Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Impact of the Economy on Pet Care

I can only comment on what I see as a veterinarian in a small animal/exotics practice. I cannot give any hard numbers, rather my impressions and what I have heard from others. Generally, veterinary medicine shows reasonable growth every year, however, with the economic downturn recently, revenues are flat nationally. Client visits are down and many practices are showing slight to moderate decreases in revenue. This is what one would expect in the face of this difficult economic climate. It was thought, in the past, that veterinary medicine was recession proof, but current thinking is that it is recession resistant.

Moving from the broad view to a more personal view. The first thing I must say is that I am so heartened by the nature of people whom we see bring their pets to our practice. Although times are tough, they still manage to provide the care needed for their pets. In fact, some face major medical bills if their pet requires a visit to a specialty clinic for an advanced surgical procedure or involved medical workup. They manage to find the funds to cover these costs, as hard as it may be. That is why I love my profession and still enjoy what I do even after being at Niles Animal Hospital for over thirty years, as it is the wonderful people who care enough to bring their pets into the hospital that make what I do so pleasurable. I am so eager to help them and their pets.

Nonetheless, I have seen changes in what clients are willing to do. They are much more cost conscious and may forgo certain tests or procedures to economize. They may buy fewer preventatives at a time, six instead of twelve, picking up the remainder later. I understand perfectly. We are seeing more people obtaining shelter dogs instead of the purebred puppies, cost probably an issue, but also the desire to provide a home for a needy animal. People seem to be buying more small to mid-size birds instead of the large parrots, which can be quite costly.

As for people giving up pets; sadly it does happen. We have had animals abandoned at the hospital due to a tough economy. One person had lost her home, was living out of her car and she dropped two parrots each in their own cage with an explanatory note about her plight as well as particulars about the birds. She snuck the cages in when no one was looking and the receptionists found them near the front desk. We placed the birds in the hands of a parrot rescue organization who has found a home for one and is working on a home for the other. The former owner did call to see what was happening with the birds. She was in such dire straits she felt giving them up this way was the only hope. There are many tragic stories I am sure, especially as some people are not as concerned as this woman and just let their pets go. Thank goodness we have great animal rescue organizations that work tirelessly with no financial rewards who try to save these animals and find them loving homes.


  1. I know exactly which parrots you're referring to. It's nice to hear that their previous owner called to check up on them. I can't imagine how heartbreaking it must have been to leave them. She obviously loved them a lot, as she took the time to write notes about them and at least drop them off at a place she knew would provide/find great care for them.

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