Veterinarians Who Do Not Get Paid

Veterinarian doctor and spaniel puppy

This article could be titled Vets Turning Away Patients Who Can’t Pay Upfront. Or, perhaps, a better title would be Vets Use Tough Methods To Ensure Payment. This appears to be a US discussion. I live in the UK and the vets I have used have always expected payment on completion. There is never any hint of asking for payment upfront. Is payment upfront unheard of in the UK?

Veterinarians sometimes feel that they have to protect their business by insisting that payment or part payment is made upfront. On other occasions vets will retain your cat or dog after treating her if payment is not made on completion of the treatment as a means of forcing payment. That is a tough approach. I am not sure it is enforceable unless the veterinarian provided the customer with a contract that stated their animal could be retained. Technically, it is called a “lien”.

Some vets might also call Animal Control if the cat or dog’ s owner does not collect their companion animal after treatment because they cannot afford to pay for the treatment. Yes, some pet owners do this, unbelievably. You can see how difficult it can be for a vet on occasions. We know that some people (rarely, hopefully) ask their vet to euthanize their healthy companion animal or they relinquish their animal to their vet.

I have a feeling that sometimes there is a clash between unscrupulous customers who do not want to pay promptly and properly after treatment and hope to get away with it by simply not paying after treatment and then relying on the fact that the veterinarian will be forced, out of a moral duty, to hand over their animal. The customer will move on to another vet if treatment is required again. It is like a hotel guest not paying and walking out. What can the business owner do?

On the other side of the coin, the veterinarian is working in a competitive environment and if he is recently qualified he will have acquired lots of debt incurred to fund his training (it costs more and more to train). The debt puts pressure on the veterinarian to protect his financial interests and to make sure that he can pay his overheads. Also the veterinary market place in the USA has become more competitive recently, apparently. My impression is that there are more vets chasing not enough work.

As far as I’m aware, there is quite a low uptake in pet insurance and therefore insurance does not provide a solution to many of these payment problems.

In addition to unscrupulous customers who have no intention of paying and who may even leave their cat or dog behind if the amount charged is too high due to unforeseen complications, there are customers who are on tight budgets and you don’t really have the financial means to pay for a veterinarian’s service.

I get the feeling that quite a lot of people who keep companion animals are on modest incomes and don’t have much in the way of savings. They have to rely on a veterinarian who himself may be under financial pressure. There you have a potential problem because on one side there is a person wishing to save as much money as possible and on the other side there is a person who wishes to make as much money as possible and both interests are understandable.

What are your experiences with veterinarians and payment?

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Veterinarians Who Do Not Get Paid — 18 Comments

  1. I misunderstood. When I hooked up with this article, whether it be from keywords via Google, or, from the header in my gmail, I expected that you were referring to veterinarians who do not get paid, nor expect pay, for their services; strictly from their moral standing.

    wow! was I http://www.rong.

    • I think you were wrong! Perhaps the title is incorrect but I did present other possible variations to the title very early on in the article. What I am referring to is vets who do the work and are not paid by their customers.

  2. I’ve never known a vet who would refuse to treat an animal unless the client paid upfront.
    When working for the second vets practice I had to see to the accounts too and we had a book called ‘surgery accounts’ for people who couldn’t pay at the time of treatment. They had an account sent out then three reminders and then it went off to the bad debt collector, sometimes that worked, mostly it didn’t because the client had no intention all along of paying. So I can see it from the vet’s point of view but to the vets I worked for, refusing to treat an animal would be too upsetting so they took the risk.
    A few months back a neighbour’s dog attacked another of his dogs on a Friday evening and the vet on duty here gave the dog pain killer and told him to take him to the PDSA to be stitched up because treatment is free there. He took him on the Saturday but the stitching wasn’t done until the Monday ….the dog had to be PTS a fortnight later as the wounds would never have healed, I won’t describe the state of them 🙁 If he had been stitched up that Friday evening he would be healed and alive.
    Just a very sad example of money coming first these days, yet as I said, I can see it from both sides as this man is the sort who would never had paid his account even though he has a car, sky tv and the rest……

    • the vets I worked for, refusing to treat an animal would be too upsetting so they took the risk.

      This is what I thought you would say, Ruth, about vets. It’s my experience to. Nearly all the veterinarians in the UK would rather treat the animal and take the risk of not being paid rather than use tough tactics to ensure that they are paid.

      I would expect, too, that the vast majority of veterinarians in America would do the same thing. It is just that some apparently don’t.

    • Ruth, my veterinarian does let many of her clients make payments so that needed treatment is received. I am one of those clients. It helps immensely, and I don’t have to worry, nor neglect the needed immediate attention. If she didn’t allow me this, knowing the anxiety that I have, it would be horrific, I think.

  3. I’m extremely fortunate these days to have 2 vets who will give me a week to come up with the money after treatment. That wasn’t the case in 2011 when Cocoa needed emergency care after I picked him up from the shelter. I used a vet from my hometown. Bill was $430 and I had to pay it the day of service. And people got upset for me doing chipins. I literally had 30 minutes to raise the amount which was followed by a $300 visit a few weeks later. I did it though. Then along came Sealy with $1600+ in vet bills and again I was critisized for raising the money.

    • Elisa, this is what I would expect from American veterinarians and I have a pretty strong feeling that the vast majority of American veterinarians are pretty gentle with their clients about payments but clearly some are under financial pressure and some have been scammed by nonpaying customers so they take tough steps to ensure payment.

  4. In spite of the fact that most vet clinics in my area have signs posted that payment is expected upon receipt of service, they accept payment plans.
    I’m not sure how legally binding it is, but there is a contract drawn up that details how much and at what intervals payments are to be made.
    I think most people will comply to the best of their ability. But, ofcoursse, there are those who just “stiff” the vet and move on to another next time around.

  5. There are some if over here if your account is very high they will ask for part payment. Esp if previously you havent paid well. I know alot of times though they are usually good. Im able to pay my account off though their bank account which makes things abit easier.

  6. Michael, as always, I appreciate everything that you and others do here on PoC!

    I was just chopping some shallots for a dish that I’m making, and took a needed break. So that I was not neglecting my cats, who do not usually come out to the kitchen looking for food, as that is the first thing I do before spending my time in the kitchen.

    I reeked of shallots, een though I had washed my hands. At least to them it reeked, their olfactory sensory. Mine’s pretty keen, but not THAT keen. 😉

    My point being, those things that THY SHALL NOT EAT!, are those things that they are pretty much sensitive to through the olfactory system. thank goodness.

    I forgot actually what I was going to say b/c I need to head out to the kitchen. Anyway, i thought that this was interesting. Shrimpster would not tolerate my hand against his freckled mouth! 🙂

  7. Nah, your not as im sure most of us agree we forget what we doing. i for one can get stuck on one thing and completely forget what i was doing. esp if i was watching t.v then get side tracked when someone rings up or im doing things. i can do a few things at once but when i get frustrated or people want some thing out of me i get confused.

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