Why I’d Hate To Be A Veterinary Consumer These Days

A major change in veterinary medicine that impacts everyone

Over the next few years you will see veterinary medicine become a corporate enterprise with shareholders who demand increasing profit annually.
Profitable veterinary medicine has been the name of the game since it started. I am not condemning that.
But corporate, shareholder medicine specifies cutting costs and maximizing profits above most other principles. I know, because I have worked for a corporation and among other unpalatable shortcuts,  I was forced to use subpar suture material which was one of several reasons I left. My surgeries reflect on me, so limiting me to subpar suture in order to ‘cut costs’ materially compromised my reputation.
Veterinary medicine based on commission is also problematic because the only way for veterinarians put in that situation to improve their financial lot in life is to drive sales and increase procedures.
Not so for practice owners, who can simply increase prices. They don’t have to upsell a product line, and promote unnecessary “just to make sure” types of testing.
So it is possible, [but primarily in a “mom and pop“ veterinary clinic] that you may get ONLY what your pet needs, and not a product line or corporate defined diagnostic algorithm every time your pet goes to the vet.
A real life example of this is a situation where are you find tapeworm segments stuck to your cat, and a corporation requires that you bring the cat to the office for a physical exam and it must have a complete fecal exam. Even if the cat was examined last week, even if it was going to be dewormed with Drontal© anyway, which clears all intestinal nematodes and cestodes. That is a “one size fits all” requirement from ‘corporate’ and the veterinarians in the employee of these corporations have no leeway. One veterinary corporation that I work for required two views on every radiograph, even if the fracture is a clean transverse fracture mid shaft. Under those circumstances the consumer will pay for an unnecessary second x-ray as a matter of corporate policy and not veterinary judgment.
In Cobb County, it is no longer possible to go to an emergency clinic that is not corporate, and is not on commission. You will see prices increasing dramatically. Soon, prices at Cobb Emergency Vet Clinic (just purchased by Blue Pearl) will skyrocket to match those from Blue Pearl on Abernathy. A company DEFINITELY worth buying stock in. (Mars Petcare)
Some decisions will be made that may even look predatory and unethical, fortunately for those decision-makers, they can shield their own personal honor and their sense of integrity by blaming it on nameless-faceless stakeholders.
They will put a surgery on the ‘bad knee’ and then act surprised when the ‘good knee’ blows under the full weight cast onto it by the surgerized leg.
For example, a Blue Pearl clinic “Georgia Veterinary Rehab” no longer requires referral from primary care veterinarians and will render care and a diagnosis to pets that may not necessarily need consultation. One absurdly obese canine patient (Lean at 75 pounds and seen by Blue Pearl at 120 pounds) was seen without a referral for knee surgery, for what were called ‘partial anterior cruciate ligament tears’ and the pet did not even get a body condition score, nor counseling on the forty five pounds the dog was overweight. They have indicated that they will put a surgery on the ‘bad knee’ [and then act surprised when the ‘good knee’ blows under the full weight cast by the surgerized leg]. They’ll call it ‘genetics’ that blew the ‘good’ knee (and not morbid obesity). ‘An inevitability’ they’ll say, and in one sense they’re telling the truth. Because it’s inevitable that if you surgerize one knee under a grossly overweight dog that the ‘good knee’ WILL blow while it’s bearing all the weight on it postoperatively.
Veterinary hospitals are also selling to corporations.
Under the umbrella of a veterinary corporation with massive buying power, the cost of doing business is lower because you may get vaccine and gauze and supplies for considerably less in bulk than the “mom and pop“ veterinarian, this is very much the way Home Depot exterminated ‘mom and pop’ hardware stores, you can expect most individually owned veterinary clinic to be closing their doors within the next 10 years if not sooner.
Right now, personalized veterinary care in the classic sense is becoming more highly valued by clients because ‘old school’ vets don’t make an owner feel guilty about considering ‘end of life’ alternatives to thousands of dollars worth of treatments, and so a corporate takeover of an adjacent clinic usually means a small boost in business for me, but eventually with the massive buying power of the large corporate veterinary clinics, individual veterinary practice will become economically non-viable and you may still expect those veterinarians to close their doors in favor of say, real estate careers, research or retirement.
Doc Johnson
  • Another corporate entity moving into veterinary medicine without impediment is traveling shot clinics like shot vet, who’s veterinarians function in your state without a business license, more often than not unlicensed in your state, unethically immunizing animals without a legitimate valid client patient relationship, not prepared to follow up with vaccine reactions or other emergencies related to immunization, no medical record to indicate whether an animal is being redundantly immunized or even a candidate for a particular vaccine, and an unethically poor physical exam with shoddy record-keeping. All of the above are true, I stand prepared to defend all assertions in a court of law.
Dr Erik Johnson is a Marietta, Georgia Veterinarian with a practice in small animal medicine. He graduated from University of Georgia with his Doctorate in 1991. Dr Johnson is the author of several texts on Koi and Pond Fish Health and Disease as well as numerous articles on dog and cat health topics.