High graduate debt, falling demand for pet health care & corporatisation. The veterinary profession is changing: is it for better or worse?

There’s a lot of debate going on right now about the future of the veterinary profession. Many vets are worried about the current trend which basically follows this path:

1) Huge demand to study veterinary, especially among young females (80% vet students are female)

2) Not enough places at vet schools: traditionally, the number of student places has been capped in order to avoid flooding the market with far more vets than jobs

3) The realisation by universities that there’s money to be made in teaching vet students, and that there’s a strong demand from students who don’t make it into the established vet schools. The first new vet school in over 50 years opened recently in the UK, and at least one more is planned. Meanwhile, in Eastern Europe, veterinary courses are taught in English, offering entry to the vet profession with a lower academic barrier if students are prepared to pay the fees

4) This is linked to the rising cost of veterinary education, with students in England paying £9000 per year x 5 years plus living costs

5) The result is that new vet graduates are qualifying with large debts, in higher numbers than ever before

6) Meanwhile the veterinary market is contracting, with people spending less money on pets, and so there are fewer jobs for vets available

7) Result: increasing numbers of underemployed young female vets with large debts

8.) Next part of jigsaw: there are fewer young vets to buy into established vet partnerships, and an increasing trend for chains of vet clinics to go “corporate”, owned by shareholders whose main aim may be profit rather than the traditional broader professional view of a vet fulfilling a calling to earn a living

9) Result: vets become pawns in the animal care field, with young female vets desperate to pay back loans by working for corporations. As employees rather than part owners, they become subject to pressures common in other walks of life (“For your bonus, you need to sell so much food, book in so many dentals, see so many people every hour”)

10) The long term potential result: erosion of trust in vets as pet owners question whether something is recommended because it is really needed, or because the vet needs to reach a target. This erosion of trust has already begun in recent years, with consumers questioning everything that professionals do: the sequence that I’ve outlined above will exacerbate this trend.

This trend in the veterinary professions seems to be a global one, and as ever, the USA seems to be further down the path than the rest of us. An excellent article has just been published on this in the New York Times – read it here……………

VetHelpDirect Best UK Vets 2013 – Based on Online Vet Reviews

Last night over 60 clients and the local press turned up to see Barton Lodge Vets being awarded their trophy & prize for winning Best UK Vets 2013!


Barton Lodge Vets pose for photographs with some of their clients (and a few of the pets they treat!) From left to right: Roger Wickenden, Cory and owner, Cathy Wickenden, Susie Samuel (MD of VetHelpDirect.com).

The evening kicked off with a formal presentation where one of Barton Lodge’s patients, Cory, helped present the award to the practice. After practice tours for clients the celebrations continued at a local hall, where clients shared their happy Barton Lodge experiences.

The hosts of the award, VetHelpDirect.com, said “The sincerity of the comments made by clients tonight reflects exactly Barton Lodge’s online reputation through their reviews. A good online reputation is so valuable to both local people looking for a service and to business owners. That’s why online vet reviews are at the heart of our vet directory.”

Best UK Vet 2013 - VetHelpDirect


Roger Wickenden, joint director of Barton Lodge, stated that he and all of the team had been very touched by the reviews left and were honoured to be awarded a prize that their clients were responsible for giving through the heartfelt reviews they’d left.


Roger Wickenden, joint director of Barton Lodge, says a few words of thanks.

The Background

Barton Lodge competed with veterinary practices across the UK to win the award which was judged based on the quantity and quality of reviews left on VetHelpDirect.com. Seventy-two of Barton Lodge’s clients went out of their way to leave a review for the popular practice.

“First Class, Patient and Understanding”, “5 Star service” and “The best in town by far” were just some of the comments received from their clients. Congratulations Barton Lodge Vets!

The Award & VetHelpDirect.com

The VetHelpDirect.com Best UK Vet awards 2013 are based on reviews left by owners over the course of the year 29/1/12 – 28/1/13. The number of reviews and average star rating was used to determine the winner.

At VetHelpDirect we are determined to provide a fair reflection of the vet practices in their directory, all reviews are subject to rigorous tests of authenticity, all are checked for duplicate IP addresses, email addresses and some reviewers are asked to provide evidence that they are recent clients of the practice.

They are soon launching the new and much improved Find Any UK Vet website Any-UK-Vet.co.uk which will also include reviewing functionality for every British veterinary practice, to aid animal owners in finding a trusted, local vet more easily.


Urban foxes – could your pet cat be the next victim?

Following reports of another attack on a baby by an urban fox in London, many people have been worried about the risk not just of foxes attacking children, but also pets. Cats in particular often spend much of their time outside, in the same areas as foxes. Is there a real risk of cats being attacked by foxes and what can owners do about it?
When someone asked me this question, my instinctive answer was that fox attacks on cats are exceptionally rare. Foxes are generally shy creatures that do their best to avoid contact with humans or other animals. I have heard more stories about cats chasing foxes out of gardens than cats being victims.
I have come across only two instances where foxes were seen to prey upon cats. In one case, a young kitten was snatched by a fox, around twenty yards away from her owner, and in another instance, a thin, elderly cat was grabbed. To me, the risk to adult pet cats seemed minimal but I decided to look further, to see if I could find some hard facts about the risk to pets from fox attacks.
Up until now in the veterinary world, it’s been difficult to find out the true incidence of problems like this. The good news is that a new database, VetCompass, has started to accumulate real, up to date information about health issues affecting pets in the UK. VetCompass is a collaborative not-for-profit research project run by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in London, in collaboration with the University of Sydney. The project aims to investigate the range and frequency of small animal health problems seen by veterinary surgeons working in general practice in the United Kingdom and to highlight major risk factors for these conditions. This is being done via the routine capture of first opinion clinical data via electronic patient records held with practices’ computerised Practice Management Systems. VetCompass now shares health data on over 400,000 companion animals from over 200 practices across the UK………….

Dog Castration: a step by step guide to the operation

Deciding whether to castrate or not

Castrating or neutering a male dog is an operation requiring a general anaesthetic. Both testicles are removed. As with all operations, the advantages and disadvantages should be considered carefully before deciding. Your own vet is the best person to advise you about your particular dog, but the following general advice may also help.

The main advantages of castrating a male dog are prevention of breeding, prevention of testicular cancer, reduction in the risk of prostate problems (including prostate cancer) and modification of certain behaviours. Only behaviours which are related to male hormone levels will be improved, so castration is never an alternative to proper socialisation and training. For example, a tendency to escape and run away will improve if your dog is chasing the scent of a bitch in season, but not if your dog is just untrained and wilful. An aggressive dog can be improved by castration if the cause is related to his male hormone levels, but not if your dog has not been well socialised and is afraid of people and other dogs.

The main disadvantages of having your dog castrated are the risks associated with any general anaesthetic and any operation, but these are very small risks when compared to the potential benefits.

Dog owners often ask whether their dog’s character will be changed by castration. In my opinion it is unchanged unless it is a change for the better (as in certain behaviours mentioned above). Another common worry is that a dog will become overweight and lethargic after castration, but this is 100% preventable with the correct diet and exercise.

Deciding when to castrate

The best age to castrate depends on the reason for doing so. If it is a planned procedure, it might well be carried out at 9-12 months of age, if your vet is happy that your dog is physically mature enough. If castration is advised for behavioural reasons, it might not be obvious until 1-2 years of age that there is a need for it. When castration is carried out later in life, the positive changes might not be quite so great, but your dog is never too old to castrate if there is a medical reason for it, like a testicular tumour……….

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