When I first moved to Los Angeles in 1972 and had my first cat here, vet costs were nominal. I was living in a Zen center at the time. One of the center’s cats was hit by a car in 1975. I rushed him to a vet where they made heroic efforts to save him. The final charge was $287.
When I moved to Santa Monica in 1983, I had several vets until I found Ken Jones.
In my eyes, he could do no wrong. He appeared to be a great diagnostician, and his prices were right. He did not recommend blood tests unless he thought it necessary. Rarely did an office visit cost more than $65.
In 1995 he performed a bladder surgery on Satchi; the total bill after a one day stay: $316.
Only problem with Ken is his horror of a wife who began doubling fees in the early 90s. Now Suzanne has jacked up Ken’s prices until he is right up there with VCA. I had a big argument with Suzanne and was 86’d from his practice.
However, somewhere along the line Ken began liking the new prices. He began buying all sorts of equipment and his prices shot up too with his o.k.
I then went to Dr. Martin and others in West LA. Martin’s prices were reasonable, but he seemed somewhat a cold fish.
One of my cats developed breast cancer and I took her to Alan Shulman at that time, about 1995. The VCA oncologist only gave her 6-12 months to live after surgery. Alan provided a bilateral, radical mastectomy. She lived almost 2 years afterwards. The cost of surgery and followup? 900$!
Moving to the Valley I first went to McClaves where I stayed two years or so. McClaves is now VCA, as all independent vets are going: more money.
McClaves was good, but pricey and you never knew who you would get as a walk in. When I left in 2005, an office visit was $42. Office visits were rarely over $200.
On recommendation I went to Adler Animal Hospital in Reseda, with Dr. Reimer who has a great bedside manner and even more expensive rates. Rarely could I go away with under a $250 bill.
About 10 months ago, a VCA rival bought Adler and office visits jumped to $55. Prices across the board went up 10-20%. The doctors gave themselves a $10/hr. raise and gave office staff and tech staff a 50 cents per hour raise. A failed surgery on Gopi and a failed overnight attempt to save Gracie with kidney failure cost $900 and $740 respectively.
I went to Noreda twice because I heard his prices were better. I liked him; he took his time and explained things. However, one day I had a walk in. He was not there, but a relief vet was. With an office visit, blood tests, antibiotics, a vitamin B shot, and SQ fluids, it cost $340. I was never asked about any of the procedures except the blood test, and was shocked that the other procedures were done without any discussion or permission.
Then Dustin developed small cell intestinal cancer about two years ago. It was diagnosed after a biopsy last May. Luckily he had a cancer rider on his insurance. He also had thyroid problems and was given radiation therapy for that, but an ultrasound and Endoscopy discovered the cancer. Cost: $3,200! This was done br Dr. Broome. Broome was patient, detailed in his discussion and readily returned phone calls. AND, he was expensive. For example, charging $10 for each Baytril pill pushed down Dustin's throat and $12 for each 10mg pill of Pred.
The first oncologist, Ayl in Oxnard wasn’t that expensive but he never talked to me. Even when problems arose, he never talked on the phone but only through staff.
I then went to an oncologist at an unmentioned location (he is still Dustin's oncologist).
He promised to be instantly communicative, which he was for the first visit. The first visit, with office call, ultrasound, blood tests cost almost $600. Dustin is still hanging in 12 months later but treatment has not resulted in a remission and another $1,860 has passed by. I see him and most others in his practice as someone who sees Dustin as a pricey lump of coal and he is a coal miner. (I just talked to him. Dustin's bowel is normal. Lymph nodes are swollen, but likely not due to cancer but chronic inflamation. There is a nodule on his liver, but in a place that cannot be aspirated, and likely benign (est. 75% benign). I feel relieved. I would hate to have another cat die within a year.)
You can see it is all of their eyes: MONEY.
I did have one great vet for a time until he became Chief Vet at LAAS: Steve Feldman. Steve was almost cheap. Great service, easy appointments, never too busy, just like with Ken Jones 20 some years before.
Unfortunately, Steve was replaced by another coal miner who charged my neighbor over $600 to treat a deep abcess surgically and a half day stay.So, how was Mason supposed to pay for the medical care of 50 cats? He couldn’t provide perfect medical care and even spay neuter. He was basically employed part time, yet he tried the hardest. He said as soon as he collected $120 for a day's work he took it to Holiday Humane to pay off his bill.
(I do understand that Cynthia Hockman did a lot to help Ron. She did a lot of free things for him. He just said she became strange once he was busted and she started working for Boks.)
Then he was arrested and charged with felony animal neglect and stories of his criminal lack of care for his cats spread all over the web and by Dana Bartholomew in the Daily News.
By the way, Ron was never charged with anything. Dana’s front page story with tons of photos and his description of the horrible scene at his house was never retracted. A month or so after the case was closed, the Daily News printed a 2” column buried in the middle of the paper saying that Mason, whose house had been raided in October, was not charged with a felony. Dana’s promised retraction and followup story was never written. Mason is still therefore considered a felon by many who saw the huge front page article and then read Boks’ defense of the ACTF bust. Ed has never mentioned anywhere that no charges were ever filed.
And what about Mason? His cats were confiscated and no medical care was attempted on 28 cats who were immediately euthanized. Should LAAS be brought up on animal neglect charges because they could not afford to treat the cats either?
The point is the entire animal care system from shelters to private practice vets has grown corrupt and bloated. Very few people can afford the vet care of three cats or three dogs. You can with insurance, but the premiums themselves become increasingly pricey and the carriers always find ways to refuse claims.
One person, since fired from McClaves, overheard one vet, “Dr. Ted” complaining to another about money. The other said to Ted, “What are you bitching about, you are still making $400,000 a year?”
I see the only solution is that we consumers of vet “care” need to start a pet HMO that controls the greed and pricing, bringing care within the reach of many who cannot afford care now and thus risk arrest for animal neglect should a neighbor complain.
The pet care system is rigged against the pet owner who has had his vet turn into a green-eyed money machine where care for the animals is vastly secondary to the care of the vet.
I once saw a client bounced from Adler Clinic with a cat with a broken leg. The doctor showed him to the door and said “we do not do that kind of surgery, you need a specialist." The client asked who and where, and the doctor said he didn’t know and actually was showing the client and his cat to the door. The guy walked out of Adler with his cat's leg dangling.
I told the guy about Alan Shulman--who is board certified in orthopedic surgery--and Care Credit that many vets use. I hope he went, but he just looked stunned at the bum's rush.I think at that time my long festering anger with greedy vets began turning into hate.
We who love animals are at the mercy of increasingly callous vets whose eyes see only money.