There's No Medicaid for Dogs

dog surgery

A sad tale

There’s no Medicaid for pets. That grim fact was in play in a Michigan case.

A German Shepherd got sick and started bleeding heavily after being spayed at Hospital X.

Because Hospital X was closed by then, the owners took her to an emergency hospital where the estimate for treatment was more than they could afford. [The clinic wanted half-down then and payment in full when the dog was released – a standard practice.]

The dog was placed in a pressure bandage and sent home. She bled to death that night.

Social media

There was a firestorm of media coverage and all of it targeted at the emergency clinic. As usual, there’s so much we don’t know about the story.

Although the articles called it ‘routine’ surgery, spaying a female dog is equivalent to having a hysterectomy in a woman and having anesthesia always creates a risk.

There’s a test that can be done prior to a surgery to see how a dog will react to anesthesia. Was it offered to owners and if so, did they have it done? What happened during the surgery? What was the dog’s condition when she was released?

Did something happen to the dog when she got home? For instance, did someone let it run around instead of being crated?  Did the dog have some underlying disease or condition?

The owners did not have any credit cards (pretty odd in itself) and tried but couldn’t get approved for Care Credit, a national payment plan used by many doctors, dentists and veterinarians.

Also, apparently, there was no one they could borrow from and nothing that they could or would pawn/sell to raise the money.

We don’t know if the owners tried to find any other clinic or if they considered euthanizing the dog in lieu of letting it bleed to death.

The owners of the dog presented themselves as victims in all the social media. I have to wonder what kind of 'victim' watches their dog bleed to death.

Yet even with so much information missing from the news, all the death threats, hysteria and news outlets centered on the emergency clinic.

I do know one thing for certain: veterinary clinics, profit or nonprofit, can’t stay in business if there’s no funding coming in. No one works for free and that includes the nitwits calling in death threats to the emergency clinic.

Costs of doing business

If you’ve ever heard someone complain that a repair person spent only 10-minutes fixing something but charged them $75, you’ve got someone who’s never run a business and has no understanding of how expensive it is to do so.

Any business has tons of built-in costs including utilities, property maintenance, heat/air conditioning, malpractice insurance, state unemployment insurance, local and state fees, all kinds of taxes, training for employees, fringe benefits and salaries. Are vet techs and receptionists supposed to work for 10-cents an hour?

Veterinarians have it especially difficult because most pet owners have been sheltered from the costs of human medical and hospital care by insurance payments and don't have a realistic understanding of the cost to run a medical facility.

One of the largest drivers of office expense is equipment. There are no X-ray or ultrasound machines made just for animals. Everything your vet has is the same equipment sold to human medical offices.

If those weren’t expensive enough in themselves, Obamacare added a tax to every piece of medical equipment sold from latex gloves to Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines. It adds up.

The vet isn’t making a killing

According to Payscale.com, a veterinarian generally makes between $45,000 and $106,000 depending on experience.

Compare that to similar professions:

  • Family physician: $75,000 - $204,000 
  • Dentist: $61,000 - $201,000
  • Ophthalmologist: $93,000 - $304,000
  • General surgeon: $65,000 - $368,000

According to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the average veterinarian graduates with a debt of $142,613.

Owner attitudes

The oldest pet insurance, Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), was started by a vet who wanted to end ‘economic euthanasia’ when owners had to have their pets put down because they couldn’t afford treatment.

Unfortunately, the owners of this dog were unprepared or uneducated at how much expense a dog especially a puppy can cause. Dog owners need to consider pet insurance or some type of savings plan to handle emergencies. Everyone should strongly consider having at least one credit reserved only for emergencies.

I don’t think dog ownership should be only for the rich. On the other hand, if you don't have the cash flow or credit score to qualify for a credit card, you should wait until your finances are in better shape to get a dog. Like it or not, there will medical emergencies ESPECIALLY for a puppy.

It’s ridiculous that people expect a vet or vet clinic to accept whatever money they want to pay for their pets. None of the self-righteous social media bloggers would accept that for their jobs!

Bottomline

Some owners even become enraged at being asked to pay at all for their dog’s care. They think vet clinics are like human hospitals that have to treat emergency cases. Again, human hospitals can get payment from government agencies; animal hospitals can’t.

Seriously, do people not realize something is bound to go wrong with their dog at some point? I do understand that even responsible people can fall on hard times (job loss, serious injury) so I’ve made a list of groups that do offer help at  http://www.toybreeds.com/Costs.html.

My bottomline premise remains the same, however: It’s your dog! You picked him! It’s your responsibility! If you’re not prepared to accept that responsibility, don’t get a dog.