The UK’s biggest 100 veterinary businesses recorded a record turnover of £1.36 billion in 2014 – up 17% in a year from £1.16 billion, and more than double the £655 million figure in 2010.
Finance house LDF claimed two factors are driving this trend:
- An increase in the availability of advanced medical procedures for animals.
- Increasing numbers of pet owners are willing to pay for these services, either up front or through higher pet insurance premiums.
As veterinary science has improved, many of the treatments previously available only to humans have been successfully adapted for veterinary purposes. Also the variety of therapeutic care on offer for animals has risen.
LDF says offering some of these advanced treatments has required significant financial investment in new technology by veterinary practices, meaning debt levels in the veterinary sector have also doubled since 2010, now standing at £307 million, up from £151 million.
There has also been considerable consolidation, with several large veterinary companies operating hundreds of clinics in the UK. These larger groups benefit from being better able to access capital to invest.
LDF managing director Peter Alderson said: “Large veterinary practices are investing in the most up to date technology and offering more treatment options for animals. These treatments can be costly, but many pet owners will see them as value for money.
“Many treatments require vets to make large upfront investments in advanced medical technology and instruments. As demand for these types of treatment rises more vets will have to invest to avoid losing high value work to competitors.
“The cost of racehorses, and even some pedigree dogs, can run into tens of thousands of pounds, so for some owners and breeders these treatments might make financial, as well as emotional, sense.
“To compete with large rivals, vets need to keep up to date with the most advanced treatments on offer. One option for individual vets is to use alternative finance options, such as leasing, to access advanced medical devices and carve out a specialism in a very competitive market.”