‘£10,000 for an ear infection’: Ex on the Beach star Chloe Goodman joins host of pet owners hitting out at ‘greedy’ vets after she was charged hefty fee to treat her poorly French Bulldog Chanel
- Chloe Goodman accused vet of ‘greed’ over its treatment of her bulldog, Chanel
- She’s the latest pet owner to criticise eye-watering fees charged by vet practices
- But vets have hit back to reject claims they are guilty to ripping off customers
A former Ex On The Beach star today joined a host of pet owners criticising ‘greedy’ vets after she was charged nearly £5,000 for her dog’s ear infection – before being quoted thousands more when it came back again.
Chloe Goodman, who starred in the series in 2014, took her French bulldog Chanel to the pet care centre in Surrey, where the dog received a series of treatments including ear drops and a scan.
The 29-year-old reluctantly paid the eye-watering bill for the work, but grew furious when the infection returned and she was quoted £4,500 more for an additional procedure.
Chloe Goodman has joined a host of other vet owners who have complained of being overcharged by vets
Reality star Ms Goodman’s French bulldog, Chanel, (middle) with two of her other dogs
‘The ear drops didn’t clear up the infection – it helped temporarily but two weeks later it came back,’ she told MailOnline.
‘When they gave me the second quote for another procedure I said no because it was too much. They are greedy for money.
‘Since then I’ve been managing Chanel’s ear infection myself, but this isn’t a solution long term.’
MailOnline has contacted the vets for comment.
Ms Goodman said she was able to claim £3,000 of her initial £5,000 bill back on insurance, but had to pay the rest herself.
Numerous other pet owners have complained about having to pay eye-watering sums for treatment.
However, today scores of vets hit back at the impression that they were guilty of profiteering.
One told MailOnline that the industry was on the ‘brink of meltdown’ due to ‘short staffing and the cost of living crisis’, while others pointed to the high costs they face when carrying out complex medical procedures.
Vicky Issott’s cat Bones fell ill last summer. But when she was referred to Vets Now – an out-of-hours clinic run by IVC Evidensia – she was shocked to face quotes more than six times her usual consultation fee.
Typically she would pay £34, but the private equity-owned vet said it would cost £220 or £173 if she returned the next morning.
She called several other clinics but all used Vets Now – leaving her no other choice.
Vicky Issott’s cat Bones fell ill last summer. But when she was referred to Vets Now – an out-of-hours clinic run by IVC Evidensia – she was shocked to face quotes more than six times her usual consultation fee
Bones had a procedure to clear a blocked urethra that cost £1,045.09. But a week later, it became blocked again and he was put down. The retired local government worker said there should be recommended fees for the industry, adding: ‘You don’t have a choice when your cat is sick on a Saturday night.
‘The poor thing was in agony. I get that you pay a premium for out-of-hours, but six times the normal price is ridiculous.’
Dr Laura Playforth, of Vets Now, said ‘the estimate given was sensible’ as out-of-hour fees are typically higher than in the daytime due to the increased costs of ‘providing a dedicated team’.
Meanwhile, dog lover Christine Wynne claimed her beagle missed out on potentially life-saving treatment after a dispute with a private equity vet.
When Lacey became sick in 2020, Mrs Wynne was convinced it was a gastric obstruction and asked to be sent to a specialist who had treated the dog before.
But Shreen Vets in Gillingham, Dorset, said Lacey had a gut infection and instead referred her to Southern Counties Veterinary Specialists and out-of-hours emergency clinic, Vets Now.
Following a ‘heated discussion’ 11 days later, Mrs Wynne’s request to be referred to her chosen practice was granted. There, they found Lacey did have a gastric obstruction but she died 12 hours later. They added if they had seen her sooner, she would have had a better chance of survival.
An IVC spokesman said: ‘Where we are made aware a customer is unhappy… we will always review what happened and discuss it with them.’
Critics say the veterinary profession has become a dog-eat-dog world, with small practices being swallowed up by giant international corporations only interested in profit.
Christine Wynne claimed her beagle missed out on potentially life-saving treatment after a dispute with a private equity vet
Figures published last year by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) show the majority (51 per cent) of veterinary practices in the UK are now owned by six companies, three of them private equity-owned. Two-thirds (67 per cent) of practices are now combined in ‘groups’ comprising at least three practices.
One chain, Medivet — which is owned by a Luxembourg-based private equity firm — has more than 400 surgeries in the UK. Its obsession with the bottom line was vividly highlighted in a recent annual report when it referred to its vets’ surgeries as ‘CGUs’, or Cash-Generating Units.
Inevitably, equity firm backers will be encouraging vets to offer expensive and complex procedures, including — most controversially — treatments for cancer to prolong a pet’s life, which some argue may not be in the long-term interests of the animal.
Dr Polly Taylor, a senior vet and academic, is a member of EthicsFirst, an international group that campaigns against excessive medical treatment. ‘In many cases, the pets’ welfare is being ignored,’ she says. ‘There is a lot of pressure [from vets] to go for expensive treatments. Advances in technology are playing a part. Amid all the hype of so-called clever treatments, the animal’s best interests are being forgotten.
‘Our recent research has shown that major surgery can have a very traumatic effect on any pet. It’s not like operating on a human being — the poor animal will have no idea what is going on.’
Tamazin Morley, from Hampshire, had to take her six-year-old cockapoo Barkley to a local vet after he began to struggle to lie down after a walkabout last year.
‘He had a trapped nerve in his neck, a simple issue,’ Ms Morley told the Daily Mail. ‘The vet suggested Calpol and the problem went away. But then it came back when Barkley was playing with a friend’s pup.
‘When we got home, our vet referred him to the local animal hospital, Lumbry Park. And that’s when things got much worse — and expensive.’
Tamazin Morley has spoken out about her experience when she took her dog, Barkley, to the vet
She says staff at the hospital, in Alton, Hampshire, insisted on doing an MRI and a lumbar puncture, as well as testing the fluid in his joints.
‘They seemed delighted to hear Barkley was insured for £7,500,’ says Ms Morley. ‘That made me feel nervous. That evening, when I picked him up, he was very distressed. More worryingly, his tail, which is normally vertical and curled, was hanging limply.
‘I assumed it was the anaesthetic [animals are anaesthetised before an MRI to ensure they lie still while it is carried out], but the next day it was exactly the same and he could not hold his urine or faeces.’
Ms Morley said she sent a video of Barkley to a senior member of staff at the hospital, who told her there was a serious problem and they would need to do another MRI.
‘I was really worried, as it meant a second general anaesthetic within days, but agreed,’ she says.
According to Ms Morley, the second MRI showed that the lumbar puncture had caused a small bleed, which was stopping neurological signals to the brain and rendering Barkley doubly incontinent.
‘They said they were sorry, but they have never admitted liability,’ she told the Mail. ‘They also said that if it didn’t improve in six to nine months, he should be put to sleep. He was only six years old and, until he went into that hospital, he was pretty healthy. I believe it was a needless procedure which left him disabled.’
The hospital would doubtless argue that the procedures Barkley underwent were necessary — but Ms Morley is far from the only animal lover who suspects their pet may have been subjected to ‘over-treatment’.
Karen Karbritz’s seven-year-old Labrador, Dusty, was diagnosed with cancer in 2018. First, his spleen was removed and then part of his liver.
‘By the time we got to the Royal Veterinary College hospital [in Hertfordshire] all the insurance money — £4,000 — had been used up, and we probably spent another £10,000 on chemo and natural therapies,’ she says.
‘We were willing to pay, and I suppose it was worth it — they said that he would get two more months. In the end, he lasted another four.’
Ms Karbritz insists, however, that the college had her ‘over a barrel’ in terms of the cost. ‘There is no transparency,’ she says. ‘There should be fixed rates across the board. In Dusty’s case, the charges kept mounting up.’
When approached about these allegations, a spokeswoman for the RVC told the Mail the college did not discuss individual cases.
Ms Karbritz insists she doesn’t regret Dusty’s treatment — only the outrageous cost.
While it’s natural for pet owners to want the best for their animals, over-treatment is becoming a major issue.
Some believe this is driven, at least in part, by celebrity vets advocating increasingly complex surgeries. And fees for such procedures are spiralling, too.
The recent entry of aggressive private equity firms into the veterinary sector has had its effect — between 2015 and 2020 vets’ fees on average rose by twice the rate of inflation.
These increased fees have, in turn, pushed up the price of insurance. The Association of British Insurers told the Mail that the average annual premium for a dog is now £269, and this figure is expected to increase by about 6.4 per cent year-on-year.
The prospect of being landed with astronomical bills they can’t afford is leading many owners to simply dump their pets. The RSPCA estimates that four pets are being abandoned every hour and that number is likely to increase this winter.
Barkley is a lively, sweet-natured six-year-old cockapoo who loves running around the beaches near his home in Hampshire and across the Solent on the Isle of Wight
Chris Deadman, of The Good Vet And Pet Guide, says the acquisition of independent practices by vet chains and private equity firms has caused ‘a genuine diminution of quality and increased complaints from our users. We are also noticing that the vets are ramping up the cost of peripheral treatments such as teeth-cleaning and worm treatment. This is unacceptable.’
Dr Taylor says some of the corporate firms are insisting employees — that is the vets — have to reach monthly revenue targets: ‘And they won’t divulge what those targets might be, even to other professionals. They are sucked into the system and feel gagged by employers.’
Many pet owners report that it is almost impossible to make an effective complaint about over-treatment by vets. The RCVS has a complaints scheme, but vets are rarely struck off.
One who was is Marthinus Ryk Botes, a vet who worked for Medivet in Faversham, Kent. He was struck off after being found guilty of ‘disgraceful conduct’ after performing unnecessary hip replacements on three dogs. The tribunal found that he was motivated by ‘financial gain’. A total hip replacement can cost anything upwards of £3,000.
Neither Medivet nor the RCVS was willing to discuss the case in greater detail, or the more general issue of ‘overtreatment’ for profit. Only about 2 per cent of the cases referred to the RCVS result in a full disciplinary hearing.
The veterinary profession as a whole seems remarkably reticent when it comes to discussing quite legitimate complaints — but the British Veterinary Association (BVA, roughly the equivalent of the doctors’ BMA) does have concerns about ‘overtreatment’.
Malcolm Morley, the BVA’s president, told the Mail: ‘Owners want the best treatment possible for their pets — they are often considered members of the family and losing them can be very upsetting.
‘But when considering treatments, the well-being of an animal should be the top priority. While it may be possible to treat an animal in the short-term, it could prolong suffering. In some cases it may be kinder to put them to sleep.’
Back in Hampshire, meanwhile, Barkley is making the best of his disability; but he has to wear nappies and is heavily medicated. Since he came out of Lumbry Park — which is owned by the multinational CVS Group — his owner has spent many more thousands on veterinary care.
She is still furious that Barkley’s injury was caused by the lumbar puncture, something that has been confirmed by a report from the hospital.
The hospital has refused to respond in detail to any of the Mail’s questions about Barkley’s treatment, insisting: ‘We do not comment about specific cases to the media.’
The Mail also wrote to Richard Fairman, CEO of CVS Group, the hospital’s UK parent company, which runs more than 500 veterinary surgeries in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands. Between them they turned over £554 million in the last financial year.
Fairman, who receives a salary of about £416,000 a year, plus a performance bonus that can amount to as much as 100 per cent of salary, would not answer our enquiries either.
‘The hospital’s silence is shocking, but it speaks volumes,’ Ms Morley said. ‘Barkley went into that hospital with a minor problem and emerged with what may turn out to be a permanent disability. It is outrageous that they can get away with this.’
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