How far will you go for cheaper vet care?

Recently, there’s been a long discussion thread on one of my show dog lists about the wide variance of prices for veterinary care throughout Southern Ontario. Accusations of veterinary ‘price gouging’ were alleged at a few clinics, while others defended their clinic’s standard of care, even if their costs were slightly higher.

This raises an interesting question for us as breeders. When everything is equal, how far will you go for cheaper veterinary care?


I am not discussing the rare and specialized services that only a Veterinary Specialist can provide. When dealing with something like a heart defect, I want my dog in the capable hands of the Cardio team at the University of Guelph, even if it does mean a bill well into the thousands of dollars. A rare or complicated condition obviously requires specialized care, equipment, and  it also requires vets who have done years of additional training and education to acquire the skills needed. I’m talking about the day to day things, like shots, check ups and alteration.

An article in the Chatham Daily News examined the wide variance of prices for as simple a procedure as a neuter –

 prices for neutering are more expensive in Chatham-Kent, at least for a male dog weighing in at about 95 lbs. The fees, before tax, ranged from $219 to $467.

In London, the price quotes, before tax, went from $84 to $239.

Compared to some of the prices I have heard of, $467 for a neuter practically seems like a steal. A French Bulldog owner who lives in downtown Toronto was quoted $900 for a neuter on their one year old French Bulldog, taxes not included.

Locally, my prices vary almost as widely as they do in Chatham – London.

I called several of the clinics in the Grey Bruce and Wellington areas of Ontario that I have personal experience with. I asked them for neuter estimates on a 25 lb., six month old French Bulldog – the same dog whose owners had received a quote of $900 in downtown Toronto.

Here are my results –

Grey Bruce Veterinary Hospital, Owen Sound
$77 initial exam, because dog is not a current client
$275 for neuter, without fluids.
Dog goes home same day.

Graham Animal Hospital, Hillsburgh
$330 for neuter, without fluids.
Dog goes home same day

North Wellington Veterinary Clinic, Mt. Forest
$77 initial exam, because dog is not a current client
$284.66 for neuter,  fluids during surgery included.
Dog goes home same day.

Hanover Veterinary Hospital, Hanover
$195 for neuter, without fluids.

Mildmay Veterinary Clinic, Mildmay/Walkerton
$180 for neuter, without fluids.
Overnight stay is required.


Finally, I called Staples Animal Hospital, in London. Staples is the clinic that I mentioned in my blog post about meeting a Puggle breeder. It is a busy, crowded clinic – routinely cars are lined up along the roadside in front of the clinic, while people queue up inside, waiting to be seen by the Veterinarians. The reason? Their prices. Check out the quote from Staples –

Staples Veterinary Clinic, London
$84 for a neuter, without fluids
Dog goes home same day

That’s a tough price to quibble with, and I’ve used Staples before, especially for rescue dogs. I’ll likely use them again in the future, as well. It’s not that I think my dogs would get a lesser standard of care at Staples, by the way. I find the vets there to be skilled and knowledgeable – how could you not be, if you were performing thirty plus alterations per day?

On a daily basis, however, I actually don’t mind paying a little more to go to one of the local clinics I’ve developed a rapport with. For one thing, they’re local, which beats a three hour drive each way to London. For another, I like my vets, and I like the care they give my dogs, and the fact that they know me and my dogs.  Finally, I know that if I don’t support my local clinics when I need them to do the small stuff, they might not be there for me when I need the big stuff.

But, if the day ever comes that they start quoting me three, four, five hundred dollars more than a competing clinic, for something as minor as a neuter, then loyalty is going out the window in favor of pragmatism. It’s something that vets might want to bear in mind, when they complain about empty waiting rooms and clients who never come to see them for appointments. Take a look at the clinic down the road from you, the one that’s kept prices in line. Are there cars lined up outside, and is their parking lot full?

If the answer is ‘yes’, then it’s time to acknowledge that the fault for your empty clinic does not lie with clients who aren’t getting veterinary for their pets, but with vets who have priced themselves out of reach of their pet owners.

7 replies
  1. Benny & Lily
    Benny & Lily says:

    Overall the prices are ok around here except when my Lily has to go to her dermatologist. Mom said she was to come back in her next life as a Vet. Whatever that means
    Benny (& Lily)

  2. Ruth
    Ruth says:

    Recently changed vets after a big blowup over what exact “routine” care my new puppy would get, the final straw was when they charged me 3 to 5 times the going rate for the distemper/parvo titer I insisted on (They charged me $250, after calling 5 other vets in the area I got quotes ranging from $40 to $75 depending on which lab they used and what their base fee for a vet tech visit was). New vet is closer to home too, when we moved I’d intended to stay with my original vet, it wasn’t THAT far of a drive, but after that argument…..turned out to be a REALLY good thing I had as they had ALSO neglected to tell me vital information about the blood work results on one of my cats (new vet looked at her chart and asked me what we were doing to control her kidney/liver numbers……I said what numbers??).

    Thing is I’d have been willing to pay more than “average” for my new vet’s services as they ALSO run a 24hr emergency vet service for their patients (talk about handy, his emergency vet will already have his paperwork ON HAND in case of an emergency), but their prices are right on par with the middle of the road prices I got from everywhere else. Oh I’m sure they charge a fortune for the emergency services (I was quoted a base $90 just to have a vet look at him the one time it looked like I might have to bring him in to them in a hurry), but its worth it. PLUS both cats actually seem to LIKE this vet office, which they never have before.

    • frogdogz
      frogdogz says:

      I don’t understand why some vets pull these occasional stunts. Do they not realize that, these days, most consumers are going to shop around? As I said, I don’t mind paying for specialist services, but when the rates on something basic like laboratory services get jacked up, I get annoyed, and I imagine most other pet owners do, too.

      For breeding, the rates for a blood draw and progesterone test are all OVER the map. My ‘alternate’ regular vet insists on charging a full office visit fee for each blood draw, and since we’re doing three to four of these over a ten day period, you can imagine how they add up. The vet I know use charges one office visit for the first draw, nothing for the rest. That seems fair to me, since we’re in and out in ten minutes, and I only need to see a tech. So, the first clinic loses $600 worth of vet work, all over their trying to charge me an extra $100 in office visit fees.

      • Ruth
        Ruth says:

        I think what annoyed me the most (well, 2nd, after the price gouging) was her insisting that she was going to have to go out of her way to find a lab to do the titer…, hello?? we’re, like, an hour out of Cornell, please don’t tell me you think I’m so stupid that I don’t know that, especially since I’d obviously gone through the process of researching the vaccines and titers….and I got a great big lecture on how “no other vet is going to work with you either!!! I’m a VET, I went to SCHOOL for this you know, no one else will do what you want either!!” How strange that my new vet responded with “oh! We’re getting more people who want that sort of vaccination schedule these days, lets go over what you were looking at so we can make it work!” for a fraction of the price. Its no wonder to me why I’ve never driven by there with out at least a few cars in the parking lot!

      • Ruth
        Ruth says:

        sorry for the rant, I’m still peeved (in case you couldn’t get), we’ve only just finally gotten my older cat’s kidney and liver numbers back down to where they belong instead of 10times high, and no, just treating her thyroid did NOT solve the problem (which as far as anyone, including my new vet, can guess is what the old vet was expecting to happen).

  3. force majeure
    force majeure says:

    Over the last few years I have become APPALLED at how vets in Toronto are gouging people – and not just first-time pet owners (like that would be okay, too?) but also very experienced and concerned dog and cat people. [Heaven help you if you have a cockatiel or gerbil: step right up to the “exotics” vet and let them bleed you through the nose!]

    How is it that there is no regulatory body to review this? I mean, dentists have a Schedule of Fees, and most of them work within the “range” for each type of procedure, knowing that their abidance to this guarantees more patients with coverage – since their coverage will only pay the specific amount outline in the Schedule of Fees….

    Vets rely on the GUILT FACTOR: you’re a bitter person if you won’t cough up $ blindly for whatever they tell you. YET, I feel NO guilt when I consider shopping around for a decent dentist for myself: I’m even willing to take the ambience of their office and flattering, pot lighting into consideration and pay a bit more, but I don’t even see a vet clinic that bothers to invest in that aspect of their business with the obscenely huge mark-up they’re charging for their services to pets!

    The spay/neuter procedure pricing really bothers me, too – I do think that many of them base it on the breed: ‘Oh, you bought a Frenchy, therefore you = pots of cash and are a sitting duck”….

    I was charged $250 for a simple medicated bath for a Basset Bleu De Gascogne (yes a rare breed, ca-ching!), that I have since bought the liquids required for less than $20!!!! Believe me, the cutesy cotton paw-marked kerchief they tied around her neck when I picked her up did not equal $230 worth of anything…. and this was at an apparently “good” middle-of-the-road clinic in a neighbourhood that has seen better days.

    Argh. This really touches a nerve. So many people are getting ripped off!

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