As the doctor listened to the patient’s heartbeat with the stethoscope she nodded gravely and said, “Yes, I am hearing a grade-two murmur.”
It was as expected. A month or so earlier, during an unrelated late-night emergency room visit, another doctor had detected a murmur and recommended we get it checked out more thoroughly.
So we had gone in to see our regular doctor. Her recommended course of action was bloodwork, X-rays, and an EKG, along with a consultation with a cardiologist. We didn’t hesitate. Blood was drawn, X-rays taken, and the EKG conducted right there in the office. At 12 years old, the patient had been to the doctor enough to be used to being poked and prodded…but I could have sworn our old dog looked at me with accusing eyes.
We were sent home with instructions that the patient should remain calm and that we would get the test results and the diagnosis from the specialist within a few days. The good news was that the bloodwork was normal, the X-rays checked out fine, and the murmur wasn’t too serious. Something to be monitored, while restricting activity for the patient; no exertion, no more trips to the park.
Which is just as well for Shadow, our getting-on-in-years little silver-grey Havanese, who much prefers lazing about in his comfy bed or on somebody’s lap to running around these days.
The final bill for the testing (remember, that’s bloodwork, X-rays, and EKG), vet visit, and consultation with the veterinary cardiologist (which I didn’t even know was a thing) came to $175.
As you might guess, we were not in the United States.
Here in Mexico, veterinary care is good and affordable for everything from vet visits to medication. In the U.S. you can’t really get out of the vet’s office without spending a few hundred bucks. When there is a potentially serious issue like Shadow’s, well…I really can’t imagine what all this would have cost. I did find some information online that estimated a similar cardiac workup would be $800 to $1,000.
This was really the first time Shadow had required much care. He’s generally a hardy little guy and tough… one of those little dogs who thinks he’s bigger than he is.
As we told our vet the story, she gasped.
But our other dog, Jester, a standard poodle, is another story. Earlier in the year, he came down with a mystery illness that came on him in just a few hours. It left him extremely lethargic, with no appetite. Normally, he was exuberant and ready to play, even at 13. But now, he could barely move or lift his head.
The whole family was worried. My two boys were crying over the beloved furry family member they’d grown up with. My wife and I tried to prepare them for the worst.
Of course, we rushed him to the vet. Despite the crowded waiting room, they saw him right away. The vet recommended a multi-day course of IV antibiotics at the surgery’s in-patient clinic during the day, with medication to take home at night. It was touch and go. But after a few days, the medication started working, and he was back to his old self. Back to playing with the kids.
Total cost for the three days of in-office treatment, several check-ups with the vet, and medications? About $200 all-in. They actually didn’t charge us for some of the vet visits, and the doctor called us a few times in the evenings to see how things were going. (Did I mention I have our vet’s cellphone number?)
If you have a dog, you’ll know all too well that that is a fraction of what it would cost in the U.S. For hospitalization, blood work, X-rays, ultrasounds, intravenous medication, multiple consultations, emergency care, I’m sure the bill would have reached well into the thousands.
As a result, many pet parents, strapped for cash, have to use credit, dig into savings, or make a tough decision to put their beloved pet down because they can’t pay for expensive treatment. In Mexico, we don’t have to worry about it.
We were put in that position a few years back, again with Jester. We were back in Florida for a family visit during the Christmas season and had brought our dogs. One day, Jester was obviously in pain, so we rushed him to the nearest vet. A bladder stone was blocking the urethra and there were several more in the bladder itself; future accidents waiting to happen.
Immediate emergency surgery was needed or he would die. We went ahead with it, of course. But the $3,000 bill—which we negotiated down from the first quote of $5,000 (I’ll admit, the vet was understanding and compassionate)—was quite painful.
It hurt even more when we were back in Mexico a few weeks later and went to our regular vet for a follow-up. Luckily, Jester was in good shape and was on the road to a full recovery. As we told our vet the story of what happened and the final bill, she gasped. “I hate to tell you this,” she said, “but if this had happened here, I would have charged you $700.”
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