-- A new survey conducted over the last three months by Brakke Consulting shows that the veterinary profession, once thought to be recession-proof, may not be so secure after all.
Veterinarians are concerned about what to expect in 2009 - apparently with good reason: Pet owners are reporting a drop in income that translates to spending less on services like grooming, boarding and dental care.
"There's obvious concern in the companion-animal veterinary community about the recession," says John Volk of Brakke Consulting, which recently completed a survey on spending and business trends. It polled 1,500 pet owners and 225 companion-animal veterinarians.
About half, 46 percent, of the pet owners interviewed through October and November say their financial situation was worse in 2008 than in 2007, and 27 percent added that the employment status of their household's primary wage earner had changed during the year. As a result, those households were scaling back on pet care, according to the survey.
About 2 percent of the owners lost a pet and weren't going to replace it, or had recently given up a pet for economic reasons.
Pet owners also were asked if they reduced spending in 13 categories - including pet food, toys, veterinary services, flea and heartworm medications and grooming. Boarding and grooming services took the biggest hit, with other veterinary services and dental care also high on the list.
However, Volk adds that there were still a number of people whose spending went up in each category, and pet owners hadn't really reported a decrease in products purchased from their veterinarian, like flea and heartworm prevention.
The survey asked pet owners whether their spending had increased, decreased or stayed the same, but didn't measure how much. There are more specific volumes for veterinary trends, with specific figures on how many visits veterinarians had at their clinics and how average-transaction costs fared.
"The one thing that did come out is that veterinarians are relatively pessimistic about 2009," says Volk, adding that, while pet owners are a little more optimistic about spending about the same on their pets in 2009, veterinarians think their revenue will decrease.