Dear Christopher Cat
My elderly cat has kidney disease and an overactive thyroid gland. My veterinarian recommends periodic blood pressure testing but charges extra for it. My own physician checks my blood pressure as part of my regular exams without assessing an additional fee. Is my veterinarian out of line?
No, it’s customary for veterinarians to charge for blood pressure measurement. Let me explain why the human and veterinary situations differ.
First, elevated blood pressure is relatively common in you humans, even when you have no underlying disease. Because humans’ blood pressure should be checked frequently, the cost is built into the exam fee.
That’s not the case with pets. Generally, blood pressure increases only when we have a triggering malady, such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes or Cushing’s disease. So measuring blood pressure is not a routine part of the veterinary exam.
Second, the time and personnel required to measure blood pressure differ substantially between our species.
When the nurse takes your blood pressure, she or he can do it alone in about a minute.
In contrast, two nurses are necessary to check my blood pressure: one to hold me and the other to take the measurement.
Moreover, the process takes about 20 minutes, for a few reasons:
• When the nurses hold me and apply the cuff, I get tense and my blood pressure spikes. I have to relax in the cuff long enough for my blood pressure to settle back to what’s normal for me.
• If my fur must be shaved to get a good reading, I need to settle down for about 10 minutes before the reading is accurate.
• Veterinary nurses take multiple blood pressure readings until they get four to eight that are similar. The average is considered a valid measurement.