‘My vet wanted £120 for a cream. Total rip off’

Pet owners and vets reveal their thoughts after a watchdog warns customers could be overpaying.
'My vet wanted £120 for a cream. Total rip off'
Buster the JackhuahuaKelly Imrie

Hundreds of people have contacted BBC News about struggling to pay for medicine for their pets, while vets have got in touch saying that they provide “cost-effective” care and that pet owners need to “take responsibility” and pay for insurance.

It follows a warning from the competition watchdog that pet owners may be overpaying for medicine.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has now provisionally decided to launch a formal market investigation, which means it could intervene directly in the market in the future.

The pet owners: ‘Total rip off’

Kelly Imrie, 41, from Kilmarnock in East Ayrshire has a Jackhuahua called Buster. She says her vet practice is “lovely” but that the price of medicine is “ridiculous”.

“The vet googled the price of the medicine herself and recommended I buy it from Morrisons,” she says.

“I’ve just had my dog at the vet. They wanted £120 for a 30ml tube of cream. I asked for a prescription, which did cost £26, but it can be used three times. The equivalent cream costs £37 at Morrisons. Total rip off. Triple the price!”

Bruce, the "rescue centre mongrel"

Steve Moylan

Steve Moylan, 62, from Sutton Coldfield spent £16,000 on tests, X-rays and treatment when his dog Bruce had a brain tumour. Bruce, “the rescue centre mongrel”, sadly died from the tumour at the age of 12.

Steve visited three different vet practices over the course of a year “for test after test after test” before getting the diagnosis of the brain tumour at an animal hospital.

“It’s a subject I feel very strongly about as a result of our experience. Profit is most definitely put ahead of care where people’s pets are concerned. I feel terrible for those that cannot afford either the insurance or the cost of diagnosis and treatment.

His dog had to have a single-area contrast MRI scan, which cost £3,500. A couple of weeks later, Steve himself needed the same type of MRI scan, which he chose to have done privately at a cost of £350.

“So it was 10 times more expensive to do the scan on a dog than on a human. I get that there is anaesthesia involved for a dog, but really?”

The veterinary nurse: ‘We can’t give discounts that online pharmacies can’

Angela Ford's dogs Betty, the Yorkshire Terrier, and Raisin, the Cocker Spaniel

Angela Ford

Angela Ford is a veterinary nurse in Wallington, south London. She has two dogs – a nine-year-old Cocker Spaniel called Raisin and a nine-year-old Yorkshire Terrier called Betty – as well as a 19-year-old cat called Bentley.

She says all her pets are insured as she understands how complicated and expensive treatment can be at times.

“Owners need to take a little more responsibility to understand the cost and needs of the animals they own.

“Independent practices are like corner shops. We can’t give the discounts online pharmacies can give for prescription medicines and we are always open to offering written prescriptions to help with the costs.

“Online pharmacies don’t give the advice that comes from 20 years of experience working with animals,” she adds.

The veterinary surgeon: ‘We reduce potential bills with preventative care’

Jack the 10-year-old Domestic Shorthair cat

Carmen Petzer

Carmen Petzer is a veterinary surgeon in Anglesey, North Wales who has a cat called Jack. She says she is frustrated to see what she believes is “an incomplete investigation”.

“We have to prescribe licensed animal medicines over cheap generics that are meant for humans in spite of the active ingredients being identical. This means higher costs because animal medicines are not produced to the same scale as human medicines.

“Online vs buying medication from the vet is economies of scale – pharmacies buy in bulk and secure deals that most vets cannot achieve.”

“We as vets are concerned our corporates are doing these deals and not passing that on to customers but we are not at the table for those discussions and we are happy to write prescriptions to help our clients. Of course we charge for this because it is a service provision.

“I do not see anywhere discussed the tireless work done by vets to reduce potential vet bills for clients by preventative care. A dog spay is on average about £300. But a pyometra or caesarean that could result if not spayed is £1,500 to £2,000. Clients think we overcharge for neutering but we are in fact saving them thousands in the long run.”

“Dental care is expensive – on average about £800 per pet but often we are removing over 10 teeth under a full anaesthetic lasting one to two hours. My last filling cost £200 at a private dentist, no anaesthetic, one filling in one tooth. I firmly believe we are providing cost-effective care.”

Cost of living: Tackling it together

How can I keep vet bills down?

  • Try to keep your pet well: Keep your pet at a healthy weight, with up-to-date flea and worming treatments. Vaccinations can help prevent diseases that cost more to treat in the long run.
  • Look into financial support: Many vets offer monthly plans that cover vaccinations which can help spread costs. Some charities, including PDSA and Blue Cross, offer support for people on benefits.
  • Consider pet insurance: Keep insurance bills down by shopping around, Cats Protection advises.

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Source: bbc.co.uk

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