Recently, the media has been reminding us on a daily basis that we're in the middle of an economic recession. Whether it's on the television, on the radio or in print, consumers are repeatedly hit with the news that our economy is in bad shape and, as a result, our pocketbooks will suffer. We are affected in all areas of our lives: at gas stations, in supermarkets, in restaurants, and even at animal hospitals. In fact, just the other day, NBC News in New York ran a story on the 11 o'clock news about the rising cost of veterinary care and how pet owners are cutting back on spending for pet care because of the declining economy. The newscast even suggested that, to combat the effects of rising pet care costs, pet owners ask their veterinarians for extended payment plans and multiple-pet discounts. As a veterinarian and practice owner, these suggestions frustrated me, because I, like other consumers, have to deal with rising costs from the economic recession and would have even more difficulty if I had to face reduced income from payment plans and discounts. This news program made me wonder: how are other veterinarians dealing with the effects of this economy? Are the economic effects on pet care different in different areas of the country?
To address this issue, I invited 6 private practitioners working in several different states to comment on the receding economy's effects on their veterinary practices. I purposely selected participants from states across the country to see whether geography plays a role on the potential effects the declining economy may be having on veterinary practice. The participants are Todd Driggers, DVM, Avian and Exotic Animal Clinic of Arizona, Gilbert, AZ, USA; Steven Dyer, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian), VCA South Shore Animal Hospital, South Weymouth, MA, USA; Tarah Hadley, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian), Atlanta Hospital for Birds and Exotics, Inc., Conyers, GA, USA; Lonnie Kasman, DVM, Monroe Animal Hospital, Monroe, NY, USA; Larry Nemetz, DVM, The Bird Clinic Veterinary Corporation, Orange, CA, USA; and Anneliese Strunk, DVM, Red Bank Veterinary Hospital, Tinton Falls, NJ, USA. I hope this commentary will raise interesting discussion for all veterinarians practicing in this uncertain economic climate and will make us aware that our patients, as luxury items for our clients, may be subject to the negative effects of the American consumer's budget tightening.