For decades, Consumer Reports was THE place to go for product reviews and advice on big purchases. But when they enter the area of pet care, they consistently give very bad advice. Their product-review algorithm simply falls apart when applied to living, breathing beings. Example: “get the cheapest pet food at the cheapest store, there’s no difference between that and the high-dollar foods.” Well, we know that’s absolutely false, and that ingredient quality makes all the difference in your pet’s health. Science proves it, experience proves it. Or as they say in geek world, “Garbage In, Garbage Out”!
If you fell for that line of illogic at the time, chances are that you now need a lot of veterinary services for nutrition-related diseases–problems that feeding your pet correctly in the first place would have prevented, such as diabetes, arthrtitis, urinary tract problems, and cognitive decline. Or maybe you just need to cut costs everywhere you can to stay afloat (a lot of us are in that boat!).
So now Consumer Reports wants to tell you how to save money on veterinary bills! Srsly??? And what’s their advice? It boils down to: “Go for the bargain, the cheapest vet you can find! Shop around! Get estimates!” Sorry, but veterinarians are not car mechanics, and all veterinary care should be tailored for the individual pet. Unbelievably, they recommend that, in an emergency, you get the pet stabilized at minimum cost, and then take it home, so you have time to comparison shop! If you have a dog with GDV (bloat) or a cat that can’t breathe–well, I guess you’ll definitely save money–but not necessarily your pet!
What can we say? You get what you pay for. If you want or need to go for least-cost, understand that you are not going to be able to buy champagne on that beer budget. Ask your friends and neighbors for referrals. Or check Angie’s List, which surprisingly lists all veterinarians in the area, even if they haven’t had any reports on them yet.
To really understand the difference between high-cost and bargain-basement veterinary medicine, please read this article, written by a colleague who lost a patient because of that difference.
Veterinarians are ethically obligated to present all the options, whether they provide them or not. They should tell you what services and tests are available (including, if needed, referral to a specialist or hospital with a broader range of services), but they should also be able to tell you which ones are most needed–and more importantly, why they are recommending each and every one.
For example, many veterinarians still recommend annual vaccines throughout the life of the pet, when the main vaccinate-able diseases affect only the young (and immunity lasts for many years). There’s a place you can save your money (and save your pet from potential harmful effects of over-vaccination; see our article on Vaccination for detailed information on cat and dog vaccines).
My rule of thumb for any kind of test is: “Will knowing the results of this test make a difference in how I treat this animal?” If they’re testing just because they can, or to pinpoint a disease when knowing will not help decide the course of action (oncologists and neurologists are the most guilty for this), then save your money.
It is always up to you to choose which, if any, tests, services, or products you want–and the veterinarian should gracefully abide by your decision and work with you to get your pet the best care within those limits.
If you are in the Denver-Boulder area, I recommend the following veterinary clinics:
Arvada/Northwest Denver: Harmony Veterinary Center, Dr. Shelley Brown, 303-432-8551
Park Animal Hospital and Wellness Center, 710 East Louisiana Ave., Denver, CO 80210, (303) 534-5440
Southeast Denver: Purrfect Health, Dr. Cathy Ortloff, Lone Tree, 303-790-2287
Specialty/Emergency: VRCC, Englewood, 303-874-7387