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When the Vet's Estimate Is More Than You Can Afford
vet visit estimate

Last week, we met with a new patient, a 6-year-old male Lab mix, Roscoe. His mom brought him in for a second opinion. The previous vet had diagnosed him with a possible cancerous skin tumor and recommended surgical removal. Roscoe’s mom was very concerned for her baby, but she balked at the vet’s cost estimate for performing the surgery. She shared her concerns with a friend (who’d been a client of mine for the last decade), and her friend recommended she bring Roscoe to see me for a second opinion.

As we finished the exam, Roscoe’s mom showed me a copy of the previous vet’s estimate and asked if I could do it for less. I asked if she’d discussed the recommended plan and estimated cost with the other doctor? She told me, “No.  When I saw that big number on that estimate, I’d seen enough. I thanked him and left.” 

Here is the thing. When your veterinarian presents an estimate for a non-routine procedure, the first estimate is almost always a list of procedures recommended for the most positive outcome. It is the best they can offer -- but it is likely not the only option. The first estimate is “Plan A,” but there is usually a plan B, and even sometimes Plans C and D. All plans are hoping for success, but with differing alternatives.

In this case, knowing that Roscoe’s mom had not been happy with the previous vet’s initial estimate, I presented several different options. Turns out, my “Plan A” was actually a tad bit higher than the first vet’s. But we discussed Plans B and C as well and settled on the one that best fit her family’s position. We decided to hold off on sending the sample out for histopathology (or “biopsy”) and adjusted a couple of the medication recommendations. This plan allowed us to keep the cost down while still providing proper medical care to her pup.

When you get an estimate from your vet, don’t be afraid to ask if there are other options. There is no shame in saying that Plan A is out of your financial comfort zone. We won’t label you a bad or neglectful pet owner, or a cheapskate or selfish. We know you want the same thing we do, and we want to move forward with a plan that everyone is fully comfortable with -- even if it’s not Plan A. 


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Will Draper, DVM

Will Draper, DVM


Dr. Will Draper, founder and director of The Village Vets practice group in metro Atlanta, GA, has been a well-known small-animal practitioner for almost 30 years. He is presently featured on Disney Plus’s “Love & Vets” with his wife, Dr. Fran Tyler. You can follow Dr. Will on Instagram and on Twitter.

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