Brexit = Vetxit? Vet numbers fall as pet population rises

While the coronavirus pandemic has created a whole host of issues for the veterinary industry globally, the UK has faced a new number of challenges following Brexit.

According to iNews, as pet numbers have started to rise, the UK’s exit from the European Union, which has seen the implementation of new health certificate rules, has seen the number of EU vets being registered to work in the UK fall to as little as 20 individuals per month.

They pinpoint this change to be a result of Brexit, as they report that in previous years this figure would have been closer to 80 or 100.

This 60-80% drop in new veterinarians in the UK is made more troubling when looking at data on rising pet numbers and clients in practices.

Data from our 2020 VetsSurvey has identified that the UK’s increase in client numbers is second only to the Netherlands in Western Europe when looking at nations who have seen a substantial increase.

It found that exactly half (50 per cent) of veterinary clinics across the UK said they have had an increase in clients since the coronavirus pandemic began, while 65 per cent said the same in the Netherlands.

Western Europe did not have the biggest rise in clients, however.

Only 41 per cent of practices in that area said they saw a rise in clients, while North America (77 per cent), Australia, New Zealand and Oceania (70 per cent) and South America (44 per cent) saw a bigger rise.

Nearly 50 per cent (48 per cent) of practices globally said they had seen a rise in clients when compared to the amount before the pandemic, with only 12 per cent reporting a drop.

This rise in client numbers can of course be attributed to the so-called ‘pandemic puppies’ trend where demand for pets rose as many families found themselves at home with more time to channel into raising a pet.

However, this trend can be traced back to 2017 as data from FEDIAF found that in Europe between 2017 and 2020, the number of pet dogs rose by 7 per cent, while cats were slightly higher at 8 per cent.

The rise is cats & dogs since 2017 and the increase in vet clients since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In this period, Austria (29 per cent) and the Netherlands (27 per cent) saw the biggest rises in the number of pet dogs.

Meanwhile Finland saw a dramatic rise in the number of pet cats with a 40 per cent increase, while the Netherlands was one of the nations with the biggest rises again at 18 per cent.

This surge of clients and pet owners means that the veterinary industry must grow at the same rate to avoid backlogs, such as the one caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Whether this can be met remains to be seen in nations like the UK who have developed recruitment issues since Brexit.

If this fall in new veterinary recruits does not come to a halt and pet numbers continue to rise, a number of issues could occur.

Pets could be left without the care they need, to accommodate a potential backlog the standard of care offered could decline and vets altogether could find themselves losing clients.

A strategic government plan may be needed to stop the potential issues that come with this.