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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Financial Impacts On Medicine

World-wide there are financial crises, from the persistent recession in the US to the near-default in Greece and with several other European countries not far behind.  We hear about these issues on the news but I'm not sure if we always realize the trickle-down impact such economic problems can have.

Veterinary medicine is certainly not exempt.  There have been many articles in veterinary journals over the last few years about the significance of economic downturns on the way we practice medicine and the clients that we see.  Many people are out of work or "under-employed" and have less money to spend.  This usually means that their pets come in less often and they do less care, sometimes with serious consequences.  For several years now overall veterinary visits have been on the decline, especially with cat owners.  And that was the reason for my latest poll.

This time I asked questions of each group of readers differently.  For pet owners I asked whether or not they had spent less at the vet in the last 12 months.  The results showed that 29% (16) said "Yes", 63% (35) said "No", and 7% (4) weren't sure.  My veterinary readers were asked if they had seen less spent at their clinics in the last year.  Seventy-six percent (16) said "Yes", 14% (3) said "No", and 9% (2) weren't sure.  As usual, this is a very unscientific poll since my readers are likely skewed towards the better pet owners, and there wasn't anything physically keeping owners from answering as vets and vice-versa.  Still, I think the results can tell us some things.

Most vets said that clients were spending less, yet most clients (at least here) said that they didn't spend less.  So there appears to be a discrepancy between what clients think and what vets think.  Though as I said the data here are likely skewed, this does seem to reflect other studies that show differences in how vets and clients perceive the care that pets are receiving.  And despite what some clients may think, other studies and polls show that pet care and veterinary visits are declining.  What's interesting is that overall spending on pets is increasing some, which means that people are spending more money on pet supplies but not on veterinary care.  To me this is the wrong emphasis for clients to make.

I think that this poll also gives a little insight into this blog's readership, though that wasn't originally the intent.  There were 21 respondents who classified themselves as vets and 55 who said they were clients.  Some of the "vets" may include students or techs, but there are still quite a lot of readers in the profession. 

So in any case, make of the numbers what you will.  And while I do agree that when money is tight spending should be focused on the human members of the family first, we also don't want to forget proper care on our fuzzy, feathered, and scaled friends.


  1. I guess it depends on the financial circumstances in any given family. I was presented with a bit of an emergency last month and paid 600 euro for my dogs surgery. I think regardless of economic downturn you just have to find the money for things like this. I guess many people may be cutting back by skipping normal checkups etc.

  2. Interestingly, from what I've read, the decline in spending for veterinary services started before the onset of the recession.

  3. I often would love to tell clients that maybe they should sell their $600 designer purses when they tell me they can't afford heartworm prevention...

  4. Interesting results and yes, can understand with the economic downturn. Unfortunate for the animals for sure.

    Wondering if my vet has felt it. Every time I am there the place is busy. Same with the groomer we use. Might just have to ask groomer if she has noticed a decline in customers. Interesting.

  5. Funnily enough, Bob, we're seeing plenty of people who are coming in for the bare minimum that is required to see the groomer. Can't afford the heartworm test or preventative but they're taking Fluffy to get her hair did. Nice. Of course, I do the opposite, my dogs get baths and shaved down at home and they have top notch medical care. I know I'm biased, but I wish everyone did it that way.


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