Recession Squeezing America’s Veterinarians

The market for pet health care is an interesting counterpoint to the market for human health care, since they have a lot in common in some respects despite totally different financing mechanisms. But a great David Segal piece notes that the recession has derailed America’s once-ever-rising market for pet doctors.

Something to note here that is very different from the market for human doctors is that during the period when the number of pets, and thus the demand for veterinarians’ visits, was rising the country’s supply of new veterinarians also rose. That meant that spending on veterinary services could rise without the price of veterinary services necessarily becoming prohibitive. One of the big problems in human health care is that we haven’t had that dynamic. As demand for health care services has risen, we haven’t built new medical schools and launched new residency programs.

Of course as it turns out the existence of this relatively well-functioning market for vets has left some vets in trouble. People went to school and took on debt based on the assumption that demand for their services would rise forever. But then the recession hit and people couldn’t afford as many pets. Had America’s veterinarians been as effective as America’s doctors at forming an anti-competitive cartel, they’d still be suffering from the drop in demand but would have considerably more protection.