• Michelle Brownstein

Corporate Franchised Animal Hospitals: The Ugly Truth

Due to the declining economy, Americans across the country are turning to corporate animal hospitals in an attempt to save money. But what makes these franchised animal hospitals more attractive to Americans than other smaller independent animal hospitals?

These large conglomerate animal hospitals are offering attractive health package for cats, dogs, puppies and kittens, that is difficult to duplicate in a smaller independent animal hospital– with a pretty price. How exactly can they afford to offer such low-cost services?

Volume and commissions:

Employees get substantial commissions for selling package deals to new clients. In essence, anytime you call a pet shop affiliated clinic asking for prices, they will push their packages which are attractive on the surface. When you look deeper or start utilizing the package however, you soon realize that there are major short comings.

Overpaying for Services that are Not Utilized:

They wager that 30% to 40% of clients will not use all the package benefits– allowing for huge profit margins.

Not “everything” is Included:

These packages are not insurance and when you pet falls ill, you have to pay for medical services oftentimes higher than what an independent veterinarian charges. Your package may entitle you to a small percentage break, but if your puppy gets something that requires more in-depth diagnostics and aggressive treatments expect to pay the same or more than the independent hospital around the corner.

Selling Everything Else that is Not Included in the Package:

The corporate mindset is to sell products and services not included in these packages. When viewing complaints against these large practices one sees a trend. Numerous complaints about extra services for their pet’s spay or neuter appear. Owners are told their female was in heat, or their pet needs post operative pain or antibiotic medications or elizabethan collars etc. which will add an additional $100 or $200 to your “free surgery”.All too often routine surgeries do not receive intravenous catheters, nor are they electronically monitored during the procedure….these standards are other smaller independent hospitals are “extras."

Surface Level Medical Products and Care:

Only basic vaccines are included such as distemper and rabies– and these are not the highest quality vaccines available (those typically impart longer immunity and require boosters every 3 years). They buy vaccines in huge quantities and as inexpensively as possible to cut costs. Lyme, Kennel Cough ,Influenza and Feline Leukemia are typically not included and “extra." Notice on their receipts are services for vaccination injection reaction. This is there because they administer too many vaccinations at once, which makes your pet sick, requiring an injection to stop the bad side effects. They do not view pets as unique individuals and often their clinics are referred to as “shoot and scoot” which gets the patient vaccinated for as much as possible with a very brief examination.

They also emphasize vaccines deemed less effective by the general veterinary community i.e. FIV and Giardia as well as inferior deworming products are utilized to reduce overhead.

Also, if you move or your pet dies you cannot cancel the contract. Your option is to pay for all the services used at the actual price. Not to mention the fact that the veterinarians employed at corporate hospitals change quite frequently so your petdoes not see the same doctor consistently. Free office visits often mount up to a technician examination, if a veterinarian is needed you are asked to leave the pet (for a fee) and your pet will be examined at some point during the day in your absence.

It goes on and on- but to the client, the puppy or kitty package they purchased for roughly $40 per month has now become quite expensive. The deals are attractive on the surface level, but most veterinarians are offering comparative programs and payment options in a dwindling economy.

Things to keep in mind when you go price shopping …

  • Ask your friends and families who they have used in the past - stick to what works!

  • Do an internet search and see the positive and negative sides a nationally franchised or conglomerate hospitals.

  • Do the same for the smaller independent non-conglomerate hospital.

  • Do the math and read the fine print before you sign up for any plans, deals, or contracts.

  • Ask specifically about the products they use. Is heartworm or flea prevention included in the package?

  • Ask for a copy of the contract before you sign up.

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