Exploring the World of Veterinary Medicine: Key Facts and Trends of 2023 for veterinarians in the UK and Globally

12 min read
Key facts and trends of 2023 for veterinarians

This blog offers a detailed analysis of the latest statistics and data from 2023 that sheds light on the state of the veterinary profession. From exploring the dynamics of job growth and stress levels in veterinarians to examining the impact of technological advancements and shifts in pet ownership trends, this blog provides a holistic view of the veterinary landscape. Whether you’re a practicing veterinarian, a veterinary student, or simply an enthusiast in animal healthcare, read through these data and trends from 2023 that will enrich your understanding and perspective of this ever-evolving field.

Pet ownership in the UK and globally

The share of households owning a pet in the United Kingdom remained relatively stable between 2012 and 2018, hovering around an estimated percentage of 45 to 47 percent. However, according to a Statista research, pet ownership levels peaked at an unprecedented high of 62 percent in 2022, likely as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and increased time spent at home. 

However, in 2023, this figure shrank to 57 percent, although it is relatively higher than what we saw between 2012 and 2018. According to another study, 29% of respondents considered the cost when recently acquiring a pet. A possible sign of this is the rise of costs and a decline in the economy which makes it hard for a household to raise a pet and child, or either.  

Pet Ownership over the years

There has also been a decline in dog and cat populations by 6% in the UK, standing at 12 million and 11 million, respectively, as cited by Statista. This is owing to the rise of costs in the country making it difficult for people to afford a pet. 

According to Dr Julien Poublon, ex-veterinarian and Co-Founder of Vetstoria, “As a practising vet, I’ve always viewed pet ownership more as a responsibility than a right. With the rising cost of living, it’s important for potential pet owners to carefully evaluate their circumstances before adopting or owning a new pet. This includes assessing long-term commitment, understanding insurance expenses, and anticipating veterinary costs or even essential needs like proper nutrition and hydration. While reduced pressure on vets allows for quality care, it’s important to approach this situation with sensitivity, acknowledging the difficult circumstances leading to these changes.”

Vetstoria is the most customisable online booking platform for veterinarians. Browse through the different customisations that can help streamline your veterinary clinic here.

According to Statista, As of 2020, the United Kingdom was the second highest-ranking European country in terms of its dog population, preceded only by Germany.

In countries like Germany, pet ownership has reached over 34 million pets, while France has over 13 million pet dogs alone. The annual spend on pets in these countries averages around €5 billion.

In Japan, the pet population is over 20 million, with an annual pet industry market value of approximately ¥1.5 trillion. Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership, with around 62% of households owning a pet.

Decrease in cat and dog population in the UK

Consumer spending on pets and veterinary services in the UK

According to research, a third of Brits are spending more on their pet compared to this time in 2022, and only 13% of shoppers are spending less.

When asked what they would cut down on for their pups to get fed, 29% of dog owners said they would put their pal first and miss out on their food.

As the United Kingdom’s pet population increased, so did consumer spending on pet food and pet-related products and services, as reported by Statista. Among the most expensive pet-related expenditures are veterinary and pet services, constituting almost four billion British pounds in 2020.

Importance of veterinarians and gender demographics

As of 2023, the UK employs approximately 29,000 veterinarians, according to the RCVS. This figure reflects the scale and importance of the veterinary profession in the UK.

A notable 66% of UK vets are female, a proportion higher than in most other nations, as reported by the RCVS. This demographic shift mirrors the broader trends in workforce diversity and gender representation in the profession.

To speak globally, Germany has over 40,000 practicing veterinarians, while France has around 18,000. Australia, despite its smaller population, boasts over 12,000 veterinarians.

Job Growth in the UK for veterinarians along with Pet Ownership

The RCVS projects job growth of 7.1% for veterinarians in the UK from 2023 to 2032, with an expected increase to around 57,000 vets by 2032. This growth reflects the steady demand and expanding opportunities within the veterinary field.

projected job growth for veterinarians in 2032

This comes with the high rate of pet ownership that underpins the demand for veterinary services in the UK, which is still rather high. 

There has been a steady rise in joiners to the UK-Practising category between 2014 and 2018, driven by an increase in new vets to the Register. However, there was a clear drop in new registrations in 2020 and 2021, due to poor work-life balance during the pandemic, which resulted in a marked decrease in the number.

Salaries and work hours of veterinarians in the UK and across Europe

When analysing data from Veterinary Jobs Market Place on how much vets make in a year, it seems like there has been an upward trend in the pay scale for veterinarians from 2022 to 2024. According to the same research, an average salary seems to have increased from £55,000 in January 2022 to £61,000 in January 2024.

This can vary depending on experience, location, practice type, and specialisation. London often boasts the highest salaries, but the significantly higher cost of living often negates some of the financial advantages.

UK veterinarians typically work 50-55 hours per week, aligning with global averages. This statistic is sourced from the RCVS Workforce Summit. Owing to the number of hours a vet puts in, the salary figure does seem low.

Globally, in European countries, veterinarians have seen an average salary increase of about 3-5% annually. In Australia, the average annual salary for a veterinarian is around AUD 80,000, with a growth rate of about 2-4% per year.

Compensation for veterinarians

Stress level and job satisfaction for veterinarians do not go hand-in-hand

We see a positive trend with veterinarians ranking among the top 20% of careers in terms of career happiness. This suggests many veterinarians find their work fulfilling and enjoyable, as per CareerExplorer. Veterinarians often express satisfaction with the positive impact they have on animals and their owners. This sense of purpose can be a rewarding aspect of the career.

However, in line with global trends, a staggering 70-80% of UK veterinarians report experiencing high levels of stress, according to Psychology Today. This alarming statistic highlights the urgent need for wellness and support systems within the veterinary community.

Something to note here is that job satisfaction might differ across countries or regions. For example, UK research suggests around 80% of veterinarians are satisfied with their career, while studies in the US have shown lower satisfaction rates.

Current Challenges for Veterinarians

According to the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), high workload and staff shortages are the two most prime challenges faced by the veterinary industry. Both seem interlinked since fewer people in clinics generate more admin for vets to concentrate on rather than being able to provide quality care for pets.

current challenges veterinarians go through

On the list of challenges was administration too — 15% of veterinarians single out this as a top challenge, followed by bullying, harassing or complaining clients (9%).

In Italy and Greece, more than 70% of vets singled admin out as a challenge. In the UK, it was 40%.

Vetstoria’s online booking platform has been helping Calder Vets save more than 60 hours in a month and reduce admin. Read their story here.

Tackling the challenge to improve veterinarian’s lives

According to FVE, most corporate and independent clinics are looking at ‘more specialisation’, ‘better communication skills’ and ‘increasing digital intervention’ in clinics to tackle the challenges of extreme amounts of admin work, staff shortages and  engaging new clients to provide quality care.

Veterinarians meeting challenges in the next 5 years

Veterinary Practices in the UK and Europe

The United Kingdom is home to approximately 8,800 veterinary practices, as stated by the RCVS. This number indicates the breadth of animal healthcare services available across the country.

Top cities for veterinarians in the UK, such as Edinburgh, Devon, Cambridgeshire, and Reading, offer high salaries and attractive living conditions. These cities are generally considered among the best places for vets to work in the UK, according to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon’s report.

Globally, countries like Germany, France, and Italy have a high number of practising veterinarians, reflecting the growing demand for pet care services. In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia and Japan have a notable number of veterinary professionals.

Revenue in the UK Veterinary Market

The veterinary market in the UK is expected to reach a value of £5.7 billion by 2027, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.6% from 2022 to 2027, according to Ibis World. This growth trajectory underscores the economic significance of the veterinary sector.

Dissatisfaction Among Veterinarians

Although specific UK data is scarce, global studies indicate that veterinarian suicide rates are 3-4 times higher than the general population, a critical issue highlighted by sources like the AVMA and The Guardian.

The most common reason for leaving the veterinary industry was ‘poor work-life balance’ with 60% of veterinarians quitting the industry citing this as the main reason.

Positive trends in the veterinary industry

Revolutionising veterinary practices through digital innovation

The ongoing digital transformation is significantly impacting the veterinary sector, with online booking systems and enhanced websites leading the charge towards a more efficient and client-friendly future.

Here’s a closer look at how these advancements are impacting veterinarians and clinic staff:

Impact on veterinary professionals:

A reduction in administrative tasks means more time for direct patient care and meaningful client interactions.

Enhanced client satisfaction results from the convenience of online booking and reminders, leading to increased loyalty.

Efficient scheduling ensures a smoother appointment flow, optimising resource use and minimising downtime.

Impact on Veterinary Practices:

Increased client engagement through portals and informative content encourages proactive pet care and fosters stronger relationships.

Improved brand image is achieved with professional, informative websites, attracting new clients and bolstering the clinic’s reputation.

Streamlined communication via online forms and messaging within client portals eases the workload on staff.

Looking at trends, here are some features which can enhance workflows in veterinary clinics:

Enhancing veterinary clinics:

Interactive client portals offer secure access to medical records, prescription requests, and direct communication, minimising paperwork and enhancing the client experience.

Telemedicine integration enables virtual consultations and remote follow-ups, broadening the clinic’s service reach.

Personalised content and educational resources on websites empower clients with knowledge, building trust and engagement.

Some future trends to note which can significantly impact veterinary clinics and professionals:

Future Trends:

Social media integration draws new clients and enhances community engagement.

Online reviews and reputation management play critical roles in building trust and attracting new business.

Data analytics offer insights into website traffic, booking patterns, and client preferences, guiding marketing strategies and operational improvements.

Embracing these tech trends not only propels veterinary practices into the future but also significantly enhances the quality of care and service provided to clients and their pets.

Fun Facts for Veterinarians

Tech & Trends:

Sniffing out disease: Researchers are training dogs to detect diseases like cancer and diabetes through scent! Can you imagine canine medical teams?

AI goes bionic: AI-powered prosthetic limbs for animals are in development, giving disabled pets a chance to run and play again.

Catio craze: 2024 might see an explosion of “catios” – outdoor enclosures for house cats to enjoy the fresh air safely. Prepare for purrs of gratitude!

Future Forecast:

Moon paws? A Japanese billionaire plans to send dogs to the moon by 2030. We hope they pack plenty of space kibble!

Vetting via VR: Imagine veterinary students practicing surgery on virtual animals in immersive VR environments. The future of learning sounds amazing!

Talking to your pet: Wearable devices that translate animal vocalizations might be just around the corner. Prepare for some fascinating (and possibly embarrassing) conversations!

Conclusion

In conclusion, the 2023 statistics and data paint a multifaceted picture of the veterinary profession in the UK, characterised by growth, challenges, and evolving dynamics. As we continue to navigate these trends, the veterinary community must address the issues of stress, work-life balance, and mental health, while capitalising on the opportunities presented by market growth and technological advancements.