Supermarket prices are rising, gas and electricity costs, petrol – pretty much everything is getting more expensive these days. From November onwards, pet owners will also have to dig deeper into their pockets when visiting the vet. And even pay up to 163 percent more for certain services. This is regulated by the new fee schedule for veterinarians (GOT), which will come into force on November 22nd. We explain exactly what the GOT regulates, why it was amended and what additional costs dog and cat owners will have to expect in the future.
Why are vets charging more money from November?
The fee schedule for veterinarians (GOT) regulates how much money veterinarians are allowed to charge for specific services. It has not been changed for more than 20 years, i.e. it has been adapted to the current situation, such as increased rental, practice and energy costs and new medical procedures such as computer tomography.
According to the Federal Chamber of Veterinarians (BTK), practice costs, which account for up to 75 percent of sales, have risen significantly faster than the inflation rate. A scientific study on veterinary services and their appropriate billing, which was commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food (BMEL) and which was published in November last year, showed that the current fees are no longer sufficient to cover costs and to ensure that there will continue to be enough specialist staff in the practices and emergency services in the future.
As reported by the German Animal Welfare Association, the medical care of pets is no longer guaranteed in some regions of Germany due to the shortage of skilled workers. The BMEL hopes to make the profession more attractive by increasing the fee.
What is the fee schedule for?
The legally prescribed GOT is intended to ensure transparency and protect animal owners from being cheated, says BTK President Uwe Tiedemann. After all, competition between veterinarians should be about merit, not price. In addition, they ensure that the employees are paid appropriately, that they are willing to invest and train and thus that the veterinary service is of a high quality.
What is new is that veterinarians are now obliged to charge a travel fee if they do not treat in the practice or clinic. This was true for a long time, but could easily be circumvented. The new regulation is intended to prevent veterinarians from advertising that they do not incur travel fees. Another new feature is that all veterinarians must issue an invoice from November 22nd, which explicitly lists which services have been billed and how.
Examples of new costs for dogs and cats
• General examination for a dog: 23.60 euros instead of the previous 13.60 euros, for a cat 23.60 euros instead of the previous 9 euros.
• Vaccinations for dogs and cats: EUR 11.50 instead of EUR 5.77.
• X-rays for dogs and cats: EUR 36.57 instead of EUR 25.65
• Caesarean section of a bitch: 183.37 euros
• Castration of dogs/bitches: 70.60 euros/192 euros instead of 51.31 euros/160.34 euros
• Castration male/cat: 30.32 euros / 89 euros instead of 19.24 euros / 76.97 euros
• Tooth extraction for dogs and cats: EUR 10.26 instead of EUR 6.41
• Ultrasound for dogs and cats: 58.92 euros instead of 42.34 euros
• Have dogs and cats put to sleep: EUR 30.78 instead of EUR 19.24
What do the billing rates mean?
The GOT does not give any flat-rate prices, but the fee for the individual treatment steps. Veterinary expenses are charged at single, double, triple or quadruple rates. The individual service can be charged at one to three times, in the emergency service at two to four times the respective fee rate.
That means: The simple rate is the minimum price that the veterinarian must charge. Depending on how much (time) it takes, how difficult the treatment is and when it takes place, for example at night or at the weekend, a higher rate can also be applied, but no more than four times as much. The value of the animal is also important. As paradoxical as this may sound, it could theoretically cost three times more to have a pedigree examined than a street mongrel.
However, there are usually additional costs associated with a visit to the vet, such as for advice, laboratory, anesthesia, medication and materials. In addition, veterinarians charge 19 percent sales tax for each treatment.
Which examination is how much more expensive? A selection
According to the Federal Veterinary Association, the price for a general examination of a dog will increase by almost ten euros from 13.60 euros to 23.60 euros. That means an increase of 73 percent. Cat owners pay 163 percent more for this, namely 23.60 euros instead of the previous nine euros. The cost of vaccinations for dogs and cats almost doubles from 5.77 euros to 11.50 euros, which means that the vaccinations are 99 percent more expensive. For X-rays, the price difference of 36.57 euros instead of 25.65 euros is slightly lower.
Depending on the individual treatment, the costs can, as I said, be higher. For example, in the future, an additional EUR 41.04 will be due for services that significantly disrupt the operation of the practice, and EUR 183.37 for the caesarean section of a bitch. Added to this is sales tax and the costs mentioned above.
Criticism of the Animal Welfare Association on the new scale of fees
The Deutscher Tierschutzbund eV fears that many owners will be less willing to have their animals treated or will try to sell their animals. However, many animal shelters are already overcrowded or should have imposed admission stops. Animal rights activists are sounding the alarm: “Vet bills will explode, energy costs will go through the roof. Added to this is the increase in costs due to the minimum wage and general inflation. The many animals in care push the staff to their limits. Since inflation and the tense economic situation as a result of the Ukraine war are also reducing the willingness of citizens to donate, practical animal welfare in Germany is threatened with the toughest autumn and winter it has ever experienced,” says Thomas Schröder, President of the German Animal Welfare Association.
The German Association of Veterinarians argues that the increase in fees ultimately serves animal welfare, since this is the only way to ensure a high level of quality in veterinary services and comprehensive animal care.
Can pet health insurance cover the costs?
According to the consumer advice center, dog and cat owners have only two options: regularly set aside money for visiting the vet or take out animal health insurance or insurance for surgery costs. The German Animal Welfare Association also assumes that such insurance can compensate for higher veterinary costs, but also advocates that temporary solutions for less well-heeled dog and cat owners be created, for example in the form of vouchers.
When choosing the insurance, however, the greatest prudence is required: According to the consumer advocates, the differences in contributions and benefits between the providers are enormous, which is why it is important to compare the offers of several insurers with each other. As is so often the case, the devil is in the details. Full health insurance, which covers both veterinary and possible surgical costs, is usually three times as expensive as pure surgical insurance. That’s why the tip from consumer advocates is: Only pet owners who insure their healthy pet as early as possible pay low premiums. However, it can make sense to take out pure surgical cost insurance in order to have at least part of the expensive surgical costs reimbursed.
Animal owners should pay attention to the following important contract details: What are the requirements? Can only young animals be insured, or only certain breeds? Some insurers will refuse pets that belong to breeds that are particularly susceptible to disease, such as French bulldogs or pugs. Which treatments are excluded? And what benefits for illnesses that the animal already had before the insurance was taken out? Can the insurance be canceled after a claim? Do you only pay for damages that occur after an accident and not other medical emergencies? What is the maximum amount paid per year and insured event? And what is the deductible? Finally, you should pay attention to the rate that the insurance company pays: As a rule, the veterinary practices charge three times the rate of the GOT for all treatments, recently they can also charge four times the rate. However, insurers usually only pay twice the rate.
Stiftung Warentest recommends these dog surgery insurance policies
Most recently, Stiftung Warentest compared full health insurance and surgical insurance and examined 61 dog surgical insurance policies with a view to their scope of services. Surgical insurance companies pay for surgical costs, which can amount to several thousand euros, depending on the treatment and diagnosis. According to the product testers, high-performance dog surgery insurance policies are available for less than 200 euros a year, which is why they, like the consumer centers, recommend surgery insurance instead of full health insurance.