The Triennial Report: Stop treatment point dips as veterinarians remain concerned about economy

The Triennial Report: Stop treatment point dips as veterinarians remain concerned about economy

State of the Profession 2009: Exclusive DVM Newsmagazine survey examines economy, veterinary concerns and euthanasia
Mar 01, 2009

Editor's Note: DVM Newsmagazine's State of the Profession survey is conducted every three years to examine the trends shaping veterinary practice and education. Over the next three months, the magazine will report on key findings from the survey.Log on to to share your insight or comment on issues influencing your practice. Simply click on Community and follow the navigation to the Message Boards.

Table 1
National Report — Pet owners are throwing in the towel earlier on veterinary treatment, according to a new DVM Newsmagazine survey.

Veterinarians were asked in January to estimate the average dollar amount most clients spend before they opt to stop treatment of a sick or injured animal.

The number: $1,407. That's down from an average of $1,451 in 2006, representing a 3 percent decline over the three-year period. (See Methodology, p. 21).

The wide-ranging survey findings, which will be reported over the next few months, tell a tale of two very different practice types, largely based on size.

In veterinary practices grossing more than $1.7 million, the stop-treatment point swelled to an average of $2,043, compared to just $1,359 for practices grossing between $250,000 and $499,000.

Examining the stop-treatment point offers insight from veterinarians about the human-animal bond and the economic end point of a client's willingness to continue treatment.

In contrast, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports that most pet owners spend just $356 a year in a $24.5 billion veterinary-services market.

The survey, conducted amid the downward-spiraling economy, shows pessimism, compared to past results.

A look at the numbers

Table 2
The most pressing issue facing veterinary medicine is rising costs, according to 59 percent of respondents (Table 2). That trumped employee retention (9 percent), competition (4 percent), specialization (4 percent) and government oversight (4 percent). Both male and female veterinarians shared the concern, with 64 percent of female DVMs citing escalating costs as the most serious issue facing the profession.

Table 3
In 2009, 61 percent of veterinarians say their local economy has negatively influenced practice revenue. Only 8 percent report the influence was positive (Table 1).

In addition, an anemic 31 percent predict that practice revenue will increase for 2009. However, 43 percent believe it will stay about the same, while about 26 percent believe revenue will decline (Table 4).

Table 4
When these data were cross-tabulated by practice size, veterinary practices grossing between $1.25 million and $1.75 million reported the weakest growth.

Table 5
In fact, 32 percent of practices grossing $1.5 million to $1.7 million say that revenue from 2008 was down from 2007. About 28 percent of them said it was about the same and 40 percent reported revenue growth.