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What Are the Pros and Cons of a Corporate Veterinary Clinic?
Life and Style Daily
June 22, 2021
3 min

Whether you’re a fresh graduate evaluating your opportunities or a veterinary clinic owner looking to sell your business, it’s a great idea to consider the pros and cons of corporate veterinary. For some people, becoming part of the corporate practice is a dream come true. They no longer have to worry about being a small private practice once they join the giants. Other veterinarians express their concern as these conglomerates might subjugate their animal hospital into a one-size-fits-all impersonal business.

But what does a doctor say about this trend? To give you a more in-depth perspective about a corporate veterinary clinic, Dr. Jeff Werber, DVM, will share his experience. He has been on both ends since he used to own a private practice that he sold to a huge conglomerate, the Veterinary Centers of America. Now, Dr. Jeff works at the Value Vet on Westwood Boulevard in Downtown LA. He’s also the Chief Vet Officer at Airvet, an app that he and his son built for virtual vet visits.

What Is a Corporate Veterinary Clinic?

Some pet parents, especially those located in small towns, might be more familiar with the traditional private practice. This standard model is owned and operated by an individual veterinarian or a small group of doctors. A corporate veterinary clinic, on the other hand, is owned and operated by a company.

The trend in which big companies buy smaller ones has been steadily increasing over the past years. And this type of business model is becoming fairly common in the veterinary industry. According to a 2017 report by Bloomberg, corporations owned about 15 to 20 percent of the 26,000 animal hospitals and consolidators in America. In December 2018, Brakke Consulting analyst, John Volk, reported that corporations own about 10 percent of general animal companion practices and 40 to 50 percent of referral practices.

In the United States, Banfield and Veterinary Centers of America (VCA) are the two most prominent veterinary clinics. Both are under the same corporate umbrella after Mars, Inc. purchased VCA and its 800 animal hospitals in 2017. The multinational manufacturer made such a large purchase that veterinarians and state regulators expressed their concern. Mars, Inc. had to divest 12 veterinary clinics to avoid being a monopoly.

Although the phenomenon bloomed in the United States, about 85 to 95 percent of veterinary hospitals remain privately owned. Some doctors still have a spark of concern when it comes to corporate takeovers. But after being on both ends, Dr. Jeff Weber said, “It certainly depends on the corporation, but I think it’s crucial for vets to do their due diligence.”

This business model may have some drawbacks, but it also has some great benefits. Veterinarians need to consider each and make their evaluation if the rewards outweigh the downsides. Let’s see some of the pros and cons of a corporate veterinary clinic.

Pros of Corporate Veterinary Work

  • The corporate office handles business management. When you have a private practice, all the job relies on you. You need to take care of your patients, run the payroll, hire staff, acquire medicine, and more. In a corporate veterinary clinic, the office handles all the business management. You can focus your time, energy, and attention on your patients.
  • Regular work schedules. Corporate vets follow a standard schedule. There is less overtime work than what is typically required for someone in private practice. And if someone is absent, companies often have a relief veterinarian or call other vets from another local clinic to fill the gap.
  • Extensive employee benefits. Corporations, especially large ones, can provide their employees with an extensive benefits program. They may offer insurance, licensure support, or even continuing education that a small clinic might not be able to provide.
  • Opportunity for relocation. Corporations tend to have several clinics across the country. If a vet wants to transfer to a different region, this opportunity makes it easy for them.

Cons of Corporate Veterinary Work

  • Limited control and freedom in decision-making. Private practice owners who sell to corporations lose their freedom to make major decisions about the business. Corporate vets are also required to follow standard procedures and practices regarding treatment options and pricing.
  • Longer chain of command. In a privately owned veterinary clinic, employees can easily communicate suggestions and information to the owner. But in a corporate veterinary clinic, you’d have to undergo a lengthy approval process and chain of command. Getting approval to purchase equipment, enacting changes, or getting questions answered can be a challenge.
  • Pressure on financial success. The goal of any clinic, be it privately-owned or corporate-owned, is to make a profit. But a common criticism for corporate practice is that the parent company might focus too much on financial success. The veterinarians may feel pressured to up-sell their clients to increase profit margin.

Checking things about the Vet? Read ”Can a Vet Offer Pet Nutritional Advice?” to learn more.

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