Being a pet parent can be hugely rewarding, but if your furry friend becomes ill or requires regular medication, vet bills can hit your wallet hard, as our guest, community member Linda Nicholls explains…
There has been a lot of publicity lately advocating the owning of pets to combat loneliness and take exercise.
Great, but I worry that nobody ever mentions the welfare of the pet and how deep the owner’s pocket may need to be regarding vet bills. These can be extremely high – my vet charges £33 per consultation and usually £29 for a follow-up appointment, if required.
If your pet has an emergency, and they often do, an out-of-hours consultation fee can be even higher.
I understand vets spend years training and have costs, staff, no doubt very expensive medical equipment, premises and utilities, and, of course, they have to make a living.
My main grievance is the prices charged for some medications. A one-off expense is bearable, but if your pet is going to need a certain drug for life for an ongoing condition, owners may have to decide between life and death for the pet.
Even death costs are high – well over £100 to have a pet euthanised and cremated.
A few years ago, legislation was introduced whereby vets are obliged to provide written prescriptions to enable clients to shop around for medication. Not many people seem to know about this and my vet’s surgery has no advisory notice on view, which I believe was also in the legislation.
Vets can charge a fee for giving you the prescription and I currently pay £10. Even so, by taking the prescription and using it to buy medication for my dog online, I have managed to halve the cost of one drug.
However, my vet now only gives two months’ worth of medication per prescription, when it previously gave three months’ worth, and this is what incensed me so much that I had to write about it.
I have checked with the Royal Veterinary College and it is apparently up to the vet how much medication each prescription should cover. In my case, I am currently paying £60 a year for prescriptions (plus the cost of the medication), but for some pet owners, the cost could run into several hundreds of pounds.
Taking out insurance
If you have pet insurance you may well be covered for long-term problems, but premiums for older animals can make this option untenable.
You also have to be careful to check the terms and conditions. Many cheaper policies do not cover for life and ongoing illnesses, and most visits to the vet are for routine matters and do not qualify for insurance cover.
An alternative is to save an amount each month, as I do, in a special account solely for vet fees.
I like my local veterinary practice, I get excellent care for my pets and obviously cannot object to, or haggle with it over, its fees. I think that all the local vets probably charge about the same.
But I do think that people considering owning a pet should be made more aware of the costs involved. People on low incomes may find themselves having to decide whether or not they should visit the vet if their animal gets sick and the animal may suffer.
I have had, in recent years, three dogs and two cats, all at the same time. I am now down to two dogs, but I won’t be taking on any more when they go – and that’s partly down to veterinary costs.
This is a guest contribution by Linda Nicholls. All views expressed here are Linda’s own and not necessarily those also shared by Which?.
Do you own any pets? Do you think vet bills are too expensive? Have you taken out pet insurance to cover vet bills or do you have a savings account purely for your pet’s medical expenses? Did you know about the legislation encouraging you to shop around for pet medication?