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Specialists: Clients' struggles impact DVMs
State of the Profession 2009: General practitioners do more diagnostics, in-house services than before


Significant, not dramatic

Neil Shaw, DVM, Dipl. AVCIM, and chief medical officer of BluePearl Veterinary Partners with locations in Florida, New York City and Kansas City, says the economy has impacted his practices.

"We typically look at cases in two categories — specialty referrals and after-hours emergencies," Shaw says. "In general, I would say the economy has affected referrals more, and they have been affected more in the Northeast. Overall the effect has been significant, but not necessarily dramatic for both specialty referral and emergency."

He doesn't know if that is disproportionate to the number of cases general practitioners are seeing or not.

"What is more significant than the drop in caseload is that owners are less likely to approve an estimate," he says. "Pet owners are having a tough time from an expense standpoint, so they are not coming through our door for emergency and referral."

On the emergency side, Shaw has noticed a slight decrease in cases, but more interesting is that the animals brought in are presenting a little sicker.

"It appears owners are taking longer to take animals to the vet, so when we see them it is a little more dramatic than what we are used to."

Shaw has been in practice since 1996 and the economic conditions are the worst he has seen. More and more resumés are coming in from recent graduates looking for work and he is seeing fewer job advertisements for specialists.

All the while, the number of active board-certified diplomates with the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) American Board of Veterinary Specialists (ABVS) continues to increase.

As of December 2008, there were 9,305 diplomates, up from 8,885 in 2007 and 8,510 in 2006.

Dr. Kristopher Sharpe, DVM, of Michigan Veterinary Specialists in Grand Rapids, Mich., has an interest in internal medicine and says the demand for specialty services is great.

He sees four to five cases a day, four to five days a week, and those numbers are slowly increasing as the new clinic develops a presence.

The area has never had a specialty veterinary hospital, and it's driving demand, Sharpe says. Despite the costs involved in specialty care, pet owners want to be more involved in the care of their animals.

Shaw agrees. "The market is strong, and I'm optimistic. I believe there will continue to be a strong need for speciality medicine. In a manner of speaking, this is a cleansing process."

While veterinarians told DVM Newsmagazine's survey they plan to expand specialty services, Shaw hasn't seen much growth in what he calls "the hybrid practice" in the past year.

"I saw more general practices expanding into specialty services when times were stronger," he says.

Communication between veterinarians is key to survival, he adds.

"We recognize that 100 percent of our caseload is dependant on referrals," he says.

"For that reason, we do not accept non-referrals. We don't carry vaccines in any of our facilities. We provide continuing education regularly every few weeks for area veterinarians."


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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