
    Am in vizita pe Laur unde am citit comentariul

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  2. My equine vets are fantastic, not only do they treat my four legged friends they are also there to offer me reassurance by text & phone when I have a worrisome meltdown yes animal vets are expensive, but training is long and costly. I think they’re worth every penny, but then I also have insurance.

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  3. Excellent write up and puts a perspective on the work carried out by these professionals.
    Of course it is not cheap to treat your animal, that is why most people take out pet insurance and for me if you can’t afford to pay the insurance premiums then you can’t afford the animal.

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    1. Unless like me you find a tiny puppy no-one will insure when complex illnesses only appear after I had fully committed to her lifetime care….she’s cost a not-very-small fortune, all paid for with sacrifices I chose to make for her welfare.

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  4. Thanks for writing this article. I run a small animal practice and am always amazed when people complain about a £37 consult fee having spent £3k on a mongrel!

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    1. I’ve struggled to find a consultation fee priced less than £35 each for my guinea pigs. The highest was £49! As much as I truly agree with the article (and see your point), I do find those prices pretty steep – particularly considering the lack of good insurance providers for guinea pigs, and that I only spent £20 each on them in the first place. Dental treatment (clipping or filing teeth, which can literally be done within a few minutes) has been quoted at over £250 per guinea pig, too.

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      1. £35 is cheap. Vet training is longer than doctor training, and I challenge you to find a private doctor consult for under 35 quid.

        Get your head around ‘smaller does not mean cheaper’ and you’ll be part way there. And if all this is a huge surprise then maybe something you could have looked at BEFORE buying the animals…

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      2. Guinea pigs etc were always seen as children’s pets, and discounted treatment costs was the norm in the past, particularly as many vets didn’t necessarily know much in detail about various conditions and treatment.
        However, times have changed. Knowledge, and the ability to offer successful treatments, has increased dramatically in recent years. There is also an increasing realisation that a consultation takes just as long for a guinea pig as a dog (often longer in fact as drug doses have to be calculated VERY carefully and dispensing can be very time consuming) so, as time is valuable, why should a consultation fee be less for one than the other? Many rescued cats and dogs cost very little too, should their treatment be dirt cheap and offset by sky-high pricing for pedigrees (and named crossbreeds like Cockapoos)?
        And don’t forget that £35 is actually a charge of a little over £29 – nearly £6 is VAT that has to be sent to the Government (via HMRC), it makes no contribution to practice finances or profit whatsoever.

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  5. Thank you for writing this. As a 16 year graduated vet you have put eloquently what I think and feel and try to explain on a daily basis.

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  6. I work for a well known corporate owned practice. Delve a little deeper and you will find it is owned by Scandinavian venture capitalists. Long gone are the days when only vets could own a vet practice and set prices. Get off my back folks.

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  7. As a mother of a vet nurse and mother in law to a vet I can only say well done to the author of this article! To all the pet owners out there, I have 1 word…..Insurance! It’s a small price to pay for piece of mind for you and your pet! If you can’t afford the insurance you can’t afford the pet!!

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    1. Insurance is a good thing, but unfortunately premiums go up and up and up. Also please bear in mind people’s circumstances change too, they may not be able to continue affording the insurance premiums. Then there is also the excess, approx £50-100. Then you have to pay upfront and then get your costs back, also the Vet charges now to sign the forms £25 approx. I took your remark personally, we did have insurance, but then could not afford the increases year after year, then there was the fact that if a claim was not needed, the premium still increased. If our wonderful dog is unwell including our cats too, we go without to make sure they are looked after. RSPCA do not help if you are an OAP but are not on benefits. Also when a vet charges £4 for 2 paracetamol tabs – that needs thinking about.

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  8. Brilliant article.
    I am not a vet, but I have unfortunately received a lot of medical treatment from the NHS. I am aware of how much this costs, so taking my cat to the vet and paying whatever I need to is absolutely fine by me, as it would be a hell of a lot more for me. If you can’t afford vets bills, why have you even got an animal in the first place? Cats in particular need their yearly shots, and then flea and worming treatment on top of that as a standard. Anything else is an added cost, but I would pay that for my own health in a heartbeat, so why do we not treat our furry friends in the same way? If I had too, I would put my cat first, because she is my responsibility.

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  9. Well said! As an owner and breeder I consider I get excellent value from my vet. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and an appointment in hours or out of hours with just one phone call! I can’t say the same for seeing my own GP on the NHS! The demand for puppies since the lockdown is totally ‘off the scale’, ridiculous prices charged for puppies without parental health tests performed and more cross breeds with stupid names at extortionate prices, but owners still complain about vets charges, it makes my blood boil.

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  10. I dont think its vets which are greedy but when you have been part of a privately owned practice who by and large were reasonable in their fees and associated account charges and who knew their patients (both human and equine by name) who then are taken over by a larger veterinary business and prices double if not more over night for what is actually a lesser service (eg no continuity of care – I receive a different vet every visit regardless of what I request, no vaccination reminders (incredibly helpful when you have more than one horse) and charges for referrals to the local equine hospital even though they are owned by the same company – thats what smarts. I have no issue paying for good care via good insurance(thanks to insurance my vets bills have been in excess of 50k in the last 10 years 🙈) but I have felt utterly let down by both my usual practice and my referral practice in the last year due to the changes in their working practices and ownership

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  11. Something that hasn’t been mentioned in the article is that veterinary fees are subject to VAT, whereas human healthcare is not, making the price differences between veterinary fees and private human healthcare even more dramatic. Instantly, thanks to the VAT, pet owners pay 20% more than the practice actually charged them.
    In the case of Ms Johnson’s dog’s treatment, if the total bill was £2,500 the practice would actually have charged £2,083.33. The balance of £416.67 is just tax and the practice doesn’t benefit from this at all (apart from short-term cash flow), it has to be sent to the Treasury via HMRC along with all the other taxes like Business Rates, Employer’s National Insurance (13.8%), PAYE and NI deducted from their employees’ pay and, of course, tax and NI on the rather meagre profits that the practice actually manages to generate.
    So, along with all the other areas that practices have to master these days like Health and Safety, Employment Law, marketing and social media, etc etc, they also act as unpaid tax collectors and contribute a not insignificant amount to the Treasury each year.

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  12. Hear hear. Well done this should have been written years ago.
    When I was young it was a privilege to have a dog and a hard thought out decision by my parents if they could afford it for it’s full life.
    Now people seem to get the at a drop of a hat and never think of the consequences.
    Vets are , in my option, a profession that is underrated and should be ranked higher in status and pay.
    Thank you for writing this piece

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  13. I look after cat welfare at a cat rehoming charity, we rely so much on our local vets and I cannot thank them enough for everything they do for our animals. They understand our struggle to get funds and try and work out ways to help, this applies to the vets, nurses and reception staff trying to juggle appointments around emergencies. The other side of things for us is the end result of people not thinking it through or not caring when getting a pet and expecting the charities to stump up thousands of pounds for treatments their pets need. Even routine stuff like vaccinations they expect us to pay for, every single day I get these calls as do all the other animal charities and suffer abuse when we can’t help through lack of funds. Vets and practice staff are humans doing their best for animals and should not have to justify themselves to anyone, least of all Rachel Johnson!

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  14. We are ‘new puppy’ owners after
    a LONG time of thinking and planning. Lots of reasons why we didn’t do it earlier, but planning for a lifetime costs / care was part of it. We looked at how our life would change, how we take holidays, days out, meals out!

    We have taken out quite comprehensive, lifetime cover, insurance so hopefully if we have the misfortune of having a poorly animal we won’t be hit with a massive bill. Costs may seem high but when you look at the care and expense of looking after a poorly animal you realise it’s not a lot of profit going into pockets. I’m just glad that some people are there to help those poorly / sick animals.
    Its our responsibility as a pet owner to ensure that our animals are fully cared for an d that includes being able to pay for any care needed.

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  15. The referral vets, where my dog spent a lot of time, were absolutely amazing.
    As well as the expertise they were compassionate and caring towards my dog and me.
    Communication was brilliant, they ring you (have you ever heard of the NHS doing that?).
    Of course it’s expensive, with highly qualified vets and nurses and facilities such as CT and MRI scanning it costs a fortune to run. If you have a pet you should think of these things first and take out insurance.
    Don’t blame your vet, their job is stressful enough and they are doing everything they can for your pet.

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  16. Well said i am a hater of cross breeds being sold for a over inflated price and the fact that there has been a large increase of discarded female spaniels just to clarifie this a cocker poo is a cross bread nothing else

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    1. Simon I so agree with you . Years ago when they first surfaced I worked at a residential dog Kennels . And when we had one dropped of daily (as owner worked ) out of her Brand new BMW we always used to say to each other..” wonder how much they paid for that “mongrel” cause that’s what a cross breed is …….

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  17. We always have rescue dogs rather than a puppy. The think is you never know the history especially as most of them are strays. So it can be very expensive at the vets. Also with older dogs the insurance is very expensive so we just put money aside each month for the vet bills. Our vets are brilliant , thank you Cedarvets

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  18. Very well written.
    I have had pets from hamsters up to horses for as long as I can remember, and a self harming dog who did things like cut open her own artery on an Easter Sunday one year. Vets fees are worth every penny. But my one complaint is the extortionate fees that out of hours vets charge; a couple of hundred just to get an appointment, when 20 minutes earlier it would have been £30.

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    1. There has to be a cut off somewhere though – you can’t expect a vet to get out of their bed at 1am and it cost the same. If you need to be seen at exactly that point, by definition it is an emergency and may delay that vet tucking their kids in that evening – what price would you put on that? What would you pay a plumber/lawyer out of hours for an emergency? Also a lot of the businesses are out of hours only – in which case they have to charge all costs to that procedure/appointment instead of spreading all their costs over vaccinations etc, (so for example rent, equipment costs will need to be spread over maybe 10 emergencies in one night compared to 100 patients seen during the day) and they have to pay staff to be ready and waiting. Out of hours is a whole different ball game as a business and as an individual working.

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  19. A well written article … and fairly objective.
    You mention that everyone wants “supervet standards for a bargain price” – I think it would help if the supervet programme actually told the viewers how much the treatment cost.

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  20. My rescue cat has just had a visit to the vet £441. X-rays, bloods, anaesthetic, 2 teeth removed, other teeth cleaned, post op care, two different antibiotics. I wonder how much this would cost at a human private dentist, it’s money well spent as far as I am concerned. If I wasn’t prepared to pay then I would not have my three rescue pets.

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  21. Well written and explains a lot…people tend to forget that vets don’t have the backing of the NHS like GP’s do, and they have expensive equipment to putchase, wages to pay, buildings to buy / rent, electricity and water bills, etc etc.
    I have 4 dogs and 3 cats and all but one of them are insured, and tge only reason Moses isn’t is cos he is elderly and has a raft of health issues so couldn’t get cover for him wherever we tried.
    I would starve before leaving any of them in pain

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  22. Absolutely agree that insurance is key and that you agree to take on the wellbeing of the animal, however the inflation on drugs for animals vs. humans is extortionate. Having worked both sides of this, the same drug for animals is massively inflated, causing the spike in insurance premiums and therefore the lack of insurance which leads to the complaints and the sad cases of unaffordability. Standardisation would be a welcome benefit and a proper explanation of why a drug is so expensive, especially compared to the exact same drug (down to the P number) for humans IAW the BNF…..

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    1. The market for veterinary drugs is far, far smaller than for human pharmaceuticals. The drug in question still has to go through the regulatory process involving safety, efficacy and clinical trials (admittedly it’s not as extensive as human trials but it’s still a very expensive process), and these costs have to be spread over far fewer sales. Drug companies aren’t charities, if they make no profit on veterinary products they simply won’t continue to develop them.
      Incidentally vets, at least in the UK, are not allowed to prescribe (cheap) human generics unless there is no veterinary licensed equivalent.

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      1. And don’t forget the 20% VAT on veterinary drugs and other products, as well as fees. There is no VAT on human medicines in the UK. So even if vets were able to sell the human licensed equivalents, and buy them at the same price as the massively discounted ones that the NHS is able to negotiate, they would still automatically cost 20% more at the point of sale. And that’s not allowing for the fact that a veterinary practice has to make a profit just to survive, let alone grow and prosper, whereas the NHS is a nonprofit organisation. For now, at least!

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  23. Well reasoned, thoughtful and informative article.
    I have always believed that whenever we use the NHS we should be presented with an invoice setting out the actual cost of our treatment, consultation or ambulance journey, with the total at the foot of the invoice, and the final line being “Payment due: £0.00”
    Or as in the well known Harlan Howard song “No charge”. After all “the full cost of real love is no charge.”
    When we don’t know the price of anything how can we begin to appreciate its value? Owning a pet reminds me of the amazing value we get from the NHS, so whenever my pet needs treatment I pay my bills with thanks and gratitude. Keep up the great work!

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  24. yes! I can understand what some people are saying when they receive the bill for their animals treatment at the vets. I have thought likewise in times gone by. However my children have grown and they have begot children of their own. They over time have now grown into adulthood and settled on their individual working plans. One decided to go for a seven year plan which would qualify her to ultimately receive her cap and gown.
    The trouble with that great idea is the mounting cost year by year to qualify. Fortunately, within the family help has been at hand with the financial support needed. A government grant pays about half of the fees. Needless to say that brains are not restricted to the the well heeled
    making such a vocational journey financially impossible. Even so, many students at uni not only slog it out mentally over the term but in the hols as well in between the temporary paid jobs they have to find.. Students have to pay for travelling and living accommodation plus food.. When qualified, the set up cost for business premises and expensive equipment is mind boggling. And … yes not to forget VAT, liability insurance and salary’s plus medication and much more. With the inside knowledge that I now have, these high costs people complain about have to be justifiable.

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  25. I think most animal lovers appreciate their vets .. but lets be clear a lot of Vets are employees of large companies and not responsible for the charges .. they are set by the company … and often then get blamed for the huge expense in the cost of drugs supplied … Unfortunately your statement of 24hrs care is often not the case … I have phoned round and cant find a surgery that offers that in my area … my own surgery leaves animals unattended overnight even after surgery … They are checked around 10pm and not again until early morning … this is a real worry and not all pet owners know this and assume someone is on site to care for their pets .. Also I have insurance for my pets but life cover wasnt available when I took out mine .. so have had exclusions applied for my dogs .. one has epilepsy and one has allergies .. my dog who has epilepsy is on Keppra the cost of that from my vet per month is around £500 .. buying on prescription from a chemist is around £300 a month ( buy from chemist due to it being a human drug ) .. but and heres the rub .. if I get a prescription for
    Levetiracetam which is the generic name for the drug it costs £57.00 a month and is still Keppra in the same box !!! So not just Vets but also the likes of Boots are also charging extortionate prices for the same drug in the same box just according to the name used on the prescription … you have to do so much research when buying drugs for your pets .. I only found out I was being charged £300 instead of £57.00 because we had a temp pharmacist who told us about it .. how can the same drug go from £500 month to £57.00 a month ? its a bloody joke .. poor old folk who dont use the internet will go without eating to care for their pets who are their only company because they cant research and just want to keep their companions safe and well .. its a bloody disgrace !!!

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  26. Can I just say in reply to my previous comment which I meant to add .. I dont blame Vets .. I blame drug companies .. if you can make a drug and sell it for £57.00 and make a profit why are you selling it for such an extortionate price under a trade name not only to us the public but to Vets also ?? you are ripping off the elderly and those on low incomes just because they love their dogs or cats or whatever pet it is that they have !! its a disgraceful and greedy way to behave .. you should be ashamed of yourselves !!

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    1. Hi Lindley when a drug is fairly new it is patented, and the drug company will sell it at a premium price in order to recoup the huge expenses involved in bringing it to market – research, development, clinical trials, data collection etc. Very few compounds that are initially developed actually make it to market as clinically proven medications. They also need to make a profit, in part to fund future research, but also in case 20 years down the line a serious side effect comes to light (you can’t prove something doesn’t cause cancer in just 5 years for example) and there’s a massive class action lawsuit down the line.
      Once the patent expires, other companies are free to produce their own versions, so called generics, and these are far, far cheaper as they do not have the R&D costs to recoup. The original product will usually drop in price significantly at this point, but will still tend to be more expensive because it has the well-known brand name. The NHS will tend to pressure GPs to prescribe generics if they are available, but it’s fair to say that most vets will be unaware of a generic being available if it is a drug that they do not prescribe very often, and simply don’t always have the time to research the various options either. This will certainly be the case with many human-licensed products – vets are obliged to prescribe veterinary-licensed products, and can only prescribe a ‘human’ one if there is no equivalent veterinary version, or if the veterinary product is ineffective for your pet and there is a better, human-only one available. They are not allowed to prescribe, for example, a human generic in place of a similar, or identical, veterinary licensed formulation on cost grounds alone, and could get into a whole lot of trouble with their governing professional body (the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) if a complaint was made to them or the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, a Government agency.

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    2. My wife is a veterinary nurse and gets people like you moaning at her on a daily basis that it’s a rip off and she’s robbing them blind. My wife is on 70p above minimum wage for a role she studied for two years for alongside a work placement. She works all hours of the day and night, and takes a lot of the grief home with her. She does not set the prices or see any of it. It’s an expensive business to run, and there are a lot of internal politics like any workplace. Blame the owners if you have grievances not the poor staff who would give it to you for free if they could!

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  27. Just read your 1st comment again, is it actually Keppra in the box when the prescription is for the generic? If so that’s weird, and hard to explain! Maybe Boots got a job lot of relatively short-dated branded Keppra dirt cheap and are able to sell it for the same price as the generic (but will use the recommended selling price if the prescription asks for Keppra)? Don’t know, sorry!

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  28. One thought – if it had been my practice where Ms. Johnson was the client I would, after her column was published, write to her and tell her in no uncertain terms that she was no longer welcome as a client at our establishment, citing an irrevocable breakdown of trust as any procedure we were to perform in future for her pets would very likely be splashed all over the pages of the national press with an unfairly negative slant. My hard working, loyal team simply should not have to deal with the added stress and anxiety that this brings, and would be unlikely to be able to perform to the best of their abilities when dealing with her pets in future.
    I am no longer a practice owner, for various reasons, but I have in the past ‘fired’ a handful of recalcitrant clients and received the gratitude of the team for doing so (as well as making my own life a lot easier!). We would always listen to complaints (there weren’t many, we had a fantastic team) and, if we felt that the client had a point we would try to make it right or change our procedures. But some people just like to moan and are never satisfied, no matter what you do. So they had to go – life is simply too short to deal with this sort of cr*p.

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  29. Great article thank you! As a Veterinary Nurse, myself and my colleagues deal with having to “justify” our pricing to clients on an almost daily basis. Its really disheartening and demoralising when you know you are all working hard to do give the highest standard of care and often over and above what is even asked of you. I hope many people read this article and appreciate a little more what goes on behind the scenes.

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  30. I am a veterinary nurse in the US with 20 yrs experience. Although I am not familiar with veterinary law or practice standards in the UK there are a few common themes I can address from my experience in the US.
    1. Yes online pharmacies seem like a money saver and a convenience but in reality for some products they are not. The drug companies provide us with rebates and free product that goes straight to the client to prevent clinics from abusing these programs. For example: buy 6 months of flea treatment and get 2 months free, purchase 1 month of a brand name drug (usually a new one) and get 2-4 weeks free. If you do a price comparison you usually come out ahead by purchasing from your clinic. Also, depending on commerce laws it may have a different country of origin, you do not know what condtions the product was shipped and stored in?
    2. If there should happen to be a shortage of a human prescription drug ie. during the pandemic, that drug is funneled solely to humans. Shortages to veterinarians equals higher prices when it is available.
    3. Emergency/after hours clinics are a blessing if available. I worked as an ER nurse part-time for 8 years, in the evening (after working at my full-time job), weekends, holidays, etc. Yes, that was my choice. I loved it!!! I always felt I was making a difference in a time of crisis for an owner. But it didn’t always feel that way. Owners came in panicked, begging for help critical patients were immediately started on basic treatment. Owners, regardless of patient status, were given a written estimate for treatment which was explained in detail. If they wished to proceed they were informed it was a binding contract for payment and they were required to sign agreeing to that. We spent hours treating and tending to these sick and injured creatures only to be, refused payment, screamed at and berated at discharge because “We were only in it for the money!” Again YES I CHOSE TO BE THERE! Clients must understand the amount of education, knowledge and skill we have to work at such a practice. Not to mention amount of inventory and equipment required to be prepared for anything. The sleep and family time sacrificed to be there in someone’s time of need. This is why we do it.
    Now that I have rambled on so long I want you to know why I no longer work ER. The physically draining part of the job was easy to bounce back from. The psychological part was not. Wondering if you could have done more, sadness, grief, anger…it became part of me. I had a “mental breakdown” not realizing what was happening to me. I am better now and understand what happened to me and why and how to cope. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

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  31. Complete and utter nonsense. After the burning of fossil fuels for transportation (28%), power (27%), home and business heating (12%) and industrial use (22%, of which pet food production is a very, very small percentage), it is agriculture in general which produces around 10% of greenhouse gases, not pets. Again, the vast majority of agricultural production is aimed at feeding people, and pet food production is a tiny proportion of this. Comments are checked before posting – there really should be some basic fact checking done, Admin.
    As for whether we should be keeping animals at all, that is a whole different debate and a very emotive subject. Whether you are happy to eat meat, vegetarian or a strict vegan, I see nothing wrong in a mutually beneficial relationship such as families and their pets. My 2 cats are free to roam yet base themselves here, so I do not believe that my ‘chattel slaves’ suffer all that greatly. Many pets are owned by young couples who can’t yet afford a child, and older people who are ’empty nesters’ – should we deny these people the opportunity to love a substitute? For families with children of various ages a pet helps to teach them valuable life lessons such as caring and consideration for others, behavioural limitations, ageing and death. OK I have issues with the ongoing production of some popular breeds, particularly the brachycephalics, as well as some inherited conditions that we have struggled to eliminate, but in general pets do not suffer in the way you claim.
    As for vets being narcissists with a God complex, it’s grossly unfair to tarnish all the hard-working, dedicated vets out there with this baseless accusation (orthopaedic surgeons excepted!). Sure, there’s a tremendous sense of satisfaction from saving someone’s beloved companion, especially if the owners are grateful, but any job can give tremendous satisfaction when something is done well. Should the entire world population only ever work in a job that they hate? Last time I checked this wasn’t North Korea. With the amount of cr*p vets have to deal with on a daily basis if you genuinely believe your hateful accusation and think that this is why young people want to put themselves through so much stress, hard work (and not to mention practically 6-figure student debt) then you are seriously deluded. And delusional, judging by the rest of your comment. Maybe ‘baseless rant’ would be a better description.

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  32. This is a good, well written article about a subject which needs much more public awareness. I write for an online weekly magazine The Shaw Sheet and have twice written on this subject in the last 4 years. (Vets are not ‘Raking it in’ and Vets love Pets). Perhaps the answer is better PR for the profession as a whole?

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  33. Well said Sue!!! If anyone has watched programes like emergency care abroad, and seen humans who havn’t taken out insurance, and the shock when they are faced with the bill, then maybe people can understand that any healthcare , be it human or for animals does not come cheap. We are so spoilt by the NHS free healthcare at the point of delivery, that we are unaware of the true cost. So people who are able to afford private care would have a better understanding, you would think of how veterinary fees work, and those who don’t should hold judgement on an area that unless they are a vet themselves can never fully grasp, as they have never been in those shoes!!!

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  34. As a veterinary nurse of 20yrs I adore your reply.
    From the age of 5yr all I have ever wanted to do is help any animal I can and so have some of my surgeon colleagues who are my closest friends. Sooo many nights I have hand reared babies or even taken a lonely cat/dog home for cuddles if there owner couldn’t visit!! It really does hurt to see how we are thought of as a profession to some people xx

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  35. A well-written, honest and refreshingly candid article. To those whom the piece is aimed at I offer a (potentially helpful) analogy…If a pub landlord, working slavishly under the strain of a full repairing lease / tenancy at your neighbourhood ‘local’ offers you a freshly poured pint of your favourite tipple for £5.95 would you pay it? Would you complain to the bar staff working 12 hour shifts for peanuts about how that’s a conspiracy too? (You probably do…poor sods!) Ask the landlord about the profit margin if you’re actually interested. Can you understand that there are forces at work behind the scenes – perhaps even at the brewery that pub is owned by – which dictate which beers and ciders can be sold and for how much? Just for him / her to stock the bar, have the lights on and the site insured costs a packet, long before you give staff any hours, hire a decent chef or turn the fryers on. Of course you can go and buy tinnies of the generic from the supermarket for 80p apiece but it’s not going to help support the local business community much. The self scanner won’t care about how your day went. You might even find unrecognizable brands from the Eastern EU for 55p a tin but you won’t likely be able to read the ingredients and allergens lists……you get the idea.

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