JAVMA News logo

April 01, 2021

Survey finds cost, difficulties with access are primary barriers to veterinary care

Published on
information-circle This article is more than 3 years old

Survey results suggest dog owners share some understanding across demographics on the conditions for which they would seek veterinary care.

Whether they seek that care is linked with the availability of care, which includes the expected cost of services, ease of transportation to a clinic, clinic hours, and language differences, as well as the owner’s trust in veterinarians, according to an article published Jan. 5 in Veterinary Sciences. Those responses varied by dog owners’ demographics.

Woman holding a dog

“This finding is in contrast with previous studies, which have maintained an assumption that race and ethnicity are primary predictors in the decision to access veterinary services for companion animals,” the article states.

The authors, a research team from North Carolina State University, conducted a survey of 858 dog-owning adults, who answered questions about whether they would seek veterinary care under 18 circumstances. The respondents also provided demographic data on themselves and their dogs and answered questions about their relationships with their dogs, previous veterinary care, and barriers to using veterinary care.

The results indicate participants overall were most likely to seek veterinary care for their dogs in circumstances such as trauma, poison ingestion, and the need for end-of-life care, and they were least likely to seek care for conditions such as vomiting, diarrhea, and weight gain.

Certain dog owners may be disproportionately affected by cost, especially people of Native American or Asian descent, people who earn less than $25,000 annually, young dog owners, and owners without formal education, the article states.

“Across all demographic groups, cost appeared to be the largest barrier to veterinary care with 49.6% of participants indicating cost to be a challenge,” the article states.

Hours of operation and ease of transportation were the second and third most-cited barriers to care, affecting about 30% of respondents each. The article indicates a little more than one in six respondents cited lack of trust in veterinarians among the barriers to seeking veterinary care. That response was more frequent among dog owners who are male, those who are Black or Native American, and those with higher education.

“Though, interestingly, the barrier ‘Poor previous encounter with veterinarians’ was not significant for any demographic group,” the article states.

About one in eight respondents cited language differences as a barrier.

Read the article.