Monday, August 11, 2014

True Costs: Vet Bills - Fancy Diagnostics

Since my primary equine activity of late seems to be writing checks, I figure maybe it's time for another "True Costs" post.  While I feel like the notion of big vet bills is more widely acknowledged and discussed than the cost of showing, it's hard to find real numbers as to what certain procedures cost if you're bracing yourself for a costly endeavor.  Plus, much like showing, the costs often extend beyond the actual line item that you are planning and saving up for.

So, since Prair is currently working her way through my checkbook, here's a rundown of what some actual costs were for our recent MRI adventure.  If I'm brave (and can remember) I'm going to try to keep track of our rehab/vet costs so that in theory we can have a "total injury cost" at the end of it all.

While I'm guessing we've been dealing with the side effects of this ligament tear for a while - I'm going to start the clock with this last round of diagnostics (lameness exam, ultrasound, MRI).

Initial Lameness Evaluation: (including shared barn call):  $150
Ultrasound and Sedation: $400

So that's $550 before we even scheduled the MRI... which, as we know took me weeks to figure out.

MRI Time:

Actual WSU Hospital MRI Charge:            $2,000
2 Nights Lodging near WSU:                      $300
50 Gallons of Diesel (650 miles round trip): $200
650 miles of snacks:                                    $80
1 nice meal out to appease The Boy:           $90
Ice Cream & Cheese:                                 $40
Bodywork for Prair at home:                       $70

WSU Trip Total:  $2,780

Grand Total: $3,350

That's a chunk of change before we even have a rehab plan (waiting for a second review of the MRI, then we'll talk prognosis...).  As always, some of it was voluntary, here's the breakdown:

WSU Hospital charge:
My invoice was a simple, one line item charge - $2,000.  That included her overnights, feed, lab work, anesthesia, MRI, clinical consult, etc.  It was sort of nice to have it all just lumped together.  Made for easy planning, and based on previous vet experiences, seemed like a fair price given the number of students and vets swarming around my horse for 3 days.

2 Nights Lodging:
We opted for a Holiday Inn Express.  Definitely $40 more than some of the other options, but a known quantity and for the first hotel stay with Baby, it seemed prudent.

50 Gallons of Diesel:
Diesel hovers between $3.90 and $4.20 around here, but we found fairly cheap fill up options, and the Ford averages about 13mpg hauling one horse over the mountains

650 Miles of snacks:
Clearly we could have saved here, but The Boy and I enjoy our road trips and eat all the random crap we want.  random drinks, candy, chips... you name it, we snack the entire time we drive - But really, when you're blowing $$$ on vet bills, you might as well self medicate with pounds and pounds of gummy snacks.

1 nice meal:
Also an optional expenditure, but The Boy is gracious in letting me classify horsey field trips a "vacations" and I think that a few dollars here or there on a nice glass of wine and a steak are small investment in maintaining that illusion.

Ice Cream and Cheese:
Two blocks over from the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, is the University's on campus CREAMERY.  So, what does one do when you're horse is under anesthesia and you can't do anything?  Eat cheese.  And ice cream.  and more cheese.  Again, I see this as something akin to self medication and a worthwhile investment.

Bodywork for Prair:
The mare is back on a regular schedule again, but I wanted her to get a prompt session after the stress of a long trip and negative effects from being all bound up under anesthesia.  I would skimp on mandatory road snacks before I skimped on this for the mare.

So, what does this tell us?  It tells us that if your horse is insured (mine isn't) you will pay for your policy well before you finish the MRI.  I've chosen not to insure Prair since she already had two legs excluded, and when we had multiple horses my average vet bills beat the cost of multiple policies.  Essentially I was banking on my "general population" beating the actuary tables.  Also, we've been able to maintain a sizable "rainy day/vet fund" for the horses so that instances like this don't impact our daily finances (yet, lol).

I'm guessing our future holds many more ultrasounds, and maybe even another MRI down the road.


  1. Ice cream & Cheese...NECESSARY! Cracked me up because I totally would separate this cost from other food as well. Love it.

    But damn, vets $$$

  2. Subtitle for the Actual Costs Post "2014 the year horses cost a lot of money in fun and not fun."

    Also Ice Cream and Cheese are necessary and I'm lactose intolerant but I know how awesome those 2 things are.

  3. MRI's are blah expensive. Also, I too believe in mandatory road snacks and ice cream and cheese. You're a good horse (and baby) mom!

  4. I like your "self medicating" haha!! If you already know you are blowing a good chunk of change on sad stuff like diagnostics you must self medicate with good food!

  5. I think it would take a hell of a lot more ice cream to get me past the $3500 vet bill. ;-)

  6. Glad I'm not the only one who wants all the gummy snacks! Also white cheddar popcorn. Looking forward to hearing what the rehab plan is.

    1. White cheddar popcorn might be the greatest snack every invented! LOVE that stuff :)

  7. I went through the same diagnosis process with Paddy about four months ago, and minus the MRI, my expenses were almost identical (I did have rads taken of his foot, just to be sure we weren't dealing with something bony).

    Now, if they had just had wine to go with the cheese... ;)

  8. Vet bills are scary and no fun at all.

    My recent spending:

    Overnight stay and radiographs investigating nose bleed: $500

    CT scan at uni hospital to determine if tumor in skull that caused nose bleed is operable: $1,500

    Travel 4 hours for a CT scan: $500

    Surgery to remove tumor from skull: $4,500

    1 week stay in hospital to recover from surgery: $500

    2 week stay in hospital to flush and repack and monitor infection/hole that wasn't healing after surgery: $700

    $8,200. That's only $1,600 more than I paid for the horse in the first place.

    But still having a live horse that seems to be recovering 6 no the later? Worth it.

  9. I really appreciate that you're so honest and open about what your horse(s) cost you. When you broke everything out for HITS, it was great to see what "normal people" spent on a show like that (I use 'normal' to classify those of us who haven't yet won the lottery or make six figures a year). This is another great post!

    You are a wonderful horse (and human baby) Mom, and I love that you make snacks and cheese and ice cream a crucial part of your journey, as it should be. Keeping my fingers crossed for a smooth recovery for Prair! :)

  10. Love the candid posts. I wouldn't have known exactly what to expect cost wise of something like that. Makes me want to reconsider insuring Houston…

  11. Great post. Thanks for being honest and breaking it all down. Only $40 on ice cream and cheese from a local creamery!? Well done! :0)

  12. Ice cream and cheese are definitely necessary!! That really bites that she isn't insured, but I'm glad you had money set aside. Keeping my fingers crossed there is good news regarding her injury...


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