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The decline in veterinary visits—a look at the big picture (Proceedings)

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Aug 01, 2011

Many reports have indicated that the US recession of 2007-2009 had a negative impact on the business volume and revenues of a large number of companion animal veterinary practices. But there is substantial evidence in studies conducted by the AVMA, AAHA and others that erosion in patient visits began well before the start of the recession.

The prospect that dog and cat visits may be declining at a time when the pet population is rising raises several concerns about the care pets are getting and the impact on the economic health of the veterinary profession. The Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study was conducted to address these issues; specific goals were to confirm the decline in patient visits, identify the factors responsible for the decline, and to identify specific actions that companion animal practitioners could take to encourage more frequent veterinary visits for dogs and cats and to reverse the trend.

The study was conducted by Brakke Consulting, Inc., in cooperation with the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues (NCVEI) and sponsored by the Animal Health Division of Bayer Healthcare. Ipsos-Forward Research was retained to conduct the fieldwork. Stages of the research included an extensive review of literature on practice trends, a series of in-depth interviews conducted with companion animal practice owners across the US, qualitative interviews with pet owners and a national online quantitative survey of 2,188 US dog and cat owners. In conducting the online survey, a detailed quota plan based on AVMA pet ownership statistics was developed to ensure that responses were representative of all regions and demographic groups. Statistical margin of error for the entire sample at the 95% confidence level was ± 2.1%; margin of error at the species (dog or cat) level was ± 3.0%.

In designing the Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study, Bayer, Brakke and NCVEI consulted with several business management experts with research experience in the veterinary field. These included John W. Slocum, PhD, professor emeritus of the Cox School of Business, Southern Methodist University, William Cron, associate dean, M. J. Neeley School of Business, Texas Christian University, and a team of professors from Kansas State University – David M. Andrus, PhD, Kevin Gwinner, PhD, and J. Bruce Prince, PhD.