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Pet owners - Don’t have a costly Christmas!

Written By: Jane Davidson RVN

I’m hoping that you don’t have to have a festive visit to an emergency vets this Christmas, but there are a few more hazards around at this time of year... and so sadly you may well end up having one of the 1:3 pets that will need vet treatment. You may be lucky of course - I think I have always owned the 2-3 pets that think we have a frequent flyer pass at the vets, so statistically speaking I must be saving someone’s pets somewhere a trip to the vets – I hope!

Tinsel, lights, decorations and Christmas foods are all potential hazards for pets and every vets I’ve worked in has seen at least one festive accident at their emergency service. Emergency or out of hours (OOH) vets are usually more expensive than visiting a vet in the day time so a festive accident could mean an even more expensive Christmas than usual. The increase in cost is for many reasons:

  • Higher staff costs for unsocial hours
  • Some only see emergencies so all income is from fewer cases than day practice
  • There are potentially higher equipment and training costs for emergency and criticalcare

How are fees worked out?

These costs are visible in higher fees and these can be structured in different ways:

  • A - Considerably higher consult fee but other costs the same as day time
  • B - Slightly higher consult fee but other costs are increased as well
  • C - All fees increased to reflect where costs are – so staff time is more expensive but use of consumables and equipment remains the same

Each option is used depending on how the out of hours service is set up. Some are an emergency service only, some operate as an emergency service in an existing clinic but are a separate business to the day service. Finally many vet practices still cover their own emergency service, not quite like James Herriot but the hours you are needed to cover remain the same – 24/7! Whatever option the clinic chooses there is almost always going to be an extra cost for emergency cover out of hours. You can help make that less stressful for you – here’s some tips from vets and vet nurses.

Be prepared for an emergency

 In vet practice we have a few superstitions that might help you as a pet owner. The biggest one for emergency care is: if you’re not ready for it to arrive, it will arrive! In a similar way if you prepare for an emergency trip to the vets, superstition says it won’t happen but if it does then it will feel less stressful as you have prepared.

It can be helpful to know something about the emergency service your vet provides before you have a need to use it. Practices can let you know where the emergency clinic is located and what times the service is open, as well as the cost of an initial consultation. Ask in advance and re-check in case there are changes over the longer festive holidays.

Keep the phone number handy and put it in your phone, so if you need it you don’t waste time finding it. Veterinary superstitions would support the fact that if you have the number in your phone you’ll rarely need it.

Even if you are insured you will usually have to pay the bill at the time you attend the practice, so it is a good idea to be aware of potential charges and have a way to pay them. Many clinics do have access to medical finance options but it’s unlikely that they will be able to do this at midnight, so be prepared to pay the entire bill for an out-patient appointment and a large proportion of the initial bill for an in-patient case.

You also might need to consider travel to this clinic if it isn’t your usual vets, so plan for cab fares or parking charges. Not all cabs take pets so it’s worth phoning a few to find who does and keeping their number safe.

Happy Christmas

This might all sound a bit over the top but it can really help ensure that any pet health issues over Christmas aren’t made worse by having to make lots of decisions about travel and finance when you are stressed because your pet is sick.

Think – if my pet is sick over the holidays:

  • WHERE do I take them
  • HOW do I call ahead and then get them there
  • WHAT do I pay the bill with

We always like to see our clients, but at Christmas we’d prefer if it was during the day (perhaps to buy enough of your pets food and medication to cover the holidays) rather than in an emergency situation at a very stressful time of year.

Happy Christmas from all the vets and nurses working to keep your pets well over the holidays, we hope you don’t need us but we’re there if you do.

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