Report: Veterinary markets provide optimism, opportunities

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A report from AVMA economists expresses “cautious optimism” about the market for veterinarians, reiterating findings reported during an October 2015 summit on veterinary economics.

Report cover: 2016 AVMA Report on Veterinary MarketsThe AVMA’s first of four economic reports for 2016 is an 80-page overview of information presented during the fall 2015 meeting. The Association is providing the reports to members for free at A second report, on the market for veterinary education, was published at the same website shortly before press time.

The report describes a robust market for veterinarians, citing as evidence that veterinarians are earning more money and that their unemployment rate of 4.5 percent during 2014 remained lower than the national unemployment rate of 6.1 percent.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate the mean unemployment rate that year among civilian workers with a university education who were at least 25 years old and had at least a bachelor’s degree was 3.2 percent.

The report also cautions that the risk of recession raises concern that veterinarians may be unable to maintain recent income growth and job satisfaction, particularly as the number of veterinarians continues to increase.

Among other findings, the report indicates more people want veterinary services than are willing to pay for them at current prices.

“There are those that would like to purchase veterinary services but cannot or are unwilling to afford them,” the article states.

Citing a presentation by Dr. Matt Salois of Elanco, the report suggests conducting research focused on learning how veterinarians can become invaluable to pet owners and broaden the scope of veterinary clinic visits. He suggested, for example, research on specific products and services that improve pets’ lives, owner convenience, and practice revenue as well as improve practice management, inventory control, and staff use.

Data in the report indicate that, since the early 2000s, the prices of veterinary services have risen at a faster pace than has the consumer price index.

“As relative prices for veterinary services rose, expenditures for veterinary services per pet declined and the number of pets not visiting the veterinarian increased,” the report states.

The report further describes misalignment between prices students are willing to pay for veterinary education and prices pet owners are willing to pay for services. When debt at graduation becomes too high, “the new veterinarian has paid more for the degree than the value placed on that degree by pet owners.”

The report also cautions that, if veterinarians raise prices in response to increased expenses, fewer veterinary services will be sold, and a gap will rise between need and willingness to pay for veterinary services.

Related JAVMA content:

Profession's economic health coming into focus (Dec. 15, 2015)

Worth the price of admission? (Dec. 15, 2015)

AVMA report gives specifics on student debt quandary (Dec. 15, 2015)