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How to tell if your vet is ripping you off

Virginia Chavez is a Phoenix-based freelance writer covering pets and lifestyle in the Southwest. In addition to regular contributions both online and in-print, Virginia locally owns and operates two pet care and supply businesses. For t...

When good vets go bad

Fido has an ear infection. Time to go to the vet for a quick cleaning, antibiotics and your four-legged sidekick should be back to his normal self in no time. Right? Wrong.
Vet with dog

Instead, your furry friend gets taken to the "back" for additional testing while the caring doctor hands you an estimate large enough to rival your monthly mortgage payment. One of two things went very wrong: Either your pet took an unexpected turn for the worse or your vet is royally ripping you off. How can you tell the difference? Read on to find out if you're experiencing symptoms of a good vet gone bad.

Starts with fear

The visit starts out well. The vet tech is friendly and what do you know, she just happens to be training another vet tech who will be sitting in on your analysis. You sit down and discuss your pet's symptoms while they take Fido's temperature and vitals to report back to the vet. So far, everything seems normal and then... enter the veterinarian and her entourage. You're in the confines of a small room packed with pet professionals judging you as your pet hides under your chair awaiting his fate and instantly fear fills the air. As they begin to discuss their findings, you feel something is wrong, very wrong, and the fear increases. You sit through an agonizing list of "internal" problems your dog could potentially be at risk for before the vet finally gets to the outcome. Your dog has — wait for it — an ear infection (as you suspected). Take a deep breath, let it sink in and brace yourself for yet another agonizing list of tests, exams and blood work your vet wants to run on Fido for an often easily treatable problem.

Move on to guilt and degradation

Once the fear has subsided, the vet will slap you with guilt and insults. How very kind of her. Keep an ear out for condescending phrases and questions like, "let me tell you what you can do for your kid" or "do you ever take your pet to the groomer?" And in the presence of the entire staff. Ouch! At this point, the vet will count on the fact that you'd have to be a terrible pet parent to even think about leaving the establishment without taking care of Fido's many "life-threatening" issues.

The grand finale: Upsell and pay up

Naturally, you're second-guessing your skills as a pet parent, so you ask the vet for an estimate on the thyroid testing, blood work and a much-needed eyelid scraping (wait, I thought Fido had an ear infection?). Oh, and since she seems to think Fido has been deprived of proper grooming, throw in a shampoo session. Next thing you know, your fur-kid's upset stomach can only be cured by taking out a second mortgage to pay his vet bills. Consider yourself ripped off.

You guessed it; this is a firsthand account of a rip-off scam. Not all experiences will go exactly like this but the key takeaway rings true. Your vet should not make you feel uncomfortable, fearful or financially overextended. Yes, some treatments are expensive and taking your pet to the vet can be costly, but if your intuition tells you something doesn't feel right, follow it and get a second opinion.

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