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Veterinary Economy is Booming

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Veterinary Economy is Booming

There has been a very large increase in pet spending during the pandemic that has helped to strengthen the U.S. veterinary economy, driving revenue up by more than 11% in some recent months, compared with the previous year, according to figures from the American Veterinary Medical Association. Many veterinary clinics, it seems, have never been busier.

That snapshot, however, belies major issues facing veterinary medicine: high turnover, practice inefficiencies, an epidemic of burnout and a rollercoaster economy that’s showing signs of slowing to pre-pandemic levels in terms of patients and visits. What’s more, inflation is rising: Year-over-year veterinary prices paid by consumers climbed an average of 7% in December 2021, up from 4% in March 2020.

“Just to put this into context, at a 7% price increase growth rate, the average cost of veterinary care to a pet owner will double in about 10 years. Clearly, we have an affordability challenge that needs to be on our minds,” warned Matthew Salois, director of the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division.

Citing data from Veterinary Industry Tracker, an economic tool developed jointly by the AVMA and the data analysis company VetSuccess, Salois forecasts an end to a patient backlog that’s burned out much of the profession since the March 2020 rise of COVID-19. During a presentation to the AVMA House of Delegates, which met this month in Chicago, he relayed that “part of what is driving our burnout and our workforce challenges in veterinary medicine is a rising demand for veterinary care that we all observed and experienced during the pandemic.

“We have had a two-year roller-coaster experience,” he said, “and we are starting to see signs that both spending and visits are decelerating and returning to previous trends that we experienced before COVID.”

Still, job satisfaction is suffering, he warned: “A growing number of veterinarians are thinking of leaving the profession.”

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