A Shortage of Horse Veterinarians? Really?

Dr. Grant Miller examines a horse’s leg.

Over the past decade, the subject of fewer veterinarians has been a hot debate among the profession. We have heard stories of entire regions in the country being void of veterinarians, and our federal government answering with the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program, which provides loan debt subsidy to veterinarians who practice in declared underserved areas. But then on the other hand, economic and workforce studies conducted by professional veterinary associations are telling us that we are experiencing an epidemic oversupply of veterinarians in the United States.

For instance, the 2013 American Veterinary Medical Association Workforce Study estimated that the US has around 91,000 working veterinarians. It concluded: “It appears that at the national level there is current excess capacity [of veterinarians] to provide direct animal care services. In percentage terms, the level of excess capacity appeared to be largest for equine practices, followed by small animal practices, food production practices, and mixed animal practices. This excess capacity is projected to persist for the foreseeable future in the absence of reduced growth in the number of new veterinarians trained and/or efforts to expand the use of veterinary services.”

Furthermore, the Veterinary Pet Insurance Veterinary Economics Financial Health study of 2013 shows that veterinarians are struggling financially with a median starting salary of just $50,606 per year, in the face of an average student loan debt load of $162,113. Makes me wonder about supply and demand…

Finally, when you add in the fact that two new veterinary schools are opening in Arizona and Tennessee and that we now consider students from certain foreign schools to be eligible to practice in the USA, one just has to wonder… are we really short on veterinarians? Are people finding it difficult to locate a veterinarian close enough to help with their animals?

So, I ask you, my readers, does your community have access to veterinarians? Keep in mind, I am not asking if you like them or if they charge fees that you prefer, I am just interested in hearing if there is anybody who can’t find a veterinarian within reasonable driving distance? Speak up if you are among them.

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