Since COVID-19, over 23 million American households have adopted a pet, and according to the American Pet Products Association, they’re spending more than ever on them. Pet insurance coverage jumped 28% from 2020 to 2021. Veterinary revenue went up, but according to analytics provider VetSuccess, so did monthly appointments at the clinic by 11% since 2019.
Vets are being worn thin. According to Axios, the president of pet treatment provider PetIQ reported that one in four vets are quitting annually industrywide, and many are facing burnout. At the rate things are going, the U.S. is set to face a vet shortage of 15,000 veterinary technicians by 2030, potentially leaving 75 million American pets without professional healthcare.
We may love our pets like family, but we can’t provide the devoted care and service to these animals that a vet does. Veterinary careers tend to attract people with a passion for helping animals, but the increased stress and workload for lower pay than other medical jobs could hurt the profession. To ease the load on veterinarians and bring joy back to the experience, the pet healthcare continuum should embrace a more prominent role for at-home veterinary care.
How Did We Get Here?
No one will say the veterinary path is easy. It’s highly competitive, with only 26 accredited vet schools in the U.S. compared to over 150 medical schools. According to vet technicians, the level of training and expertise needed to get their license is comparable to that of a registered nurse in the human healthcare continuum, but their salaries are less than half. Despite less appreciation and lower pay, vets assume a vital role in the pet industry, and people who choose this path anyway are truly special and heroic. Almost every vet tech will tell you: They do it for the animals.
Vets provide a unique and special gift to pet families across the country, but there are simply not enough of them to keep up with rising demand. There was already a shortage before COVID-19, but early in the pandemic, many non-emergency vet clinics had to shut their doors temporarily. Those that stayed open were offering only essential services as pet ownership was skyrocketing. Emergency vet care providers were swamped with new pet owners and a growing backlog of clients waiting for it to be safe to go in for a wellness visit. Vets have been racing to catch up ever since, leaving many veterinary heroes overwhelmed and burning out.
It’s All About the Vets
In traditional clinics, vets see many pets in a day, but never with as much time as they would prefer. When COVID-19 safety protocols severely limited close contact with humans and animals, they removed much of the human element from the clinical veterinary experience. Owners spending more time at home with their pets took an interest in more and higher-value products and services but grew frustrated at the delay in getting care. Vets were working extra hours to accommodate longer appointments and higher demand. All these elements added more stress to a stressful process.
Every visit to the clinic can cause stress and anxiety that at-home veterinary services can help mitigate. At their patient’s home, vets can dedicate more focused time to each pet and owner. At-home visits minimize the risks of transmitting infectious diseases like COVID-19 and allow vets to add the human element back into their services for better and more accurate physical and mental care. They can check multiple pets in a single household in one visit and answer all the owner’s questions, potentially reducing the need for additional visits. With more scheduling flexibility in meeting their clients at home, vets have a better chance of managing a healthier work-life balance.
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Reinventing the Pet Care Experience (At Home)
At-home veterinary services offer more than the convenience of staying at home. Mostly, pet owners appreciate being able to keep their pets comfortable, happy, and healthy with the best possible medical care but without the stress of a trip to the clinic. The pet stays with its pet parent, resulting in less anxiety for both, which is why at-home care can be so successful.
At-home veterinary services may not be able to provide care in an emergency, in which case owners should take their pets to a veterinary hospital, but with at-home services added to the options of veterinary healthcare, everyone benefits. Pets can feel safer in the process and experience. Pet owners can feel good about themselves by providing their pets better care. The vets get to spend more time with their patients in the environment they feel most comfortable so they focus once again on what brought them to the profession: providing the best care for animals.