Veterinary Industry: Top 9 Trends Practices Should Know in 2021

10 min read
Veterinary Industry Trends Practices Should Know in 2021

Like all businesses worldwide, veterinary practices had to think quickly and adapt to major changes when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. After 2020, the world has been attempting to return to normal, but many of the protocols, operations, and systems put in place will prove beneficial for the future. To keep your clients happy, provide top-notch patient care, and stay ahead of your competition, you’ll need to be at the top of your game by following these nine veterinary industry trends for 2021.

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1. Rise in use of technology and telemedicine

It’s no secret that the adoption of technology tools and telemedicine applications greatly helped veterinary practices during the pandemic. The entire industry can agree that utilizing practice apps, virtual appointments, curbside check-in, and pickup notifications helped boost efficiency when practices were overwhelmed with new and existing clients. According to a COVID-19 Pulse Study by the American Pet Products Association, 12.6 million American households adopted a pet during the pandemic. These new pet owners struggled to find veterinary practices accepting new clients.

To help squeeze pets in need into an already jam-packed schedule, veterinarians turned to telemedicine, virtual appointments, and other useful tech tools to help see as many patients as possible. Pet owners love the convenience of telemedicine, especially when it comes to asking questions about their pet’s health that may not merit an in-person appointment. At the same time, veterinarians are finally getting paid for the advice they dish out through text messages, emails, and other channels. Telemedicine is here to stay and is one of the most beneficial veterinary industry trends for practices to follow. Consider signing up for a practice app or choosing an alternative telemedicine platform to help virtually care for your patients.

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2. Increase of large veterinary corporations

Although veterinary care is a highly fragmented industry with many owners and business models, projections show corporate-owned practices represent a growing portion of the industry revenue and visits. Most of the nearly 30,000 veterinary practices operating in the U.S. today are still small and individually owned; however, corporate ownership has increased significantly. Brakke Consulting predicts that 25% of practices will be corporate-owned by 2023 and represent 50% of veterinary visits.

Because of their size and resources, veterinary practice corporations significantly influence industry standards, such as pricing, competition, employee benefits, client relationships, and quality of patient care. As corporate practices become more commonplace, the entire veterinary industry will look to them to be at the forefront of best practices and define the future of veterinary medicine.

3. Increased focus on companion animal medicine

According to national data on 4,000-plus veterinary practices from analytics company VetSuccess, the average number of appointments booked increased by 4.5% from 2019 to 2020. Appointments increased 6.5% between January and June 2021, compared with the same period in 2020. Although this increase can be partially attributed to the fact that many people were home more with their pets and noticed health issues sooner, it also demonstrates the importance of pets to their families. Cats and dogs are true family members now, rather than simply being a pet, and the increased focus on companion animal medicine demonstrates that belief. Pet owners no longer want the bare minimum of yearly “shots” for their animals; instead, they want human-quality diagnostic tools, rapid service, and top-of-the-line care. If you don’t jump on board with this veterinary industry trend of performing gold-standard medicine, you’ll likely begin losing clients who view their pets as their favorite family members.

4. Interest in higher-quality diets

As people become more concerned about their own diet, their concerns transfer over to what their pets eat. Holistic, organic, all-natural, and human-grade ingredients are key buzzwords that draw many pet owners in, convincing them that the product behind such labeling must be the best. No longer do pet owners want to feed their pet a certain amount of bargain kibble per day. Instead, they’re likely asking all sorts of questions about some of the more popular and up-and-coming diets, such as:

🟣 Raw meat diets

🟣 Homemade diets

🟣 Vegan diets

🟣 Fresh diets

While pet diets outside of the standard dry food can certainly be beneficial, many pitfalls can cause an unsuspecting pet owner to do more harm than good. Brush up on your own nutrition expertise rather than relying on what you learned years ago in veterinary school. This veterinary industry trend is constantly evolving, so be sure your nutrition knowledge is the most up-to-date to educate your clients better.

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5. Surge in millennial pet owners

Millennials are now the largest pet-owning demographic, overtaking the baby boomer crowd, with 35% of millennials owning pets versus 32% of baby boomers. This group of people born between 1980 and 2000 is incredibly passionate about their pets. Millennials are more apt to take their time to settle down, get married, and start a family, so they are turning to pet ownership as they build their careers. Cats and dogs become the “babies,” and the care they receive shows it. This generation is more likely to spend top dollar to ensure their fur babies get the best care possible, and millennials look for environmentally-friendly methods.

“Millennials expect to interact with their veterinarian on an equal footing, to have diseases and their effects on pet well-being explained to them, and to be involved in treatment decisions for their dog or cat,” outlines Saskia Kley, Head of Franchise Pain and Emerging Categories. “Millennial pet owners truly want to be engaged and informed. This changes the veterinary profession: Communication skills become increasingly important.”

To cater to your millennial clients, follow these tips:

🟣 Take the time to thoroughly answer questions during appointments, through telemedicine platform, and social media sites.

🟣 Ensure clients are a engaged, active part of their pet’s care plan.

🟣 Offer various treatment protocols designed to provide multiple levels of care options since clients are generally looking for more advanced diagnostic testing and treatments for their pets.

🟣 Highlight the importance pets have in today’s families and communities.

6. Sense of community

Now more than ever, people are bonding together and displaying a proud sense of community. With a strong desire to shop locally and support small businesses, your clients are looking up to you for all their pet needs, from food and toys to medications and parasite prevention.

If you’ve been trying to compete with big-box online retailers through price-matching and an overwhelming inventory, you can celebrate being a small business instead. Distinguish yourself from online giants by informing your clients that you carry products specifically chosen for pets in your community. Rather than throwing all the options at your clients and leaving them to drown while making a decision, demonstrate that you’re there to help guide pet owners on choosing the best products to meet their needs.

Additionally, highlight that when clients shop locally, they’re investing in their community. Supporting local businesses is a growing nationwide trend, not just a veterinary industry trend, and it’s one you should definitely pay close attention to when meeting your clients’ needs.

7. Skyrocketing interest in pet health insurance

As pets become a larger part of the family and more money is being spent on pet supplies and veterinary care, pet owners are looking for the best ways to provide quality care without spending tons of cash. To help cover everything from unexpected veterinary bills to routine wellness care, pet owners turn to health insurance coverage for their furry family members.

Currently, 1.6% of American pets have insurance. That number pales in comparison to the United Kingdom, where an estimated 25% of pets are covered, and Sweden, where the total is said to be as high as 40%. However, the number of insured pets in the U.S. is steadily rising. According to a report from the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, close to 3.45 million pets were insured in North America at the end of 2020. The report also stated that pet health insurance has been increasing at an average annual growth rate of 23.4% over the past 5 years.

Pet health insurance is a veterinary industry trend every practice should support and promote within their hospital. Not only does it allow pet owners to save money, but it also helps pets receive the care they need, whether it’s emergency life-saving care, specialty treatment, or even general wellness care. Some pet insurance companies, such as Nationwide, now cover the cost of virtual visits as part of their coverage plans, making telemedicine services even more important for veterinary practices to offer. Consider setting up a lunch-and-learn with various pet insurance providers to see which one best fits the needs of your clients and patients, then promote the provider within your practice.

8. Focus on mental health and well-being

It’s no secret that the veterinary industry suffers from poor mental health and overall well-being, resulting in heartbreaking consequences. According to a study published by Merck Animal Health, veterinarians suffer from an increased risk of suicide. Veterinarians are 2.7 times as likely to attempt suicide as the general population.

Factors that contribute to such poor mental health:

🟣 Long work hours

🟣Demanding clients

🟣 Workplace conflict

🟣 Emotional demands

🟣 Ever-increasing educational debt-to-income ratio

🟣 Poor work-life balance

🟣 Workplace bullying

🟣 Anxiety and depression

However, practice owners and managers can mitigate many of these issues by promoting a comfortable work-life balance, a positive workplace culture, and mental health wellness. Hire enough staff to ensure the workload is not overwhelming, and step in when clients try to harass your team. Also, pay your staff a livable wage, and offer professional benefits, such as health insurance, retirement plans, scrub allowances, and continuing education reimbursements.

More support is being generated as more light is being shed on this serious issue plaguing veterinary professionals that have only worsened during the pandemic. Organizations such as Not One More Vet are spearheading the trend to assist veterinary professionals in recognizing and seeking support for mental health issues. If you look through conference programs, you’ll notice an increased focus on mental health and well-being lectures, and many companies throughout the industry are creating resources to help people cope with the demands of the vet med field. This is one incredibly important veterinary industry trend that needs to be brought to the forefront of the profession to ensure we lose no more talented, passionate people to mental health issues.

9. Additional virtual event options

Attending continuing education conferences and other networking opportunities in person was not possible in 2020, so there was a shift to offer these lectures in a virtual format. Everything from sessions to exhibit halls was hosted on a platform you could access anywhere with an internet connection, making conferences just as successful as they had been. No longer did you have to choose between attending two enthralling sessions in person; instead, watch both recordings at your convenience. With such easily accessible learning opportunities available online, virtual events are sure to continue gaining popularity.

Final thoughts

As the world begins to return to normal business after the COVID-19 pandemic, veterinary practices must remain flexible and adaptable to hold onto their loyal client base. By embracing the top nine trends in the veterinary industry, you can ensure your practice stays at the front of the pack in 2021 and beyond.