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The final bill
Euthanasia fees should account for a veterinarian's time, experts say


Her services cost more than a traditional veterinary practice's, McVety adds, because of the additional time involved, but she believes it's something that more pet owners value. Potential clients who question her prices are referred to more affordable options at shelters and traditional practices, but often call back to schedule a home euthanasia, she adds.

"I explain everything to the clients, and I think they appreciate that," McVety says. "That's how they see there is value in what you do."

Having spent up to two hours at a client's home for a euthanasia, McVety says the average is 30 minutes. For a traditional practice, especially a small practice, that can put a strain on the hospital's need to service other clients. McVety believes in-home euthanasia may be the next big referral service in veterinary medicine.

"In my opinion, ask any veterinarian, receptionist or technician where they euthanize their pet. They always do it in the home. We always do it in the home. Why are we not suggesting this?" McVety asks. "Get it out of the hospital, let them grieve in private. They will heal faster, get a new pet faster and be back in your clinic."

Small practices have a difficult time offering home euthanasia services and may begin looking to outsource the job to someone who is available on short notice. McVety is just now looking into offering her services by referral to other practices.

"This trend is growing like you have no idea," McVety says.

Clients may see the option as an added value at a practice, rather than feel as though they are being left on their own to find a home euthanasia service or risking a less-than-perfect experience in a clinic if a home experience is what they need.

"Euthanasia must be done perfectly. If it is anything less than perfect, that client is going to be grieving longer," McVety cautions, adding that pet owners can be easily alienated during a euthanasia procedure. And it could be by no fault of the veterinarian. The client could hear the activity in the next exam room and become upset, or run into a family entering the hospital with a new puppy or kitten as they leave.

Veterinarians who avoid creating a negative association with their practice for the client will likely see that client back in their office with another pet.

For practices that would not consider outsourcing euthanasia, McVety recommends considering house calls or scheduling euthanasias when there are no other appointments.

AAHA emphasizes that making euthanasia less stressful for clients will bond them to the practice and make veterinarians and staff feel better about the task, too. Euthanasia is an area expected to generate a low profit margin, AAHA notes. Euthanasia already is a difficult experience for pet owners, the association explains, and a large bill may portray a lack of compassion or caring on the practice's part. AAHA recommends accepting pre-payment or sending an invoice after the fact, but notes that a conversation about fees should always take place.

"Money must be discussed at these times; it would be worse for the client to be surprised, but don't make it the focus of the conversation," according to AAHA.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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