Saturday, February 20, 2010

Brando gets sick; Metairie Small Animal Hospital gets rich

Last Friday night, Brando began to have diarrhea, although when I first discovered it I wasn't sure if it was that or vomit. It had that kind of acidity to it. Yuck. He seemed better the next day, but when I left in the evening he wanted to stay on my bed, so I let him...and returned a few hours later to bloody puddles everywhere. I tried some pepcid, but he threw that up. So I slept with him next to me in bed, worried about his deteriorating health. He was scheduled for surgery this week for several cysts and a few bad teeth that should be removed.

In the morning, we drove out to Metairie Small Animal Hospital, one of the clinics that also operates as an emergency facility. I had called ahead, and it was suggested that I come in at 9 to avoid the emergency fees. Brando's symptoms were identical to some problems Sula has had in the past, which were treated for her with a quick IV of fluid, an injection of anti-nausea meds, a prescription for Flagyl and some I/D food. But the Dr. at MSAH wanted Brando to stay overnight, possibly for two nights. And, in a panic, I agreed and went home to sit in a stupor with the other three dogs.

In the morning I called to check on him, and was told he was doing well. They had given him an IV, an injection of anti-nausea medication, and were going to test him with some I/D food. They had run blood tests and he was slightly anemic and possibly suffering from pancreatitis. Brando has never stayed overnight anywhere in the past eight years. I asked if I could visit him. They said yes, and I drove in and sat for nearly an hour with Brando laying in my lap, immobile. I didn't want to leave. Finally I told the staff that they could put him back...and they said "Oh, you can take him home." Huh? Why had I just spent an hour visiting with him if he could come home? The Dr. who checked us out said, "Well, you insisted on it." Actually, all I had done was ask, that morning, if he could come home, and had been told no.

I picked up his meds: a prescription for Flagyl and another antibiotic, along with some I/D food. The bill came to $620.

A few days later, I noticed that they had billed for two days of hospitalization at $125 a piece. The blood work, IV, etc was all itemized as additional charges. I called to ask about the bill and was told that they bill per day, not per 24 hours. "We're not a hotel," they said. I said, "So you should tell people that you have a minimum two-day fee." They said that's not true. "If I bring my dog in, and he stays overnight, but you charge me an extra day because he's there in the morning before I can get him, then that's a minimum two-day fee. How could someone possibly be charged only for one day?" "Well, if you took him home the same day you brought him, that would be one day." I've never heard of a facility charging this way. And I've used a lot of vets. "You need to realize," they told me, "that there isn't an additional exam fee, and the hospitalization also includes fluids and injections, etc." "Actually," I explained, "those things are itemized on the bill. And I understand there wasn't an additional exam fee, but there also wasn't an exam on each day he was there."

And at that, all they could say is "Well, I can see how you might be confused." And I said "I'll certainly think again before coming here, and I'll be sure to let everyone know what your policy is."

They said they could totally understand why I would want to do that. And so I am.


RescuedPittieMommy said...

It truly saddens me when I think of how we good pet parents are taken advantage of by vets.
My vet is no better, but loyalty keeps me coming back.
After reading this I think I'm just going to have to get over loyalty and start looking for a vet who is going to be honest and fair.

So glad Brado is doing well. Give him hugs and kisses from his Nashville fans please.

Spiros said...

You are so right.
They try to rip you off as much as possible.
What a shame!

Rachel Elizabeth said...

I'm happy to hear your boy is feeling better but that's ridiculous about the bill. $620 is a lot of money. Our dog was stung by a bee and had to stay overnight we were shocked it was $793. When a different dog of ours was attacked and had to have reconstructive surgery to wire his jaw back together and he was is the hospital for 3 days it was only $2400 at a different veterinary facility.

Lisa in Tlh said...

I hope Brando is feeling better. I'll bet you miss Dr. Sanders right about now. I wish they could all be as good and caring as him.

Anonymous said...

I do hope Brando is feeling better. I am a dog lover and having them being sick is so sad. Should have had his teeth and other stuff done at the same time.

Maureen said...

I'm so behind on my blog reading but still had to remark here as I'm so appalled. I've never heard of such a thing! How insane are their policies and fees?! I guess I have been incredibly lucky to always have had vets and clinics that went above and beyond. This one is clearly not in it to help anyone but the vet's pocket.

I hope Brando is doing better.

SpottedZ said...

I'm so sorry you were treated this way, Ken. I work as a vet tech at an emergency center in the Quad Cities, and we DO NOT treat people that way! That's very insensitive and uncaring. I'm suprised the doctor didn't talk to you about the benefits/risks of taking him home or keeping him there before he was discharged, claiming instead it was because you insisted!

The hospital bills for pets can get rather high (and it's not bad when you consider how much it costs humans, though we have insurance), but their billing sounds very wrong and manipulative. It makes me sad you had such a bad experience! People (and pets) should be treated better than that.

My love to Brando!

Anonymous said...

I used to work there. When you walked in the place did it look like it was going to be cheap? As for hospitalization policies you are charged for the first day, no matter what time your pet goes in, and if your pet is there past 12:00 PM the next day you are cahrged a for another day. At least that is how it was when I was there. I still use them as my primary vet, they offer exceptional service and care for my dogs and cats. If you want the best you have to pay. If you want a vet that will do what YOU want and what is not necessarily right for the DOG, go to another vet.

I am glad to hear that Brando is better, thanks to the treatment and medications he received, from the VET.

kfoz said...


Your response is quite telling, beginning with your snarky opening "did it look like it was going to be cheap?" it doesn't come as a surprise that you "used to work there." one of the essentials in a job like this is a bit of compassion and the ability to communicate. Neither these were on display in my experiences with MSAH. And you ignore the essential facts in order to defend my being overcharged. I was in fact told that any animal that stays overnight is charged for two days. And after asking for further clarification I was told that the only way a dog would be charged for just one night is if the dog leaves the same day it arrived. Most places would call that a visit.

My own not-inexpensive vet confirmed that the tests run were not needed. And he's someone who doesn't hesitate to run tests. For more recent emergencies, I've found that Southeast looks more glitzy but is actually cheaper and more efficient.

My most recent interaction with MSAH involved several staff members there who told me that they had to adopt out rescued dogs intact, because they could not afford to have it done at their own clinic.

Anonymous said...

I was not there and did not experience what happened, so I am not taking a stance for either side. I am just a vet student that loves the profession and only want to ask you please keep an open mind and not let one bad experience give you a false perception of the profession. Please don't speak negatively about all veterinarians by saying that "they all want to take advantage of us pet parents" because that, simply put, just isn't true. Yes, there are veterinarians who have done things that many would agree are not good "customer service," but that doesn't mean that we are all out to take advantage of you. The veterinary medicine profession is comprised of individuals who are passionate about saving lives and public service. They are a very small group of elite professionals (the number of vets in the united states can fit inside tiger stadium) who correspond and work together rather than slander one another's practices. Believe me when I tell you that after all expenses associated with maintaining a clinic are paid, most veterinarians receive a much smaller salary than you probably believe. They do not make even close to what doctors in human medicine earn, and the education required is just as expensive and comparatively more intense than required for human medicine, because knowledge of many species is required, as well as knowledge of more medical procedures (due to a vet needing to perform more procedures, because specialization is less common than in human medicine (however referral clinics exist)). All i am saying is that one must be truly passionate and dedicated to serving animals to make such a significant sacrifice in effort required to gain knowledge, while receiving a lesser salary at the same time. I have never met a veterinarian that was not passionate about the profession and the opportunity to provide such an important service. Thank you for listening and keeping an open mind.