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Understanding Veterinary Fees in Canada

January 15, 2013

FACT SHEET - Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA)

Average annual salary
In Canada, the average annual salary for a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) is approx. $67,000. (2010 data), depending on the type of practice, the years of practice and the size of the community served.

Fees for Veterinary Services
Veterinarians can charge what they deem to be appropriate and reasonable fees for veterinary treatment/services. However, they should be able to justify the costs to their client. Clients can request an estimate of cost before agreeing to proceed with recommended treatment.

How are fees determined?
Many factors affect the cost of fees charged. The duration of a consultation, complexity of case/treatment, equipment/products used, specialized veterinary referrals (oncologist, dermatologist, internist, etc.), lab work, etc. Cost of living is a contributing factor which differs from one area to another (rural, urban, geographic location, etc.). The clinic’s operational costs must also be taken into consideration when rates are established.

Why do the fees appear to be high?
The same technology used in human healthcare is applied to animal healthcare. There is a demand from pet owners for access to sophisticated care including, for example, 24/7 emergency services, veterinary specialists, hi-tech equipment such as diagnostic imaging, x-ray, MRI, lab services, surgery, pain management, and boarding services. Management and treatment of complex health issues like diabetes, thyroid disorders, hip dysplasia, oncology, arthritis, and dermatological issues are enabling animals to live longer.

The cost of such services in human healthcare may not be as obvious, as they are covered by our universal healthcare program where the patient simply provides a plastic health card to pay for medical services. Options such as pet insurance and third-party financing are available to pet owners to alleviate some of the costs of medical care for their pets.

CVMA Business Management Program / Veterinary Economics
Through its Business Management Program, the CVMA provides veterinary economic services across Canada for the development and delivery and veterinary economic surveys and reports. These include:

• Provincial Suggested Fee Guides (small and large animal procedures)
• Compensation and Benefits Reports for Salaried Veterinarians and for Non-DVM Staff
• National Benchmarking
• Practice Diagnostic Reports

The provincial suggested fee guides are a product of a voluntary member survey conducted in each province where costs of veterinary procedures are reported and then analyzed to produce an annual suggested fee guide for each province. This document provides practitioners with a list of fees considered fair and just. The suggested fees serve as a guide only and, in all cases, fees charged  should be based on skills, judgment and experience. The use of the Fee Guide by an individual veterinarian is a matter of individual choice.