Friday, November 27, 2009

We should pay our vets more...

We – by which I mean we pet owners – don’t pay our vets enough money.

No, honestly.

Most vets are dependent on commercial organisations to help supplement their income. They get sponsorship, fees, research grants and training from pharmaceutical companies and other organisations such as dog food manufacturers.

They also make commission from selling everything from medicines to, of course, food. Indeed, many small animal practices earn as much as a third of their revenue from dog and cat food sales alone.

If we pet owners were willing to pay more in fees then maybe vets could free themselves of their dependence on businesses that so obviously have a vested interest in providing support.

I would go so far as to say that an unwillingness to pay vets what they are worth has led to the fact that the whole veterinary profession is geared towards curing problems instead of preventing them.

This is because there is money in cures but not in prevention.

The wonderful Mrs. Self and I have just been to Vienna where we were given a tour behind the scenes at the Spanish Riding School. After looking at the stables, which house several dozen horses at a time, Mrs. S asked: ‘How often do the vets come to visit?’ The woman showing us around thought hard: ‘I mean maybe every two months, maybe not so often.’

The point is the School knows how to care for their horses so that they don’t get ill and don’t become injured. Interestingly, the School doesn’t use commercial feeds, but grows much of the horses’ food themselves on their own farms.

It is expensive being a vet. First you have to study for at least seven years and then, if you want to set up in practice, you have to invest a great deal of capital. Unlike, say, solicitors they haven’t trained their customers to pay substantial fees (my solicitors, by no means a fancy firm, don’t think twice about charging me £250 an hour and sometimes more).

As I say, if we were willing to pay more then maybe vets would be less susceptible to offers of help from unscrupulous commercial interests.

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