Dr. Karen Felsted asks: What do you think is causing the decline in veterinary visits?

Using the Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study to Bring More Pets and Pet Owners into Your Practice

You’ve probably heard about the Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study; you’d have to have been living in a cave not to. The study was released last year and identified the most significant reasons veterinary visits have been declining and, more importantly, what you can do about it. This study is arguably the most actionable piece of work ever undertaken in veterinary medicine and many of the findings are easy to implement in your practice.

Let’s talk first about some of the trends we’ve been seeing in veterinary medicine over the last decade. There is all sorts of evidence that demonstrates pet visits, new clients, active clients, transactions, patients per veterinarian per week and the percentage of pet-owning households who visit a veterinarian have all been declining over the past 5-15 years. Whether you look at pet owner studies or veterinary practice activity studies, you see the same downward trends. What is particularly concerning is that these downward trends in veterinary care usage occurred during a time when the pet population was increasing.

One of the most important things to remember is that all of these declines started before the recession. The recession certainly exacerbated the situation, but its not the root cause of the decline in the use of veterinary care. Unfortunately, we as a profession largely ignored these declines because our practices seemed to be otherwise doing well financially—revenue was growing at a rate well above inflation and veterinarian compensation and take home earnings were also increasing.

Before we get into the findings from the study and the changes that practices should focus on, let’s hear from you. What do you think has been causing the decline in veterinary visits.  And what do you think has been the most significant factor?