Furore in Malaysia over high healthcare cost for pets

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KLANG – As pet ownership increases, the cost of veterinary care in Malaysia has come under the spotlight, with complaints that it has become ludicrously expensive.

Pet lovers also want to know why the cost of veterinary care can differ so much between clinics.

They allege that some veterinarians who own and manage small animal practices are imposing unreasonable charges. Small animal practices refer to veterinary establishments that treat cats and dogs as well as other animals that are not wildlife or poultry and livestock.

Unlike the cost of medical care, which is regulated by the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Order 2013, there is nothing that controls the cost of veterinary care.

A unit head from Malaysia’s Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) said the department does not have the jurisdiction to control pricing as there is no relevant legislation.

“We can only control the pricing if laws have been passed. Without any legislation in place, we cannot interfere in the operations of private veterinary clinics,” he said.

“And if we were to regulate the clinics and their pricing, we have to do it through the Malaysian Veterinary Council (MVC), which is not prepared for the task.”

Dr Saravanakumar S. Pillai, a former DVS senior deputy director, said veterinary care pricing has yet to be legislated because the industry is still in its infancy.

“It is only in recent times that veterinary clinics had started mushrooming and veterinarians began treating all kinds of illnesses and diseases.

“Before that, it was just minor treatments such as spaying, castration and vaccination,” he said.

Dr Saravanakumar, who is now with Humane Society International, said unlike in the past, pets are now cherished family members and owners would go all out to get them treated.

He added that the demand for sick pets to be kept alive for as long as possible has also spurred veterinary practices to get high-end diagnostic equipment.

“Veterinarians are now treating ailments that they never had to treat before, such as cancer, diabetes, kidney and liver problems, heart disease and many other illnesses,” he said, adding that veterinarians were also carrying out spinal and various other orthopaedic surgery.

Dr Saravanakumar said veterinary practices also need to make money to cover staff salaries, high rentals, and big utility bills.

To make matters worse, fresh veterinary graduates are in high demand as the DVS, veterinary clinics, pet food industry, pet vaccine manufacturers and big-scale farms are rushing to hire them as soon as they finish their studies.

“So, unless veterinary clinics pay them competitive salaries, they won’t be able to hire them,” he added.

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