Just as interesting, Volk says, most veterinarians are operating in extremely competitive environments. The latest survey
of 401 veterinarians taken during May 2011 (± 4.9 percent) shows an average of 15 other services offering points of care and
9.6 independents in the same practice vicinity. (See Table 3.)
Table 3: Services competing to provide veterinary care
"That is stiff competition," says Volk. "Another way of looking at this is that it is not competition but proliferation."
There's more bad news. About 66 percent of the respondents say they are seeing patients two to three days sicker. Another
88 percent of veterinarians admit the economy has negatively impacted practice.
Despite it, fees went up in both 2010 and 2011 for many veterinary practices.
Pet owners are pushing back on price, and veterinarians recognize it, explains Dr. Karen Felsted, executive director of NCVEI.
In this survey, more than half of pet owners say costs were much higher than expected.
While the results are sobering, Felsted says, getting an accurate snapshot of what is happening in the market can help veterinarians
strategize on ways to reverse it. To build your client-base you need to retain your existing clients, build frequency of visits
or attract new clients. FYI: 80 percent of the opportunity is in building routine cat care, the survey says.
Table 4: Monitoring fee increases
The first phase of the survey unearthed six root causes for this decline in veterinary visits, including the recession, fragmentation
of veterinary services, use of the Internet vs. office visits when it comes to seeking veterinary advice, feline resistance
to care, perception that regular medical check-ups are unnecessary and costs of care.
The survey offers some recommendations to rebuff the trend and build client visits.