By Elisa Black-Taylor
This is likely to turn into a very controversial article on which veterinarian is better for your cat. During my many decades of dealing with different vets, I’ve found most fall into one of two categories. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, influenced by everything from being proactive for your cat to being proactive about your hard earned dollars.
THE VETERINARIAN WHO DOES EVERYTHING
The veterinarian who does everything. This is easiest to describe based on Sealys very expensive care as he healed from a car fan blade accident. This is how a typical visit goes when you take in a sick or injured cat.
First, Sealy was escorted into a hallway by a vet technician where his carrier was placed on a scale to get his weight. Then he was placed into an examination room and removed from his carrier, which was taken out and weighed to determine what Sealy weighed. The vet tech then placed a stool checking stick into him and the stool was sent to the next room to be tested. This puts the bill at $26 right off the bat.
Next Sealy had his temperature taken (double rectal violation, as Furby would put it). After this the vet comes into the room and does a very complete exam. He orders blood work to test for possible problems. A sterile urine specimen is also taken. Another $50+ for each test done. I want to add this exam included a hand exam as well as checking Sealy over using a stethoscope. His ears were also thoroughly examined and he was found to have a yeast infection. Add another $25 for ear yeast infection medication to take home with us. Sealy had a temperature and was given an antibiotic injection as well as a bottle of Clavamox. Add another $50 for the two antibiotics.
Sealy was also determined to be a bit dehydrated, so add another $32 for sub-Q fluids given while in the exam room. Chances are Sealy would need to receive the fluids for the next few days with numerous vet visits. I explained to the vet that Laura and I both know how to administer these at home, and Sealy’s vet agreed this was fine and sold us the bag of fluid as well as the tubing and needles used to administer. Add another $35(much cheaper than returning to the vet for multiple treatments).
On top of all of this, there’s a $40 exam charge. Grand total for the first visit was almost $300. Diagnosis given was Sealy had an internal infection from the car fan blade injury as well as a yeast infection in his left ear canal.
THE VET WHO DOES EVERYTHING CHEAPER
This is the vet who has decades of experience and bases a lot of his diagnosis on his experience. He checks weight, temperature and does a basic exam. The charge for this is around $30. There are no blood tests, urinalysis or worm checks unless requested or his vet experience tells him more tests are needed. An injection to jump start the antibiotic may or may not be given, depending on whether the cat companion wants to pay the extra expense. A basic visit will usually run under $75, including medication sent home with the cat. This vet expects you to trust his judgment based on decades of hands-on experience.
A VET’S DILEMMA
Veterinarians are facing the predicament a lot of doctors face. If a misdiagnosis is given, the cat companion may turn the vet into the AVMA or begin legal action based on any negative effects(including death) the cat may face as a result. Without running necessary veterinary tests, a vet can easily be proven negligent should a case go to trial.
I read in an issue of Reader’s Digest that one of the top pet peeves of a vet is a pet owner’s unwillingness to allow tests a vet believe critical in the care of their cat. This is usually a monetary issue. Still, it needs addressing because a veterinarian may not be able to offer satisfactory care until he learns what is ailing the sick or injured kitty. Even with decades of experience, there are numerous conditions a cat can hide that only blood work or a urinalysis can confirm.
Sealy’s vet also has a disclaimer that must be signed before surgery should a cat owner deny blood work being done before surgery. Especially on older cats where an unknown geriatric condition could affect the cat during or after an operation. I had to sign this before the first surgery. Sealy didn’t have to have a repeat of his blood work as he’d had it done the week before.
WHICH VET IS BETTER?
Well, that’s a really tough question to answer. It’s not only based on money, but on how far a cat companion is willing to go to treat a medical condition. Unfortunately, cost may also play a role in whether a cat companion will return to either of these vets in the future. No one wants unnecessary medical tests run. Who determines what’s necessary? And no one want’s a $300+ vet bill for something simple and easily treated.
This is a very difficult decision to make when you have a sick cat. It’s made more difficult when you have a cat with a serious medical condition. What if you make the wrong decision on which vet is best? Your cat could die! If you spent a fortune on your last visit, it may influence your decision to return to that vet. Even if the more expensive vet is the one better suited in a life or death situation.
The same holds true for the less expensive vet. What if this vet misses an important diagnosis because of the unwillingness to do the tests needed to accurately determine what’s wrong with your cat. This may be caused by true lack of compassion for your cat, or he could be trying to save you money.
Regardless of which vet you’d choose, learn to speak up! You have to be proactive for your cat. Your cat may exhibit symptoms to help the vet out, but otherwise YOU are the voice for your cat!
IT’S ALL BASED ON TRUST
A veterinary relationship between a cat companion and a veterinary clinic is based largely on trust. This also brings into play past experience with the clinic. Was the staff friendly? Was your cat cared for as the unique individual your cat is? These are only two of the questions you should ask yourself.
I have used several veterinarians over the past few decades, and most fall into one of the two categories I’ve described. There is a happy medium with either that’s determined by how well my vets understand me as well as my cats. Each case is different. Some tests can be forfeited and readdressed at the check up that occurs a week after the initial visit should the cat not show marked improvement.
I learned quickly to speak up and tell my vet we have the B-12 injections at home that we can administer ourselves and save the injection fee of $25 each. An entire bottle can be purchased at farm and garden stores or ordered online without a prescription. I do ask for the suggested dosage and how often injections are needed. The same holds true with administering sub-Q fluids.
Don’t be afraid to speak up about any concerns you may have about treatment. If done correctly, you’ll earn the respect of your veterinarian.
GREAT VETS DO CALL BACKS
Great vets will call you a day or two after the visit to ensure the treatment is working. This shows a respect for your cat as well as respect for the person in charge of care. It also shows a very organized veterinary clinic. When you consider the cost of a visit, we should all expect a phone call a day or two later-it’s common courtesy. It’s also a great time to discuss any problems you may have, from giving medication to worsening of symptoms. I would imagine a lot of cats owe their lives to a vet who called to check on them, then insisted on a return visit before the follow up is due. Sometimes we may take for granted a symptom the vet needs to know about. Even if the return call is made by a vet tech, many of these wonderful people are as knowledgeable as the person in charge of care. Don’t be afraid to bend the ear of a vet tech while you’ve got her on the phone.
MY PERSONAL VET EXPERIENCES
I’ve had both types of vets for care of my cats ever since I began caring for cats in 1982. Sealy and Cocoa had some very expensive care while they were recovering from their respective infections. I’m glad they had a lot of tests performed, although I almost passed out at some of the totals for their treatment. There’s nothing like seeing all the cell counts and protein counts and all the other counts that only a sophisticated test can diagnose. Sometimes the cat couldn’t be saved, but at least we had the best of care available.
I have a cheaper vet for routine care and small problems. Our deaf cat Annabelle had a very strange accident involving a kitchen drawer. Annabelle got her claw hung in a drawer roller, and we were afraid she had broken her paw. Her story is at Deaf cat Annabelle has an accident. Please read this article, as it tells about an unexpected injury that can happen under the kitchen cabinet.
I took Annabelle to the less expensive vet clinic I use. No x-rays were taken because this vet assured me her leg wasn’t broken. He’s been a vet for over 50 year, so I trusted him on this matter. Annabelle was given medication for inflammation and pain, with a follow up visit for three days later. Her bill for everything came to $120. I consider this reasonable considering the injury. Her vet was correct and her paw was only sprained
If I’d taken her to Sealys vet, she would have been put through the worm check, temperature check, blood work and x-rays. Not to mention the cost of medication and the higher vet exam on top of that. Annabelle didn’t need all of that and was back to her usual self within three days. I took her home with three pain injections to give her should she need them.
I’m on good terms with the clinic I used for Annabelle. All routine vet care is done by them. This is the same vet who did the neuterings in the story Furby wrote for PoC. It’s at Our Broken Cats Got Fixed By Furby.
I’m also on excellent terms with Sealys vet. I’ve learned to speak up to save a few dollars, or poor Sealy would have had a worm check every WEEK for 5 months while he was under active treatment.
I hope this helps you in deciding which care is best for your cat. I always get a written record on any cat I take to either on my vets. That way, if care ever overlaps with two clinics seeing the same cat over the course of several years, the attending vet has a record of what’s been done at the other clinic.
This may sound like I’m being disloyal to a vet, but with time off and emergency clinic hours being covered by a system of vets, most vets are accustomed to more than one vet seeing a cat during it’s lifetime.
Your comments are welcome.