Cost of extending life: Stop-treatment points edge higher, DVM survey says

Cost of extending life: Stop-treatment points edge higher, DVM survey says

State of the Profession, 2006
Jul 01, 2006

NATIONAL REPORT — $1,451: It's the price most clients will stop treatment of a sick or injured animal, veterinarians report.

Over the last three years, the average has been on the incline, up 34 percent since 2003, according to an exclusive DVM Newsmagazine survey (Methodology). The escalating price could be reflective of a sign of our times, the growing importance of the human-animal bond and a profession that is steadily becoming more accepting of a third-party payment system to extend life.

Table 1 Average dollar amount most clients would stop treatment
While the result may be considered high in some areas, Dr. Victoria Young, a Caldwell, Idaho practitioner in a six-doctor practice, sums it up this way: "You have some clients that price would be totally reasonable, but then you have the other side," which is any cost for veterinary care is just too high.

In an attempt to quantify an average stop-treatment point, DVM Newsmagazine sought to gain insight into the human-animal bond, the growing sophistication of veterinary medical delivery and veterinarian opinions about client attitudes regarding pet care.

Table 2 DVMs perception of client timing for euthanasia
Male and female veterinarians were united in their comparative estimates too. Female DVMs averaged $1,432, and male veterinarians averaged $1,479. Major differences show up when cross-tabulated with a practice's gross revenues. Smaller grossing practices have smaller stop-treatment estimate price points. For a practice grossing $250,000-$499,999, the average was $1,069, while practices in the $1-million to $1.249-million category averaged $1,254. Practices grossing more than $1.25 million shot up to $1,718.

The decision to euthanize is most frequently left up to clients according to 75 percent of respondents, the other 25-percent of cases are initiated by the doctor's recommendation, the survey reports. Three-quarters of veterinarians report their clients' decisions to euthanize are "about right." About 17 percent of cases were considered "too soon", and the other 9 percent were "not soon enough."

Table 3 Who talks to clients about euthanasia?
Veterinarians were asked to estimate how heavily costs weighed on a client's decision to continue treatment of a sick or injured animal.

In 2006, veterinarians report that in about 38 percent of cases, cost limited treatment, another 32 percent report that cost influenced his or her decisions to treat and 41 percent of respondents cite that cost was not a factor at all (multiple answers were allowed).