Whether it’s due to the cost of rent and medication or different recommendations of care, as a private service, veterinarians can charge whatever they need to for their services in Canada. This means prices can vary widely depending on where you shop.
This is what happened to Ontario resident, Raphaela Mandel when her puppy, Xuxa had a severe gastrointestinal issue and needed medical treatment.
Xuxa’s food wasn’t properly digesting and as a result, she had bile reflux in her intestinal system, leaving her with eroded teeth. Mandel said she reached out to a vet to see how much it would cost to get her dog’s teeth cleaned.
One veterinarian in Brampton, Ont., said that Xuxa would need her entire set of teeth removed and that it would cost between $7,000 and $10,000.
“I thought there is no way. I understood some teeth needed to be extracted, but he said all of it,” Mandel said. “We said there is no way we can afford that and put our dog through that.”
Xuxa had previously undergone surgery for her gastrointestinal problems, and Mandel did not want to put the puppy through another surgery right away. So the family decided to wait.
Mandel and her family then moved to Niagara Falls, Ont., and started shopping around for prices on pet teeth cleaning in the region.
“When we moved to the Niagara region, we had no idea where to go or whom to visit,” she said. “Starting fresh with a sick puppy was hard. We found a few (places) in the area, went in for general consultations and some of them wanted blood tests before she even got onto the examining table.”
“These tests can rack up for those who can’t afford it,” she added.
Like the veterinarian in Brampton, one Niagara practitioner said Xuxa would need all her teeth removed and quoted around $7,000.
“Some places were charging us thousands of dollars. It was absurd,” Mandel said. “I felt cheated and disgusted. Animals are the purest form of creatures and to use them as an excuse to charge whatever they feel is necessary is wrong. There should be a guideline.”
But Mandel was determined to find a fair price and started asking dog owners in the neighborhood for a recommendation. She finally found a veterinarian that “clicked.”
“It was a very small practice, but right away they wanted to see her (Xuxa) first before giving us a quote. They examined her and made she was comfortable first.”
The veterinarian said Xuxa only needed a few teeth pulled and that removing every single one was “ridiculous.”
“It ended up costing us around $700. It was a lot cheaper,” Mandela said.
Prices around Ontario
Global News called 10 vets around Ontario, asking how much it would cost to neuter a one-year-old 60-pound golden retriever.
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The cheapest option was in London, Ont., with a cost of $258 for a standard procedure, including basic pain medication, intravenous fluids and blood work.
Prices in Toronto ranged from $560 to $800.
At least three vets in Toronto quoted a price of $800 to have a golden retriever neutered, and pain medication and blood work were not included.
Why prices vary
Veterinarian fees can be difficult to compare as clinics have their own way of breaking down costs. Fees for procedures depend on the quality of the equipment, drug prices and rent.
So if you are given two different quotes for your pet’s procedure, this may be the reason why.
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“We make sure to tell clients they are comparing apples to apples,” said Dr. Louis Kwantes, an Alberta veterinarian. “We have a package price at our clinic, which includes pre examination, IV fluids, blood work and pain control”
“Other places may have a cheaper price but those aren’t included. It’s important that the consumer ask more questions.”
Another reason for varying prices could be the quality of the equipment and the skill level of the employees at the clinic, Kwantes said.
For example, a veterinarian in rural Ontario may not have the latest equipment but a practice in Toronto may have digital dental X-rays and have someone who has been trained to work with them, he said.
“Clients have every right to ask about the price. It’s important understand why it may be necessary. Vets want to do what is best for the pets but with constraints of the owners,” he added.