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Is it cheaper to go abroad for vet care?

Our news headlines have recently shifted to focus on the financial crisis. You may be panicking and wondering how you are going to continue paying for your pets’ veterinary care. Below, we will discuss taking your pet abroad for veterinary care and why we would advise a lot of research being undertaken prior to making this decision.

When getting a direct quote comparison, prices may be cheaper abroad for veterinary care itself. This is because of varying business models, varying drug options and prices. The university course to train to become a vet is much cheaper in some other countries compared to in the UK or US. Some countries’ cost of living is also cheaper, meaning fees (and probably everything in general) will tend to be cheaper. The equipment used in poorer (and therefore cheaper) countries may be older and therefore cheaper to purchase and use. Although this may reduce its accuracy or efficiency as well. If the expenditures of the business are less, they are able to charge cheaper prices and are still able to make a profit.

So it is true, vet prices are much cheaper in some countries than in the UK.

However, the quality of care provided in other countries may not be as standardised as it is in the United Kingdom. While the individual vets and nurses, technicians or assistants will almost certainly be as caring as those in the UK, different approaches to the same problems are commonplace; this can mean differences in treatment that you wouldn’t expect. 

In some countries, more old-fashioned techniques are more common. This could result in more post-operative complications which could increase the cost more and make the procedure less safe.

While excellent veterinary care is available across the world, it generally costs. If you are choosing only on the price, the problems we’ve mentioned are more likely to be an issue. While there definitely are potential savings to be made from getting your pet’s treatment in a country where bills are cheaper, don’t get greedy and go for the “Bargain basement” assuming you’ll get the same level of care!

Remember the additional costs

It is important to think about the additional costs when deciding whether to go abroad, not just the fee of the veterinary care itself. Different countries have different entrance requirements. You should check the pricing for extras that are needed to enter or return from the country you are thinking of going to. Specific details to check include: the need for a passport; worming protocol (certain products and intervals between); the need for an animal health certificate; which vaccines are needed, including rabies. You should contact your local vets to check whether they have an Official Veterinarian in house. These vets are the only professionals able to create and sign these documents.

Other considerations

When travelling abroad, be aware many of the vets will speak excellent English, but often as their second language. This may make communication of scientific and biological problems more challenging. It is vital you understand everything that your veterinary professional is explaining so you are able to give informed consent on any procedures undertaken knowing their risks. 

More importantly, different diseases are seen more commonly in different countries making some vets more experienced with different conditions. Veterinary professionals are always able to call each other to gain advice on cases they feel have reached their limitations with, but we all have our strengths and weaknesses! 

Is it safe – or right – to travel a poorly pet?

If your pet is severely ill, you should question whether or not your pet is fit for travel. At the borders, your pet will be examined by a veterinary surgeon, and they need to be deemed healthy. If not, then in many cases it is in fact illegal to transport them. 

Travelling can also be stressful. Your pet will be in an unfamiliar environment for a long period of time… whether that is a car, boat or aeroplane. For some animals, stress can be enough to stimulate further disease progression. Ensure your veterinary professional agrees that transport is a good idea. Preparation for travel is expensive so ensuring you have the time and finances prior to booking is essential.

What about aftercare?

Following any veterinary treatment abroad, there may be additional care you need to carry on with at home. You may have problems transporting medication across the borders and, additionally, follow up appointments are going to be very difficult. You will need to visit a local vet for follow up appointments unless you plan on staying abroad for a long period of time – it is impossible to say how long a pet will take to recover and, depending on the condition, relapse may occur.

So, is it a good idea?

If you are very familiar with a country and its people, it can be an effective way to cut costs significantly (one of our colleagues routinely travels to her birth home in Europe for some veterinary procedures, and sees her old family vet there!).

However, in most circumstances, taking your pet abroad for medical attention is not recommended. There are substantial risks that your pets welfare may be compromised by travelling, and (just like here) the cheapest options aren’t always the best. We strongly advise you to discuss cost concerns with your vets, the people who know and understand your pets medical history best, to work out the best treatment plan for both yourself and your pet.

Alternative options within the United Kingdom which may be cheaper than your regular veterinary practice include charity medicine. There are many different charities which can offer discounted treatment should you meet financial thresholds to qualify. 

And if your pet isn’t poorly right now – we strongly advise pet insurance!

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