RIYADH: As pet ownership surges in Saudi Arabia, the demand for veterinary and care services has boomed alongside it. Clinics, pet stores, and even mobile grooming services have popped up nationwide.
But the quality of service varies greatly among clinics and stores, leaving people wondering if they should risk visiting an “unsafe” clinic in return for more affordable fees, or take their pets to a safer clinic for a much higher bill.
Loulwa Almarshad, a pet rights activist and volunteer with animal rescue organizations, said it was difficult to find the right clinics and services in Saudi Arabia.
“Finding a vet service is very difficult in Saudi, even in major cities,” she told Arab News. “Even the paltry few certified clinics here don’t have the best services, and the best of the worst are overpriced. All I see at this point is people being greedy for my money.”
Almarshad said a simple checkup at a certified pet clinic could cost as much as SR300 ($80), while an antibiotic sold outside a clinic for SR10 could cost as much as SR150 when administered by a vet.
The high prices, together with what she felt was a lack of proper attention paid to her pets, has caused her near-constant concern for the welfare of her furry friends.
“It’s impossible to find a good vet that you trust. I don’t know how to take care of my pets. My pets are my family, and it’s so horrible that I can’t find anyone to give their full attention to them,” she fretted.
While many pet stores in the country double up as clinics and grooming spots, some owners feel uncomfortable taking their animals to such places despite the lower prices.
Sahar Al-Dawsari, a self-described “avid cat mom,” said her experience with these clinics was “abysmal” and that she would never take her cats back there.
“I took my cat to one of those clinics for grooming, back before I knew better,” she told Arab News. “She became infected with a virus and died in my arms less than a month later. It was devastating. I don’t care how much I have to pay in the future, I’ll never take a pet back to a pet store clinic again.”
The high prices of pet care have caused people to petition for government-controlled prices, crackdowns on pet store clinics to force them to raise their quality standard, or even pet
Dr. Takura Zihumo, a vet who has been practicing in Saudi Arabia since 2008, said pet insurance could be a viable solution if executed properly. “Pet insurance is a good idea, but only if done with the right motive of making animal health care and welfare affordable. If done with the motive of profiteering, it’s actually more expensive than not having insurance,” he told Arab News. “In the UK, where insurance is popular, the pricing is cheap and allows you to register your pets, so it makes sense to get insurance. But I have seen overpriced schemes in other parts of the Gulf, so it depends.”
One way or another, many hope that the situation on pet care pricing will improve, for themselves and for their beloved pets.
“Having a pet isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Loving a pet and being loved in return is the best feeling in the world,” Almarshad said.