Accurate GUESStimates?

We get a lot of phone calls (and a good bit of frustration) that we cannot tell owners what is wrong with their pet over the phone. But there is even more frustration that we cannot tell how much something is going to cost in a phone call.  Of course there are wellness services and products that have a predetermined price that we readily share several times a day.  Every service and item has a price in our computers. We certainly are not trying to keep them from anyone because we want to do things that are in a pet owner’s budget or everyone has stress. What we cannot accurately do is make a diagnosis over the phone (which is what is required to give an accurate treatment plan and estimate) and then tell what it will cost to treat this disease. 
An example stands out in my memory.  A pet owner called with a very sick dog.  She was almost certain that he had swallowed a sock and wanted to know the cost of doing surgery to remove the sock.  We were easily able to share with her the cost of the examination and the radiograph that would be required to tell if and where the sock was lodged.  We explained that after those diagnostics, we would be able to tell her:

1. If surgery was indicated 

2. A rough cost estimate based on what other surgeries like that one had been

3. How much additional costs she might incur based on how sick her dog really was and how long he would likely be in the hospital.  

She was not at all pleased and thought that it was ridiculous that we could not tell her on the phone.  I found out later that her dog had not eaten a sock at all and ended up dying of parvovirus.  Sadly, while she was calling multiple vets to try to insist on a surgical estimate, her dog was getting sicker and sicker and did not even need surgery.
Please understand that we are not trying to be difficult on such phone calls.  We just know from experience that things are often not what they seem. Knowledge is power and information is our weapon against disease. We know that we need to examine the pet to give a treatment plan that has any hope of being appropriate.  Even if you are sure that your pet has a certain thing wrong with him or her, let us do our jobs and make a diagnosis. If we have a diagnosis, we can give a more accurate cost estimate and your pet has a better chance of recovery.  And when your pet recovers, everyone wins!