Date: 2001-06-14 05:08:00 UTC
Subject: Bob C: Vet Costs
Q: "I've been reading the ferret health list for some time now. I have
noticed the high cost [of veterinary care]. I can't afford it. What
should I do?"
A: Never own pets.
Seriously; no joke. But that advice is a bit harsh, so here is a real
joke for you:
A ferreteer brought a very limp ferret into an after-hours emergency
veterinary clinic. They rushed the poor weasel to the back of the clinic
while the ferreteer paced back and forth in the waiting room. After a
minor wait, a technician brought the ferreteer back to where the ferret
lay on a stainless steel table, with a sad looking vet listening to the
ferret's heart with a stethoscope; head shaking. The vet sadly looked up
and said, "I'm so very sorry. There was nothing we could do. I'm afraid
your ferret expired just before you arrived, and we just can't bring it
back. It's too late..."
The ferreteer was dumbfounded. In an angry voice, the ferreteer shouted,
"What??!! Are you sure?? The ferret wasn't back here long enough for you
to do any tests or anything. I want another opinion!!"
The vet just walked quietly out the room, then returned with a handsome
Labrador Retriever. The dog promptly started to work, checking out the
little ferret, sniffing it thoroughly from head to the tip of the tail.
After a while, the retriever sadly shook it's head and said in a quiet
voice, "Bark." The vet took the dog away and soon returned with a
beautiful Siamese cat, who also started to sniff the little ferret.
After scanning every inch of the little ferret, the Siamese sadly shook
it's head, and uttered a single, sad "meow." The vet took the cat from
the room and returned, handing the ferreteer a bill.
The ferreteer took a single look, did a double take, and then exploded,
"$500!!!??? Just to tell me my ferret is dead??!! This is outrageous!
How can you justify this type of cost??!!"
The vet just said, "Well, if you had taken my word for it, it would have
only been 50 bucks for the visit to the emergency clinic. But with the
Lab work and the cat scan..."
Vet have to pay for school and continuing education, for receptionists,
technicians and all their associated governmental and health benefits.
They also have to pay for all the fancy equipment, such as laser
scalpels, blood testing machines, x-ray machines, and even those fancy
lighted glasses they use to do surgery on tiny little ferrets. Add to
that cost drugs, IV medicines, cleaning equipment, deadbeat clients who
write rubber checks, rent or mortgage payments, and every scrap of paper
in the place. Get the point?
I understand that people love animals, but part of the responsibility of
pet caretaking is the responsibility of making sure they can AFFORD to
keep a pet. Ferrets live full, happy lives, but they are compressed into
just 7 or 8 years (for the most part), making vet care an annual
expense. If you cannot afford that expense, then the ethical and moral
thing to do is not to own ANY pet. I always suggest people only own half
the number of animals they think they can afford.
There ARE some ways to cut costs, IF your vet is agreeable. You might be
able to barter with your vet, exchanging grunt work or services for vet
care (I'm an ex-photojournalist, and I have exchanged photos for care).
You could offer to work off part of the bill by cleaning cages, walking
dogs, or painting the office; whatever tasks that have to be done. I
know one person who ran a dog shelter who worked as a part time
receptionist in exchange for vet care. Be honest with the vet, be
creative, and you just may be able to work off some of the costs IF your
vet is open to such ideas. Some communities have vet clinics which are
partially supported by the vet community, and they are marketed to
people of limited income. Sometimes vet schools run clinics which are
less expensive. Ask the vet what types of programs exist in your area
that can limit costs, or how costs can be kept to a minimum.
My personal suggestions are to save for expected procedures PRIOR to
their symptoms (if you have a ferret, EXPECT adrenal disease, rabies and
distemper shots, and perhaps a blockage. Start saving the money as soon
as when you take the ferret home, or better yet, BEFOREHAND). Only own
about half of the pets you think you can afford. Finally, be honest with
your vet about your ability to pay. They cannot control the costs of
medicines, but they may have samples, or low cost alternatives.
Vets are people and can have vices; some are greedy, some have been so
picked on by clients who take advantage of them so often that they have
become somewhat jaded in their responses to people. So change their
minds with your own actions. And remember; you can't control the
weather, but you can buy an umbrella. Before you get your first ferret,
call around and find out what the costs of medical treatment are, then
assume that cost to be part of your "purchase" price. As a ferret
caregiver, you have an ethical responsibility to insure your ferret(s)
get proper care. Expecting it and planning for it will go a long way in
lowering your costs, if for no other reason than by convincing you that
perhaps a dozen ferrets are too much to own.