Doctor’s fees may well be regulated in France, but that is not the case for veterinary bills. So what can you expect to pay?
Around half the households in France have a pet, the largest proportion in Europe. Since 1970 the number of pets has doubled, from 30 million to 59 million.
They include no less than 31 million pets of the aquatic variety, 6 million birds and 3 million rodents.
Dogs and cats are the preferred choice of most households, accounting for 23% and 26% of the market respectively.
It is a total market in that is worth nearly €4 billion in 2010, generating employment for around 50,000 people.
The number of vets who specialise in domestic pets is 10,275, either within a clinic or on their own.
To this should be added the 5,000 other vets who deal with equine and bovine animals.
Buying a pet normally requires an early visit to the vet for identification, vaccination and neutering of the animal, or simply for a basic consultation.
A recent survey of vet’s charges carried out by the consumer body Que Choisir showed large disparities in the cost of basic interventions for domestic animals.
On a regional basis the charge for a consultation for a small dog varied from €19 in the North East, to €69 in Paris, with a national average of €31.
A summary of the main prices for a range of different treatments for a cat and a dog is given below.
|Electronic Chip||€25 ||€61 ||€103 |
|Vaccination: typhus, coryza, leucosis||€36 ||€59 ||€88 |
|Booster Vaccination (rabies-free)||€25 ||€57 ||€88 |
|Male Sterilization||€32 ||€62 ||€150 |
|Female Sterilization||€65 ||€117 ||€270 |
|Basic Consultation||€20 ||€32 ||€63 |
| Booster Vaccination (rabies-free) ||€21 ||€47 ||€85 |
|Male Sterilization||€50 ||€141 ||€390 |
|Female Sterilization||€100 ||€238 ||€560 |
|Basic Consultation||€19 ||€31 ||€69 |
In large measure the differences in the fees are due to the costs faced by vets, in the level of rents, the size of the practice, the equipment installed and the services that are offered.
So a vet with a small practice who offers little more than vaccination and neutering of animals is able to offer lower tariffs than those with a practice that has available a range of surgical equipment, which may also offer an out-of-hours service and support personnel.
Unlike doctor’s fees, veterinary fees are also subject to VAT, at the full rate of 19.6%.
There are other differences in the level of services, which means that these rates are not always directly comparable.
Thus, the tariff displayed for neutering of the animal may well be ‘tout compris’, but it could equally exclude post-operative care, and it may well depend on the size or age of the animal, as might the case for vaccination.
So you need to read the obligatory displayed tariffs with care, to be clear about just what is included in the price.
A basic consultation, although not expensive, would also exclude any medication that may be prescribed.
In fact, in comparison with doctors, the income of French vets compares very unfavourably, despite the more rigorous training they have to undertake.
According to the Association de gestion agréée des professions de santé (Agaps) the average income of a vet last year was €53,000 on turnover of €236,000, whist on average a GP earned €73,000 on turnover of €139,000. Specialists doctors earned considerably more.
Neither has there been any significant growth in fees charged by vets in recent years, with Que Choisir estimating that since 1997 their charges have in fact risen less than the rate of inflation. Fourteen years ago the average fee for a basic consultation was €26, while is it €32 today; a vaccination was €49, while it is €59 today.
As an alternative to paying as you go you can take out a pets health insurance policy, a subject we reviewed in a previous Newsletter.
The cost of these policies does vary, depending on the level of cover you seek, and the type, age and health of your pet.
Ordinarily, expect to pay anything between €5 and €20 a month for a basic policy covering minor treatment for a dog or a cat, but you should be able to obtain a discount on your other pets.
In general, it rarely makes sense to take out such a policy, but as one covering major illnesses might cost up to €100 per month for an older, larger animal, the decision is by no means one that is self-evident.
As always, you do need to carefully read the contents of your policy, as there are normally many exclusions and limitations.