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  • Dec 24, 2014
  • Updated: 1:51pm
NewsHong Kong
Animal Care

How can a dog operation cost more than human surgery? asks top surgeon

Eye surgeon says a cataract operation on a pet costs HK$30,000 – double what he charges his patients; vets blame soaring rents and expenses

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 January, 2013, 3:54pm

A medical specialist has questioned the size of vet bills in Hong Kong and asked how operations performed on animals can cost double the amount or more of similar hospital treatments carried out on people.

A basic consultation with a doctor, for instance, costs about HK$150. But vets can often charge double that.

Cataract surgery will typically set you back HK$15,000 - but you could pay HK$30,000 if it is your dog that is having the operation.

Like private doctors, there is no set scale of fees for vets. One veterinary clinic in Happy Valley charges HK$330 for a basic consultation, but this rises to HK$800 after 7pm.

In one clinic in Wan Chai the amount can increase to HK$2,000 for an emergency call - almost 10 times the fee charged by St Paul's Hospital in Causeway Bay. The hospital's outpatient service costs HK$150 before 7pm and up to HK$280 after hours.

"I don't see how an operation on a dog would be more complicated and difficult than performing surgery on a human," said Dr Chow Pak-chin, vice-president of the Medical Association and a former member of the Veterinary Surgeons Board.

Chow, an ophthalmologist, said cataract surgery on a pet's eye costs about HK$30,000, double that for humans.

"Some [Veterinary Surgeons Board] members told me Hong Kong vet fees are among the highest in the world," he said.

Pet owner Lo Kong, who has lived in Canada for more than 10 years, claims he was always overcharged by vets in Hong Kong. "I was charged HK$5,000 by a vet who came to my home in Pok Fu Lam, just to put down my sick dog last year. Also, the problem in Hong Kong is that the standard of services differs from vet to vet. They are not as stable as those overseas," Lo said.

Anna Wong Chi-han believed her 14-year-old dog was over-diagnosed, repeatedly receiving ultra-sounds and X-rays, during a nine-day stay in an animal hospital that cost her more than HK$25,000 before the dog died.

Vets say their fees are set according to experience and how well known they are. They also say complex equipment in hospitals is often government subsidised, whereas veterinary clinics have to pay the full rate.

"Not all vet clinics are making money, as we still see some veterinarians having a difficult time running their businesses," said the chairman of the Veterinary Surgeons Board, Professor Wong Yuk-shan. "Of course, some veterinarians who have built a good reputation can charge more, like some well-known doctors. So the price is really determined by supply and demand."

The president of the Hong Kong Veterinary Association, Dr Tom Mangan, said expensive equipment, rising rents and a shortage of good veterinary nurses affected fees.

A vet's clinic in Singapore quoted S$30 to S$40 (HK$190 to HK$253) for a basic check-up and about S$160 (HK$1,000) for dental treatment. This compared to about A$80 (HK$650) for a check-up at a clinic in Sydney, which quotes A$500 (HK$4,068) for dental surgery. In London, a general check-up for an animal costs about £40 (HK$500) and dental scaling about £70 (HK$878).

Chow said vet fees were being pushed up by demand from the growing popularity of pets, but he still did not see how that justified the charges. Mangan disagreed. "Animals are different, but they are as complicated as humans," he said.


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This article is now closed to comments

Is this another stunt by Wong Yuk Shan to get the government to pay for his crazy vet school idea? In Sai Kung, most vets have been professional and trustworthy.
And, btw, Wong - who is number 2 in HKUST - should be censored for not delivering the hostels in time for the double intake last year. The hostels are still not ready!!! Ditto for his letting the big telecom companies put up hundreds of carcinogenic cell phone masts at the student hostels and classrooms!!!
Of course, no one dares to speak out since he is a "NPC bigshot".
It’s objective and global that
not only HK people are valued less than HK pets;
everything local is valued less
(A) HK pets need no visa to enter the US and US people need no visa to enter HK;
but HK people need visa to enter the US
(B) HK pets needs no blood test for quarantine free entry into the US
but HK pets need blood test for quarantine free return to HK
(C) HK pets use passenger terminals in US airports
but HK pets have to go thru cargo terminal to return to HK
(D) Despite HK’s pretension of being advance / world class and the anathema of high local costs, HK has no facility to test rabies antibodies in canine serum and must send samples to the UK for results.
I expect no or no meaningful official reply
Bureaucrats are good in finding excuses
And useless in finding solutions
They imagine all sorts of problems thus create ever more troubles
as if public convenience would cause official discomfort.
Another question is why so many vets in HK are so easily willing to recommend surgery to pets. They don't seem to be necessary. Profitable? Most likely.
We went to a vet in Mong Kok that wanted to do explorative surgery for what was probably just the flu. He also said my pet would die in 3 weeks even with the surgery, maybe 6-8 weeks if he had it. It would cost $35,000 as well.
I took my pet home. If he was going to die, then I wanted him in our home where he was happy rather than being locked up in a cage getting endless surgeries.
Well that was 3 years ago. He didn't die. I didn't have to spend 35k. And I found another vet that was trustworthy.
Here's what I looked for:
- Doesn't give a cocktail of drugs on first diagnosis
- Doesn't recommend frequent re-visits
- Doesn't recommend surgery
- Doesn't try to sell us on a care package
- Doesn't recommend brands of pet food, medicine or care products
A good doctor/dentist/optician is a poor professional. One physician I knew was brave enough to tell me not to take medication and just get some rest. He's good if you understand the science. Most people would probably never see him again.
Everything is getting too expensive in HK as a result of high rent. We all suffer unless you are a landlord holding multiple properties. I went to check the beef steak price in Citysuper yesterday and is selling for $80 to 90 per 100 GM, ie almost $400 to 500 a lb vs in US Publix I can get a nice NY Strip Steak for hk$60 per lb. I'm a poor man again after returning from vacation.
its all greek to me
Our Vets in Sheung Shui got their degrees from Taiwan! Would Taiwan medical doctors be able to practise in Hong Kong? I would ask our children to become Vets if I have more at university age.
All vet practices are located in off roads where rent are much lower. Cannot buy what this Dr. Mangan claims.
yes a lot of the vet clinics are in off road, but they are almost always at ground level. and small shop these days still cost heaps to rent.


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