Are you being overcharged by your vet?

Friday March 29th 2024

Heritage Vets

The vets from Heritage Vets performing keyhole surgery.

This View has been written by Midlothian Dog Trainer Nick McMechan.

The Competition and Markets Authority recently announced an investigation into the Veterinary industry. Following a survey of pet owners and veterinary surgeons in the UK. They have found multiple concerns in the industry which include being overcharged for medicines, reduction of choice and poor competition in some areas with pricing being unclear to the pet owner.

Many people may not be aware but there are six large chains in the UK which own 60% of practices. The proportion of independent practices has halved in ten years. When I look at my local practices in Dalkeith, who my own clients do rate highly, both practices are owned by large chains yet it took a bit of digging around on their websites to find this. As is often the case, its not obvious that your local practice is part of a big chain.

I do feel well placed to comment here. Having previously been an Area Manager with a large pharmacy chain, involved with healthcare professionals & supply of medicines and now a Dog Trainer, owning Esk Valley Dog Training. I also understand the the pricing and supply of medicines is not as straightforward as it seems. At the same time I have wondered at being charged in the region of £40 for medicine for my dog which can be supplied at a pharmacy for a couple of quid.

However, its more complicated than that. In particular medicines which have an animal licence will be priced differently to similar (or the same) medicines that are licensed for humans. Indeed, it is illegal for a vet to prescribe a human medication if there is a version licensed for animals, and the animal licensed options are usually far more expensive. These prices are set by the pharmaceutical companies, not the vets. Many factors go into pharmaceutical production and supply and economies of scale are indeed a factor as well as many others.

One of the actions we can take is to request a veterinary prescription from our practice and take that elsewhere to an online veterinary pharmacy to supply or you can take your veterinary prescription to your local pharmacy (note that in that case the pharmacist will have to make a professional judgement to supply and can refuse; please don’t be offended if they do as it won’t be personal). Your practice will charge you for the supply of the private prescription so you should take that into account as well as it may not necessarily be cheaper in the long run.

What you may also wish to consider is that your vet is a private healthcare provider. This means they are a business and have a responsibility to make a profit in order that they continue to provide their invaluable service and to invest in the advancements in veterinary healthcare that come along in the future. If we all take our veterinary prescriptions elsewhere those businesses will have to make up those lost profits somehow.

So, as I sit in the middle of this, what’s my choice. Its to move to an independent practice. My belief is that, whilst there are advantages to the large chains, I want somewhere local and personal that has the freedom to make decisions for the care of my animals that we need and want. I recently asked the new team at Heritage Vets about the recent media coverage:

“We will never be able to price our medications as low as the online pharmacies, and written prescriptions can be offered where appropriate for the client to source their own medications. At Heritage Vets we are in a privileged position due to being an independent vet practice.

“We have full control over our pricing, and we will be able to strike a balance between medication pricing and pricing for our services to be as accommodating as we can. The costs of veterinary care are increasing and will continue to do so though, so we would encourage all pet owners to take out pet insurance where possible to help cover unexpected costs.”

Heritage Vets will open in Thornybank, Dalkeith on 22nd April 2024. I’ve already registered to move my animals across and my family has too. We’ve had excellent service over the years with our previous vet but the attraction of a local independent vet and people who I respect have recommended them highly, means I have made the decision to have their care looked after there.


Nick specialises in Loose Leash Walking and Reactivity as well as everything you would expect from a great Dog Trainer. You can find out more here:

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