Specialties take a hit
One specialty most impacted by the economic crunch, McFerson says, is the critical care/emergency sectors.
As the price battles wage, one way in which veterinary practice owners are protecting revenue is to keep more urgent cases
in-house, either by extending operating hours or taking after-hours pages to determine whether they can service the case.
Both have resulted in fewer cases being referred to emergency veterinarians. In surgical cases, veterinarians are turning
to a growing market of mobile board-certified surgeons, who, for a flat fee, will come to the practice to perform surgery,
which allows the practice owner to keep the revenue related to the surgery (recover time, medicine, follow-up visits, etc.).
"Referrals are usually the first casualty during a recession ... associates are not far behind," Snyder says.
The biggest obstacle in navigating the rocky economic climate, however, may not be price cutting, coupons or poaching specialty
business. Many pet owners simply are no longer able to afford the luxury of unlimited health-care funding for their pets—especially
those that are critically ill.
"In the past, for many pet owners, price was no object," McFerson says. "Now, pet owners faced with a life-or-death decision
are opting not to spend the extra money when the chances for success are marginal. Serious thought goes into whether they
go forward with costly procedures."