Updated: Apr 28
Answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.
Q: Why can't I just get medication without seeing Dr. Thomas? It is the same condition my pet has had before so I know what they need.
A: Although you may be right and it may be the same condition as before, we are bound by legislation that requires that we see your pet before we can dispense medication. To ignore this law could see us lost our license to practice. This even includes recurring conditions as they are classified as "new" if they are not constantly ongoing. However, if your pet does have an ongoing condition and if Dr. Thomas deems it safe and appropriate, we are happy to see your pet every six months, which is the minimum legal requirement, and keep on dispensing the medication within that time.
Please note, at times monitoring medication to determine appropriate dosage or monitor potential side-effects by laboratory testing at times may be necessary. If that is the case, your pet may be required to come in for laboratory testing within those 6 month periods for their wellbeing and safety. We cannot provide medication for some ongoing conditions without appropriate diagnostics.
Q: Why can't I come to the back with my pet when they have a procedure done?
A: A vet clinic is a place where there are many potential hazards, so it is recommended from an insurance point of view that there be certain areas that are off limits to the public. We also have various medications and other substances in our treatment areas, much like a human hospital, so in the best interest of all it is important that only trained and licensed staff are allowed in that space. Please rest assured that we are fully trained and certified. We are only looking to make your pet's experience a positive one so they are in good hands with us. We actually find that pets can be better behaved at times when their owners are not present! Much like your children on a sleepover where " they are no trouble and little angels".
Our staff of Fear Free Certified Professionals are committed to monitoring and reducing your pet's fear, anxiety, and stress level while they are with us. If for any reason our medical team feels that continuing treatment is creating an unhealthy scenario for your pet treatment will be stopped. We will work with you to determine next best steps such as owner involvement or a mild anti-anxiety medication regime to make your pet's experience a pleasant one.
Q: Why hasn't Dr. Thomas or a Certified Vet Tech called me with my pet's lab results yet and why can't the receptionist just give me the results if they are in?
A: Receiving results from the laboratory is only part of the process, as Dr. Thomas needs to be able to sit down and take the time to review your pet's records, interpret what the lab results mean and then formulate a customized plan for your pet. This takes time, so if your results are in and you haven't received a call or Pet Desk message yet, we promise it is on Dr. Thomas' to-do list and someone will get back to you as soon as possible. You can help make the process quicker by answering a voicemail or Pet Desk message as soon as you receive it, so you don't end up having to play "phone tag" with us for results or medication changes if applicable.
Receptionists, while often knowledgeable about certain conditions, are not legally allowed to interpret or discuss lab results, so they will need to defer you to Dr. Thomas and the medical team for this reason.
Please note, results have not been coming back in a timely manner from the laboratory due to staffing shortages at their facility which can contribute to a delay in response.
Q: If I keep my pet on parasite prevention, why do I need to test for heartworms each year?
A: Even though today's preventative medications are highly effective, like with any medication, none are 100 percent effective, especially if your pet inadvertently misses a dose, if medication isn't administered properly, or owners don't realize that a pet didn't actually swallow a pill. Testing is the only way to ensure that we catch an infection early. If your pet unknowingly has heartworms the medication will kill the heartworms however, if a large number of heartworms die, they could clog the arteries of the heart and kill your pet.
Tests today are also more sophisticated than before. In fact, they might be able to detect the presence of just one heartworm. This type of early detection allows you to provide treatment before the heart and lungs have been seriously damaged. It can be very hard to recognize the symptoms of heartworms, especially in cats. Feline heartworm disease is especially dangerous; infected cats may die from the development of just one heartworm. Please remember, that there is no cure for heartworms in cats, and the treatment for dogs is extensive, very painful, expensive, and despite best efforts, not always effective.
**DO I NEED TO ADMINISTER PREVENTION EVERY MONTH? (even in the winter?)
Absolutely, yes! There are many different ways for your dog or cat to contract parasites. Even indoor pets can even be infected when their humans or canine family members bring fleas in on their clothing or shoes or a mosquito gets into the home!
Fleas, ticks, and mosquitos can be found at any time of year in the United States, so year-round prevention medication is essential. Dogs and cats can be exposed to heartworms in almost any location where mosquitoes can be found.
Q: Does my pet really need a yearly wellness exam?
A: Yes - at a minimum! Regular wellness checks are an important part of pet ownership. While bringing your pet in for "just a checkup" may feel like a chore, (especially when having to catch our feline friends), studies show that preventative care is essential and provides a baseline should future health issues arise. In addition, Dr. Thomas recommends wellness exams for the same reason your physician and dentist recommend them - if you can detect a problem in its early stages, it's more likely to be treated and resolved with less expense, less difficulty, and better success.
Ideally, senior pets should be seen every six months. Since pets age faster than people, when your pet isn't examined for a year, it's like you staying away from your doctor for seven years! Yearly or twice-yearly appointments ensure that a pet's later years truly are golden.
Q: Does my pet really need a dental cleaning? I brush their teeth at home.
A: Yes! Taking care of your pet's dental health is just as important as any other aspect of your pet's well-being. Your pet requires regular dental care as they accumulate plaque just as we do. Plaque creates gum inflammation, which can destroy gum tissue and bone. Periodontal disease occurs as early as age three and can cause loose teeth, bleeding gums, severe pain, and liver, kidney, and heart issues. Dental cleanings and procedures also allow Dr. Thomas to closely inspect your pet's mouth, teeth, oral cavity, and gums. We also take radiographs, which at Aardvark are free of charge, to look for possible problems not visible to the naked eye.
** Why does a dental cleaning cost so much?
Unlike people, pets will not sit still for teeth cleaning, therefore general anesthesia is necessary while undergoing a dental procedure. Pre-dental blood work is required prior to the dental procedure to ensure that your pet's liver and kidneys can adequately process anesthetic agents and that they are in good health. The process includes Dr. Thomas and a Certified Veterinary Technician placing an IV catheter, IV fluids, a pre-anesthetic dose to help your animal relax, and then the induction period while your pet is placed under anesthesia.
Just as with humans undergoing general anesthesia, Dr. Thomas will closely monitor vital signs such as blood pressure, oxygen saturation, heart function, body temperature, and other cardio-respiratory values while your pet is under anesthesia. We conduct dental radiographs, a thorough oral examination, just as a human dentist would, do a complete dental cleaning, and perform any extractions should they be necessary. After the procedure, Dr. Thomas and a Certified Veterinary Technician will "wake up" your pet and place them into recovery where post-procedure vitals are monitored by our medical team.
Q: Why can't I return medication, supplements, or supplies for a refund even if they are unused or unopened?
A: It is illegal for Aardvark to take back any drugs once they have left our hospital even if they have not been opened, unused or in a tamper proof container. Due to FDA regulations, the integrity of the chain of custody of a drug must be documented and secure going from veterinarian to patient directly. In addition, non-prescription drugs, health care products, aid or devices that has been provided to you for your pet cannot be returned for a refund due to regulations.
Q: Why are veterinary services so expensive? I don't remember paying this much before.
A: There's a common public perception that veterinary care is overpriced and that many veterinarians get rich at the expense of pets and their owners. We can assure you at Aardvark Animal Hospital, a small, women-owned, family business that is not the case.
Private equity firms have purchased many veterinary hospitals in our area and these hospitals have no obligation to inform their clients that they have been sold. Area veterinary hospitals have been purchased by "Investment Management” companies who raise money from wealthy investors and use it to buy out new or existing companies, often to make profits for their investors. They specialize in acquiring multiple businesses within one industry or sector. In this case, these veterinary consolidators are larger veterinary business groups that buy out individual practices or smaller vet groups to flip them for profit.
Why are they cheaper "up the street"? With the help of these consolidators veterinary hospitals typically offer more resources and lower cost than our independent practice can provide. This allows them to attract more clients and makes it harder for small independent hospitals to compete. Remember, you may not know that a veterinarian hospital has been purchased and is beholden to a corporation to meet a quota.
We strive every day to remain true to our mission of exceptional care while continuing to provide customized services at an affordable cost.
A state-of-the-art independent veterinary hospital is expensive to run. Like human hospitals, in addition to our day-to-day operating expenses, the equipment we need to treat your pet is expensive and needs regular servicing, maintenance, and often replacement whether it be radiologic, surgical, or in-house laboratory equipment. There are many regulations regarding health and safety, radiation protection, medicine storage and medical waste charges and so on that, while necessary, are also expensive to comply with. Outside laboratory processing and analysis has also risen in costs.
Did you know our equipment and supplies come from the same companies human hospitals use? Unfortunately, that means they share the same price tags, too. Whether syringes, catheters, gauze sponges, endotracheal tubes or surgical equipment used on a Labrador Retriever, street cat, exotic or pocket pet, human adult or pediatric patient, the cost is the same.
Insurance and federal programs make the human medical system more affordable for us. We, as humans, are often fortunate enough to not experience the true cost of medical care due to the insurance system and federal programs. This is not the case in veterinary medicine however, charges to clients are set much lower than their human medicine equivalents as we know our clients “pay out of pocket”.
The second complication is the cost of the drugs. Medication costs have increased substantially because of the rising prices from distributors and manufacturers across the board. Big pharma is everywhere, and that includes at our hospital. Some medications are available in generic form and inexpensive, but most of the newer medications are still under exclusive license and the pharmaceutical company that owns the patent charges us accordingly. In addition, our hospital does not purchase medication in bulk and we take extra measures to be sure that the prescription drugs are safe by purchasing directly from the distributor or manufacturer directly.
**How can I reduce my pet’s veterinary bills?
Avoid problems through wellness exams and preventative care. It’s much more cost effective to vaccinate your pet than treat an illness, heartworm prevention is less expensive than treating adult heartworms and addressing an issue found early is cheaper than treating an issue in later stages. Investing in preventative care reduces costs in the future.
Q: Why can't I pay off my account over time rather than at that time of service?
A: This comes down to having had bad experiences with clients failing to pay their bills in the past. A veterinary hospital is extremely expensive to run and staff, so when we have owners who do not pay their accounts this makes it hard to maintain the exceptional care that we wish to provide. We accept Care Credit and Scratchpay in order to help with costs, so please ask one of our staff members or visit our website home page for more details on those programs.
More questions? Need clarification? Our team of veterinary professionals is ready to help! Call us at 610-269-2226 or send us a Pet Desk message. We are happy to speak with you!