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ConsumerWatch: Do Your Research Before You Have A Pet Emergency

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A vet examines a cat.  (Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images)

A vet examines a cat. (Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images)

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – The worst time to find a vet is when your pet suddenly falls sick – that’s why it’s important for pet owners to do some research ahead of time.

Majesh Rajan found out how important when his bulldog Luigi began vomiting blood one Saturday night. Rajan rushed Luigi to the nearest emergency vet near his South Bay home.

“I went into panic mode,” said Rajan. But Rajan was in for a surprise when he learned the costs of the visit.

“They were charging me so much it almost like a dare. I even thought about bringing him home, but they said he could die of lack of oxygen,” said Rajan.

When he received his bill 24 hours later the $2,000 quote had increased to more than $3,600, and he said the vet still hadn’t diagnosed Luigi.

The veterinary clinic suggested that Luigi be kept overnight, but Rajan took his dog home, where he made a full recovery without further treatment.

Rajan then found other similar price gouging complaints online about the emergency vet as well as others.

KPIX5 went undercover to find if the vet was indeed exploiting vulnerable situations.

Allie, a cute little Bijon, was the test animal. She was first examined by her regular vet, who diagnosed her with an ear infection and treated her with ear cleaner and ointment. The cost was $64.

A visit to the same emergency clinic that treated Luigi came up with a different and more expensive treatment which included a steroid injection and pain killers. At $86, the emergency vet’s prescribed treatment for the same ailment cost 40 percent more than Allie’s vet. ConsumerWatch called five other vet clinics and found costs for the same injection and pain killers were significantly lower.

Rajan said the lesson he learned is that pet owners should do their homework and research emergency clinics and costs before their pet needs emergency treatment.

There are many outstanding emergency vets and while you should expect them to be a bit more expensive than the regular vet due to higher overhead, they should not perform unnecessary treatments in order to rack up the bill.

Ask your vet to recommend a reputable clinic before you need one and read online reviews so you know what to expect.

The Bay Area Consumers Checkbook rated 192 Bay Area veterinary clinics for price and quality. The magazine advises pet owners to:

• Seek out a vet who will let you inspect the entire hospital, including treatment areas,cages, and runs at any time during regular office hours.

• Look for an office where you can get prompt advice by phone, and avoid vets who push unnecessary services and medications.

• Make sure there are arrangements for emergency care outside of regular office hours.

Through special arrangement with nonprofit Bay Area Consumers’ CHECKBOOK, KPIX 5 viewers can access CHECKBOOK’s ratings of 192 local veterinary practices without a subscription until Wednesday, May 22, and can view CHECKBOOK’s veterinarians advice indefinitely via this link: www.checkbook.org/kpix5

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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