“I bet I paid for this exam room.”
“That’s a nice wedding ring, bet my dog’s bills paid for that.”
“I bet you live in a giant mansion with all the money you have made off my cat.”
“I put your kids through college.”
“I paid for all those cruise vacations.”
“Is that your Lexus that I just parked next to?”
“Vet bills weren’t so high until vets decided they needed to drive Mercedes and live in gated communities.”
“ You probably buy a new car every month.”
“I’ll bet you had a good Christmas after doing my dog’s surgery.”
“Well I guess the kids won’t get Christmas gifts this year. Hope you enjoy yours!”
All of these are real quotes stated by real owners.
Veterinarians are doctors. Let’s repeat that, we are DOCTORS! We have gone through the same training and dedicated our lives to the same level of medicine as our human counterparts. But when it comes to respect and wages, we seem to be stuck. Most people see human doctors as deserving of their large wages, nice cars, and expensive houses. It’s a mark of a good human doctor to have it all. It’s accepted that our human counterparts make good money and deserve it. So why are veterinarians consistently made to feel bad if they make a living wage?
We are not rich. Veterinarians make between $50-80k per year depending on experience and area of practice. Sometimes specialists will make a good amount more than that. But compared to human physicians we make about 1/3- 2/3 of their annual salary. We put the same amount of time and studying into our degree but at this time our wages do not reflect it. Next time you tell a veterinarian that they are just in it for the money just remember that with our wages there is no way your statement could be true.
Another misconception is that for every test we suggest we are making extra money off of your animal. We aren’t! Most of us work on a salary. Some get bonus money depending on if we had a good month but no veterinarian is suggesting blood work or x-rays on your animal to make 100 bucks extra that month. We suggest those things because your pet is sick and we want to figure out what is wrong with it.
Same idea goes for recommending a specialty diet or a specific medication. We do not get paid by pet food companies or drug representatives to push certain products. We will occasionally get free click pens or a “lunch and learn” to discuss new products, but let me tell you, a free pen and a slice of pizza isn’t going to sway me to push a product. In fact most veterinarians will try to find substitute medications or script out products if they are cheaper at an outside pharmacy. We want your pet to get better, not for you to have to struggle with paying its bills.
Another issue is the price of veterinary care depends on the region. The care may be the same but unfortunately cost of living and keeping a veterinary clinic afloat does differ whether you are in a rural area or large city. We aren’t ripping you off when the big city vet costs twice than the rural vet- we are just trying to pay our staff, keep the lights on, and also make a living ourselves.
Speaking of making a living for ourselves, we shouldn’t have to feel bad if we do have a nice car, or a large house, or a beautiful engagement ring. Most of the time those nice things aren’t because of our wages but most likely the wages of our significant other. You see us veterinarians make very little and graduate with large amounts of debt. Most of us are paying 2000-3500k per month in student loans. Due to this we usually are driving old cars, renting our houses, and buying ramen noodles to survive. If we do make a little extra because we kicked butt during a specific month and we get some bonus money, why can’t we celebrate that accomplishment without clients thinking we are “all about the money?”
It is truly a catch 22-type situation. We are proud of what we do, just like our human counterparts, but we are constantly told we just want money to pay for our expensive lifestyle and veterinary practice. The misconceptions are many and when we try to explain the reality we are shut down. Honestly though, do you think it’s okay to make the comments stated above towards anyone at their place of work? Maybe that is a whole other subject entirely….
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Nicole Palumbo is a 2012 graduate from University of Illinois. She is originally from the south side of Chicago but chose to move to Northwest Pennsylvania for her first job out of veterinary school, where she currently is still employed. She works with small animals, exotics, and also volunteers her time at the local wildlife rescue, typically performing surgeries and exams on the many raptors that are admitted to the facility. With time she hopes to focus more time on wildlife medicine and also obtain specialization in feline medicine.