The United States is a nation with close to 143 million cats and
dogs, according to Consumer Reports.
This means a large amount of money is spent on the health and
well-being of those four-legged creatures every year.
New technologies and treatment options for injured or sick
animals have hiked up the costs of taking care of a pet.
Veterinary drugs can treat everything from separation anxiety to
cancer and diabetes. These drugs can cost up to $16 a day and
sometimes are prescribed to an animal every day for the rest of its
“The cost of veterinary medicine is skyrocketing,” said Dr. Joe
Clark, a veterinarian in Alpine Veterinary Hospital of Greeley.
At CSU, the veterinarian program has been rated among the best
in the nation and the technology at its teaching hospital reflects
“At the heart of the hospital is an imaging suite, including
MRI, CT Scan and fluoroscopy that is unmatched in veterinary
medicine and a clinical pathology laboratory that ensures fast,
accurate test results for our clinicians,” said David Lee, director
of the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital at CSU.
But for college students, the cost of saving their pets and
getting the best medical care possible may be too much of an
Brianne Cranston, a junior human development and family studies
major, saw the reality of expensive veterinary care when she rushed
her cat, Campbell, to the emergency room at CSU’s veterinary
teaching hospital in October.
Campbell had been vomiting and unable to eat for several days,
so she took the cat to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital on a
Sunday, which is considered an emergency, as it is not the
hospital’s regular hours.
The technicians took radiographs of the cat’s abdominal region
because they were suspicious something was blocking his stomach
lining, Cranston said.
“I paid $90 to bring him in on a Sunday and $112 to do the
radiographs,” Cranston said.
The total bill was more than $200 for a day of tests.
The veterinarian who oversaw the process then told Cranston the
radiographs showed some type of blockage and to be sure, they
wanted to do some exploratory surgery to look for a “possible
gastric foreign object,” she said.
“They were 90 percent sure something was blocking it and they
said they were worried (Campbell) would get worse if he didn’t have
surgery,” Cranston said. “They also said it was possible there was
nothing there at all.”
The veterinarian told Cranston the surgery would cost between
$1,800 and $2,200.
Cranston has a part-time job but says it barely pays her bills,
let alone a surgery to save her sick cat.
She decided to go for a second opinion at a smaller clinic run
by two veterinarians, a father and daughter, in Greeley. Clark, a
1957 graduate of CSU’s veterinarian program, and his daughter Dr.
Liz Clark told Cranston they would use surgery as a last resort,
and the cost would not be more than $1,000.
Cranston agreed and Campbell was in the hospital for four days.
The cat had radiographs, fluids, antibiotics, anesthesia and a
common surgery to clear out its large intestine. The total bill was
$744 and after being on antibiotics, Campbell was back to
“Costs are so variable in medicine, there are no absolutes,” Joe
Had Campbell swallowed a linear foreign object, such as a button
with a piece of string that wrapped around the intestine, the
surgery would have been more intensive and probably would have cost
more money, he said.
“The doctor at CSU could have seen the radiographs through a
surgeon’s eyes, and proceeded that way,” Joe Clark said. “If you
ask three veterinarians, you can get five opinions on the same
Still, the cost of paying for a sick pet is getting higher every
year, with each practice setting its own prices for its work.
In the July 2003 issue, Consumer Reports stated that spending on
veterinary services climbed to $18.2 billion in 2001, up almost
three times the amount in 1997.
Most people are surprised by the cost of their pet’s medical
“A common comment I hear from clients is, ‘I don’t even pay that
much for my kids,'” said CSU’s Lee.
At CSU, the Veterinary Teaching Hospital is a non-profit
organization, which means the fees are based on the actual cost of
“We don’t have a profit margin so fees are not inflated nor do
we have the ability or desire to try to compete with local
practices since our cost structure is far different from theirs,”
Even so, the cost of similar services and antibiotics at a
large, well-known veterinary medical center like CSU can be more
expensive than a smaller veterinary medical facility because of the
extensive care and equipment used on the animal.
“The Veterinary Teaching Hospital has a commitment to provide
the highest quality services possible,” Lee said. “We believe our
fees reflect the excellent value given the unique resources
available to every patient that walks in our door.”
Five ways to prevent high vet costs:
-Get a cat. They have fewer health problems and genetic
-Exercise your pet and don’t overfeed it.
-Buy a mutt. They are less likely to have a genetic disorder due
-Keep your pet on a leash or fenced when outside to avoid
getting hit by a car.
-Use flea and tick medicine.
From: Consumer Reports, July 2003.
Factors that are considered in determining fees:
-The experience, reputation and skill of the veterinarian and
staff performing the services.
-The time required to perform the services.
-Practice location and demographics.
-Cost, quality and quantity of products used (this includes
diagnostic tests, anesthesia monitoring, medications, etc.)
From: The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)