For the past 11 years, I have worked in the veterinary field. I started as a veterinary assistant in high school, worked as a veterinary technician in college, then attended vet school and four years later, I achieved my dream of becoming a Veterinarian.
I’ve been in this industry long enough that I have heard all the above items mentioned at least once and often much more than that. However, what I found so incredibly shocking is that this is the list that comes up in Google search about Veterinarians. Google uses algorithms to develop a ranking system for what comes up first in your search (6). That means that these are the top 5 things people are searching as it relates to Veterinarians.
Google can do a lot of things- but one thing it can not do is stand up and speak up on behalf of a profession that I wholeheartedly believe is doing our best to honor the oath we took to “use scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge” (13).
So read below to hear my take on why all 5 of these items are either false, untrue or unfounded in facts or logic:
1)Veterinarians are NOT scams.
Have you ever been the victim of a scam? Perhaps a debt collection, loan scam or other phone scam? According to ConsumerFraudReporting.org, those are some of the most common scams, but there are many others. They’ve happened to me, and chances are- they’ve happened to you too (11).
What’s not a scam is professional who went to both college and veterinary school (usually totaling 8 years and sometimes more if they specialize) to be able to provide health care for your pet at a cost. Veterinarians, like any other service providers or businesses, expect people to pay for the products and services they receive- no scam in sight.
2)Veterinarians are NOT greedy.
Do you pay for products and services you receive? For example, do you pay for your groceries or utilities or to have your car or AC serviced? Do you pay for essentially every other product and service you can think of? I know I do. I do not expect my groceries or electricity for free. Nor do I expect to not pay for someone to fix my car or my AC. Why should Veterinarians not be paid for the services they provide? And why is that if we charge for products and services, we are greedy?
Furthermore, if Veterinarians were greedy, they likely would not be in an industry that has some of the worst debt to income ratios. In fact, according to the Veterinary Information Network, “Since the early 2000s, the cost of a veterinary education has rapidly outpaced the increases in new veterinary graduate starting salaries. This results in a debt-to-income ratio that consistently exceeds 2:1. Veterinary graduates leave school with two, three, four and sometimes six or seven times the average starting salary of a newly minted veterinarian. This mortgage-sized debt takes center stage to a new graduate’s financial situation, often causing them to delay starting families or purchasing homes, and adversely influences their overall financial and mental well-being” (12).
Additionally, Veterinarians have been known to be kind and caring and this is reinforced by a DVM360 article that discussed that there has been a shift toward ESFJ and ISFJ personality types among vet students. Both of these personality types are characterized by people who are described as sympathetic, helpful, caring as well as warm, empathic and conscientious, respectively (15) (8). Veterinarians genuinely love helping and caring for animals- we have a passion for it and that is why we chose this profession- not because we are greedy.
3) Veterinarians ARE real doctors.
So this one really confuses me. How can people even think we are not real doctors? What do they mean by “real?” Sure, we do not treat human patients. However, by that logic, does that mean that an Optometrist’s or Dentist’s or a PhD’s doctorate degrees are not real or valid either? I do not think so.
This is a huge misperception. Veterinarians hold doctorate degrees that we worked really hard for and we passed our national and state boards. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that what Veterinarians do is, “ care for the health of animals and work to improve public health. They diagnose, treat, and research medical conditions and diseases of pets, livestock, and other animals” (14). If that’s not what a “real” doctor does, I am not sure what is!
4) Veterinarians are NOT crooks.
“Crooks” is a really interesting choice of words. In fact, the synonyms for crooks according to Thesaurus.com are: racketeer, robber, rogue, scoundrel, villain..and the list goes on and on (3). The connotation for crook is overall, pretty terrible and negative.
On the other hand, Veterinarians are absolutely not crooks. In addition to all the hoops we have to jump through (hundreds of exams, clinics, national boards, state boards, etc) to get to our degrees, we have to hold a professional license in every single state we practice in (this is not free either, by the way). In some states, we even have to pay a tax (professional privilege tax) to practice. And if you open a veterinary business, you have to maintain business license and pay taxes among other regulations. All of this is done so legally not illegally, as crooks often operate.
5) Veterinarians are NOT too expensive.
Consider this: according to According to Benchmarks 2015: A Study of Well Managed Practices, the average charge per veterinary transaction is $184 (4). I did not come from an economically family so I definitely understand that this amount can be considered expensive.
However, when you consider the value of what you are paying for (an expert opinion, diagnostics, treatments, etc) from a professional who has had at least 8 years of education to try to help your pet, you can see that this well worth the $184. Additionally, if you compare this amount to what you pay on average for other services, such as TV/internet that averages $100+ per month, you can see that veterinary care, comparatively, isn’t “too expensive” -it’s probably just not valued (5).
Take also for example, that in 2015, $60+ billion dollars were spent on the different segments of the US pet industry (food, supplies/OTC medicine, veterinary care, live animal purchases and grooming/boarding). Of that, only $15.42 billion was spent on veterinary care, while $14.28 billion was spent on pet supplies/OTC medicines. This goes back to the value discussion above- people are willing to spend equal amounts on pet supplies as on potentially life saving veterinary care (9).
And if you are not yet convinced- consider the costs of veterinary care versus human health care, comparatively. Colloquially, as a profession, we believe we offer similar services for about a tenth of the costs of our human counterparts. I personally have experienced this. I had a laceration repair in 2017 that required 9 stitches- the cost for that visit was over $4500 (I really valued the care I received and I was lucky enough to have insurance) but I have done many laceration repairs on animals for under $450. But don’t take my word for it- one veterinarian compared the costs of a similar vet vs human surgery side by side and this is pictured below (7):
Given that we graduate with nearly equal amounts of debt as our human medical student counterparts, earn incomes that are significantly lower and charge about a tenth of the cost, I would say we are not “too expensive,” comparatively (1),(2).
But I know comparisons will not make veterinary care any more affordable or seen as less expensive. Like many other industries, veterinary medicine has evolved due to advances in science and technology. And pet owners are demanding better care for their pets than in the past. However, there is a disconnect between the care they want their pets to have and the care they can afford (or are willing to pay for). That is why I strongly believe pet insurance is a great recommendation for most pet owners. It would give many pet owners peace of mind and allow pets to get more of the care they need. It is just one solution and I am sure there are others but it is a great start to help make veterinary care more affordable and seen as “less expensive.”
In conclusion, I do not believe there is any truth to any of the common misperceptions listed above about Veterinarians. I hope this article is both eye opening and informative because false perceptions do not just hurt Veterinarians; they diminish trust in the veterinary-client- patient relationship and can lead to pets having less access to the care they need.
Your Veterinarian is not a crook, greedy, a scam or too expensive. They are real doctors and they are hardworking, caring people with a passion to help animals and do so at an expense that is much higher than so many other professions. I encourage you to try to remember that the next time you do a Google search about Veterinarians.
- Annual Data Report. AAVMC. Retrieved from http://www.aavmc.org/data/files/data/2017-2018%20aavmc%20annual%20data%20report%20(id%2096432).pdf
- Average medical school debt in 2017. Student Debt relief. Retrieved from https://www.studentdebtrelief.us/news/average-medical-school-debt/
- Crook synonyms. Dictionary.com.Retrieved from https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/crook
- Grossdidier, Sheila. “Increase your revenue.” VMC. Retrieved from http://vmc-inc.com/post/increase-your-revenue
- How much should I be paying for cable TV? Cable TV.com. Retrieved from https://www.cabletv.com/blog/how-much-should-i-pay-for-cable-tv/
- How search algorithms work. Google. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/search/howsearchworks/algorithms/
- Mader, Doug. “Comparing Costs of Human vs. Pet Health Care.” Retrieved from http://parkhillvet.com/2012/09/comparing-costs-of-human-vs-pet-health-care/
- MBTI basics. Myers Briggs.org. Retrieved from https://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/
- Pet Care Industry Analysis 2018 - Cost & Trends. Franchise Help. Retrieved form https://www.franchisehelp.com/industry-reports/pet-care-industry-analysis-2018-cost-trends/
- Pet industry topped $66 billion in 2016. Petfoodindustry.com. Retrieved from https://www.petfoodindustry.com/articles/6370-pet-industry-spending-topped-us66-billion-in-2016
- Top 10 list of scams 2018. Consumder fraud reporting. Retrieved from http://www.consumerfraudreporting.org/current_top_10_scam_list.php
- Veterinary Edudebtology 101. VIN. Retrieved from https://www.vin.com/studentdebtcenter/default.aspx?pid=14352&catId=73444&id=7516825
- Veterinarian’s Oath. AVMA. Retrieved from https://www.avma.org/KB/Policies/Pages/veterinarians-oath.aspx
- Veterinarian summary. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinarians.htm
- Zimlich, Rachel. “New Attitudes.” DVM360. Retrieved from http://veterinarynews.dvm360.com/new-attitude?id=&sk=&date=&pageID=2