An Edmonton senior says a $4,800 dental surgery bill from a local veterinary clinic is far higher than fees charged by other vets and is almost equal to what she receives from the Canada Pension Plan each year.

“I think there has to be an element of compassion and reconsideration of this bill,” Davida Marantz said.

Mayfield Veterinary Hospital has refused to budge, saying the dog was owned by someone else at the time of the surgery who agreed to pay for the procedure.

Marantz, a 67-year-old pensioner, had given her 12-year-old Sheltie, Libby, to friends in January because her own declining health caused her to doubt she would ever be able to care for the dog again.

Marantz

Poor health forced Davida Marantz to give up her Sheltie in January. The dog had to undergo dental surgery while in the care of friends, which resulted in a $4,800 veterinary bill. (CBC )

Following a hospital stay and two-month recovery period, Marantz began feeling much better and decided to ask for Libby back.

“She’s my life. She gives me a reason to get up at five in the morning. She keeps me fit,” Marantz said.

In the meantime, Libby’s health had also declined because of several rotting teeth and a spreading infection. Her new owners took her to their own vet, Mayfield Veterinary Hospital, and agreed to pay for surgery to remove up to 16 teeth.

Because of Libby’s age and weakened condition, the surgery was done in two stages to reduce the amount of time the dog would be would be under general anaesthetic.

Marantz insisted on paying her friends for the surgery but said she was shocked when they gave her the bill.

“Yeah, heart attack,” Marantz said. “I thought, I don’t get it. And I thought, okay I’ve got to do this. I needed some personal integrity on this.”

Marantz says she doesn’t blame her friends for getting the best possible care for Libby and said they never asked her for the money.

“They had opened their home, their hearts, their wallets,” she said.

Vet’s fees out of line says senior

Marantz said she also has no complaint about the care Libby received at Mayfield Veterinary Hospital and said the dog appears healthier than ever.

But she feels Mayfield’s fees were out of line compared to fees charged by other veterinarians.

Marantz says she canvassed three other clinics to ask what they would charge for a similar procedure and found their costs were about half.

“When I saw those quotes, and they were coming in so significantly lower, that’s when I considered asking Mayfield for some redress,” Marantz said.

Mayfield Veterinary Hospital has told her it won’t reduce the bill and considers the matter closed.

In an email, the clinic told Marantz she wasn’t the owner when Libby was brought in and that if she has a concern about the bill , she should speak with the people who owned Libby at the time, who authorized the surgery and paid the bill..

Go Public asked five different Edmonton veterinary clinics to estimate what they would charge for surgery to remove up to 16 teeth on a 12 year old Sheltie.

Four of the estimates for extraction, anaesthetic, cleaning, postoperative care and medication fell between $1,400 to $2,000.  The fifth estimated the complete procedure, done in two stages, would cost about $3,400. However, each clinic said they would not be able to give a precise cost without examining the dog first.

Mayfield Veterinary Hospital had agreed to an on-camera interview, but a few hours before the scheduled time, a manager for the clinic’s parent company called to cancel.

Mayfield Veterinary Hospital is owned by Calgary-based Associated Veterinary Clinics which owns more than 50 clinics in Alberta, B.C. and Ontario.

Robert Pakai, Associated’s regional director for Alberta, said the clinic’s relationship was with the couple who brought Libby in and agreed to the surgery, not Marantz.

“We’ve fulfilled our end of the bargain,“ Pakai said. “We’ve taken care of this pet, our clients are happy, that’s the key for us.”

Pakai dismissed the other estimates Marantz and Go Public were given.

“We have someone who does nothing but dental work and he may have another opinion from another doctor. That occurs in human medicine too,“ Pakai said.

“It’s easy to quote on something when it’s not in front of you and you don’t have the full story.”

Veterinary medicine has no fee schedule

Unlike human medicine, veterinary medicine has no fee schedule, according to Dr. Phil Buote, deputy registrar and complaints director at the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association.

“They’re private businesses that set the fees according to what they need to, based in the economics of their practice,“ Buote said.

He said society’s views of pets has changed and pet owners are demanding increasingly sophisticated care.

Buote said Marantz’s case is unique because it appears the clinic did get the informed consent of Libby’s owners for the procedure.

“The fact the dog was transferred back to the previous owner really caused me to question why she thought she should have any say in what the costs were,” Buote said.

Marantz says pet hospitals should be open to negotiating on fees, especially with people on fixed income.

“I know vet medicine is a business,” she said.

“It’s also a service, a health service. I don’t think there should ever be such black and white decisions.”