Anyone who has ever owned a pet will agree – looking after an animal to make sure it leads a happy, healthy life is both a privilege and an important responsibility. Regular veterinary care and access to emergency treatment are important factors that all pet owners must consider as part of their responsibility towards their animal as well as their legal duty of care towards their furry friend’s health and welfare.

By Daniella Dos Santos, Junior Vice President, British Veterinary Association

Thanks to advances in science and technology in recent years, vets are now able to offer a range of techniques and treatments to help animals that, not too long ago, were not available. These treatments can be costly and, as with human medicine and other services, the costs are likely to be higher in emergency and out-of-hours situations when overhead costs are often higher.

However, unlike human medicine, there is no NHS for animals, making veterinary fees a factor owners must take into consideration when getting a pet.

Registering with a veterinary practice, discussing treatment options with your vet and getting pet insurance are ways in which owners can ensure their pet receives the care it requires throughout its life and manage the costs incurred.

UNDERSTANDING VETERINARY FEES

Many people ask why there are no standard fees within the veterinary profession. A veterinary practice is a business and carries all the costs associated with that: staff salaries, investment in ongoing staff education and technology, the cost of equipment, medicines, and the overheads of running the premises. As costs of all services vary across the UK, so does the cost of veterinary care from practice to practice and from one region to the next.

Vets thus offer great value for money with costs covering not only the healthcare and treatment they provide for animals, but the vet team’s time and expertise, the necessary technology and equipment used, and the overheads of running the practice itself. Indeed, in a 2015 national opinion poll of more than 2,000 members of the public, 70% of pet owners rated the value for money offered by their veterinary practice as fair, good or excellent.

When you take your pet for a veterinary consultation, there will be a two-way discussion about the treatment options available and the potential costs involved so that you can make a decision that is right for you and your pet. Veterinary practices must provide an initial estimate of costs, but remember that it is not always possible to anticipate the full extent of the treatment required until diagnostic tests have been undertaken, and if unexpected complications arise.

Some veterinary practices offer healthcare plans for preventive treatment to assist clients in spreading out the costs, so we would always recommend speaking to your vet if you have any questions or concerns regarding treatment costs.

We also recommend building up a relationship with your local veterinary practice to make sure your pet is cared for by vets who are fully aware of your pet’s medical history and individual needs. Registering with a veterinary practice offers a host of benefits, including easier access to treatment during emergencies, tailored advice and regular health checks.

PROVISIONING FOR COSTS OF VETERINARY CARE

Pet insurance can be a sensible, practical route to ensuring your pet is able to receive the best possible veterinary care if it becomes injured or falls ill. It can give owners peace of mind from knowing they are in a position to afford all the veterinary care that their pet may need over its lifetime.

The cover provided by different policies can vary considerably, ranging from accident only policies to lifetime-cover policies. Some other benefits, depending on type of policy, may include: the cost of emergency medical treatment for your pet if you take it abroad; paying the costs of pet care if you have to be admitted to hospital for emergency treatment; and third-party liability cover if your dog injures someone or damages someone else’s property.

Most policies will also have exclusions, the most common being pre-existing conditions that your pet already suffered from before the insurance is taken out, and any routine or preventative treatments such as vaccinations and spaying.

TALK TO YOUR VET

When it comes to insurance, our advice to owners is to ensure they fully understand what is and isn’t covered by their insurance policy to ensure it meets their expectations and their pet’s needs.

Vets are there to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their animals. Deciding on a particular course of treatment should always be part of a two-way discussion about the options available, and the potential costs involved, so you can make a decision that is right for you and your pet in collaboration with your vet.