1. The True Cost of Animal Health Care

    We are all painfully aware of the rising cost of healthcare in the human sector. What many of us don’t see is the true cost associated with our own treatment since these costs are ‘hidden” by our system of health insurance and third-party payments. This is in stark contrast to veterinary medicine where less than five percent of all pets are covered by health insurance. Because pet care is still primarily a cash business, the costs of care are more obvious and remain the responsibility of pet owners.

    Many of the costs of running a veterinary hospital are identical to the costs of running a human hospital; education, staffing, advanced equipment, and medications are just a few of the costs associated with running a veterinary hospital—repeating this sentence sounds odd since we just said something similar in the first sentence The cost of education for a medical doctor and veterinary doctor are identical and as you can imagine, very costly. In fact, it is harder to gain admission into veterinary school than medical school; there are only 28 schools of veterinary medicine in the entire United States, while there are over 130 medical schools.

    In addition, there is the annual cost of continuing education required for all veterinarians. This is mandated by law and includes seminars, conferences, and webinars. Continuing education is critical because it ensures that veterinarians stay current with regard to veterinary medical information.

    Most of the equipment used in diagnosing and treating pets is identical to the equipment found in human hospitals. This includes hematology (blood analyzing) equipment, ultrasound machines, EKG monitors, digital radiology, and even linear accelerators used for radiation therapy.

    There are also costs that most of us don’t even think about—costs for maintaining a safe environment for patients, clients, and the technicians who administer the chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Many of the therapies used are toxic to the environment if used inappropriately or if disposed of improperly. Adhering to all the state and federal regulations is expensive.

    Human healthcare costs continue to rise. Business owners are seeing a 17-25% increase in healthcare benefit costs every year. Yet, most veterinarians only increase their fees based upon the cost of living index—if at all. So, while veterinarians and medical doctors share many of the same costs to run their business, veterinarians only charge a fraction of what medical doctors do. Veterinarians are definitely not in this profession for the money.

    Medical care for our pets is incredibly important and a very worthwhile investment to help maintain the human-animal bond for as long as possible. While the cost of providing medical care for your pet may seem high, the costs are still less than what we would pay out-of-pocket for the same examinations, diagnostics, and procedures done for ourselves in the human sector.

  2. How Living in the Moment Helps Combat Pet Cancer

    By David Duchemin, BA

    Hospital Director


    In my last blog, I talked about the fact that clients, and even referring veterinarians, use their own experiences of cancer as an indicator of what to expect during a pet’s cancer treatment.

    I also spoke about how well most pets do during treatment because of the way veterinary oncologists are able to treat. But, I believe that in addition to the obvious biological differences, there are other reasons why pets do so much better while undergoing treatment than their human counterparts.

    These reasons might not necessarily be founded in fact, but they are a personal belief. Animals live in the moment; they are not, by nature, self-conscious, embarrassed, distressed, or upset. They don’t feel sorry for themselves or let society’s stigmas or preconceived ideals dictate how they should behave or feel.

    It is, however, scientifically proven that keeping a positive outlook helps to significantly improve one’s health. When humans deal with cancer, they go through many stages ranging from grief to anger; it is a considerable time before they come to terms with their illness. I believe that this kind of stress can significantly hinder the body’s ability to handle disease, as well as treatment of the disease.

    Another factor to consider is that animals, like children, are very sensitive to our emotions. If you are stressed or unhappy, then it is very likely that your pet is as well. If your pet has cancer, or any terminal illness, you should never be so afraid of losing him or her that you no longer enjoy every moment together. All time together is precious! Enjoy every moment without the fear of time slipping away.

    We have so much to learn from our pets; they celebrate life every single day. They don’t know or even care that they have cancer. They only care about living in their moment… with you! Obviously, this is not a cure for cancer; nevertheless, keeping a positive emotional outlook will improve your life and your pet’s quality of life too.

  3. Emotionally Hijacked by Pet Cancer

    By David Duchemin, BA

    Hospital Director


    One of the biggest challenges we face in treating cancer is that the general public assumes treatment is the same for people and pets. Whether witnessing a friend or family member undergoing cancer treatment or watching it as part of a television show, even the most optimistic person is aware of the host of side effects experienced by human cancer patients. Pet owners, already emotionally spinning from the diagnosis of cancer in their pets, approach the veterinary oncology specialist with preconceived, inaccurate assumptions about cancer treatment in pets.

    When my own dog, Cody, was diagnosed with malignant histiocytosis, I was immediately emotionally hijacked by my personal experiences of how my family members handled their cancer therapies. Even as owner and administrator of The VCC, I still had to have the doctors remind me both intellectually and emotionally of how well pets handle cancer treatment.

    Since cats and dogs have a limited lifespan compared to people, the primary goal is not to cure cancer but to significantly slow it down. This not only gives them more time but also gives them a higher quality of life, even during treatment.

    Veterinary oncologists achieve this by administering lower treatment doses than they do in humans (sometimes over longer periods of time), as well as by treating patient symptoms prophylactically.  Many pets never show symptoms of either the disease or the treatment of the disease. It’s truly amazing how well most pets do!

    Many pet owners and their family veterinarians may not be aware of all the amazing and novel therapies that have become available over the last few years. With the mapping of the genome, personalized medication, Radiation Therapy using IMRT, and the latest discovery regarding junk DNA, researchers are on the forefront of really making a difference when it comes to not only the treatment of pets with cancer but for us humans as well.

    People make emotional decisions every single day; it is part of what makes us human. But we should be careful to never base a decision on fear or a lack of understanding. Cancer isn’t a death sentence. Always get the facts from a board-certified professional before making decisions about your pet’s health. The truth might surprise you and give you new reasons to have hope when faced with a cancer diagnosis. |