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The Hidden Cost of Purchasing Veterinary Products Online

The Hidden Cost of Purchasing Veterinary Products Online

Hi everyone. Welcome back to my weekly blog. This week I am touching on a subject that affects most small animal hospitals in your neighborhood. Now, of course I am going to be biased to a point on this subject, but I also want you, as a client to realize what affect you have on your local veterinary hospital.

Okay, the advent of the internet has been great! Believe me when I say, I spend probably way too much time on it. In one sense it probably promotes ADHD, but that is another line of thought. Not what I want to talk about today. So everyone knows that you can do a great job of comparison shopping online. You go to your local store, find something and then search on the World Wide Web to find the best price possible for that item you so liked.

Great! You just scored big time and saved a bunch of money. And, to top it off, you don’t even have to drive and get it, then send it right to you! How cool is that? Well, for some of the giant brink and mortar companies, I really don’t think it hurts them because they do it too. But for the small mom and pop shop, it is the death knell of their livelihood.

Yes, many of the online stores are “mom and pop” and squeak out a living, or at least supplemental income. But for the online veterinary world, this is not the case. These online Pet Stores are usually very large in scope. Many are off shore or in another country with different laws, and they not only undermine your local veterinarian, but they may possibly harm your animal in unforeseen ways.

I can go into the rant of how you could be purchasing counterfeit product, or short dated product, or product that has not been stored properly so it is potentially a hazard. There is possibility to purchase a product that is no longer available and considered illegal to obtain here in the USA, but perfectly legal somewhere else. But, the issue at hand here is the almighty dollar you save while shopping on line and the dollar that is lost to your local veterinary hospital (the one caveat to this is if your local hospital has an online pharmacy set up, then I am not talking about this either. Usually because those pharmacies and stores are limited in scope to the particular veterinary hospital and only the clientele that purchases or patronizes that hospital).

The online pharmacies/Pet Store outlets have in many cases a huge sum of purchasing power over your local veterinarian. So they are able to buy at a huge discount compared to the little guy, which they “supposedly” pass on to you. They really don’t but they do allow for a smaller profit margin and thus appears to be much less than the MSRP (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price). What many people don’t know is that at my veterinary hospital, there is a minimum amount I HAVE to purchase. Let’s take Frontline for an example. I can only purchase a Carton (10 boxes) of Frontline for each size available so that when you arrive I will have it in stock. Each carton can cost upwards of $600+, depending on size. So if we have two (2) cat sizes and five (5) dog sizes then that is over $3500.00 sitting on the waiting for you to come in and make a purchase. Since it comes in a six (6) month supply, how often are you going to come in? Not to mention that many months an owner will swear their pet doesn’t have fleas or is not exposed to ticks, etc. So you see, as a veterinarian and hospital owner, I am very conscious of what I have to spend and what I have on the shelves. And, I have to make sure I can replenish the stock as needed, thus we have to mark the items up to cover our costs.

So, what happens when you purchase online instead? Those sales that would have reduced my cost or increased my bottom line goes to somewhere else. I then have to sell twice as much to recoup that loss if a pet owner is not purchasing from me. To top it off, we are pushed to “match” pricing as best we can, and even if I am $1 – 2.00 off of the match, many owners will decide to purchase somewhere else to save that $2.00.

What you are forgetting is that your local veterinarian is there for YOU and YOUR PET. The online store doesn’t know you and doesn’t care. Your local veterinarian can help you when you have a question or a problem with an item that you purchase from them. Also, your local veterinarian can make exchanges, returns easier (for non-prescription items) and generally be there for you. You must remember that the money you spend at your local veterinarian helps to even out the overall veterinary costs, not to “make a bundle of money on those products”.

As we have to “match” pricing, or lose to the big corporations online sales, we then have to increase other pricing to offset that loss and be able to cover our overhead expenses. Many of you think that veterinary medicine is “Expensive”. On some levels it is, but when you compare it to what you’d have to pay for your own health care, we are very “Inexpensive” overall. I am not sure where you can get a Total Hip Replacement or Complete Knee Reconstructive Surgery in the human field for less than $5000. Or a complete ovario-hysterectomy (a spay for the animal world) for under $500 including pain medication? You cannot.

The issue with veterinary medicine, more than anything else, is that it competes for discretionary income. Yes, I realize that many owners consider their animal “Family”, but how many of you has been faced with that awful decision at the Emergency Hospital or even your veterinarian’s? There is the worry of “Quality of Life” and “Pain and Suffering” that goes through everyone’s minds. Not the least of which is the cost and future care.

I guess my blog is about your relationship with your veterinarian. Keep your business local, and in turn, keep your veterinary costs from rising too quickly.