Veterinary professionals and pet owners are being urged to prepare now for what sector leaders fear could be another bleak winter of economic pressures.
The warning follows the release of a new poll indicating two in five UK dog owners believe it will be even harder to provide for their pets this winter than it was last year.
The BVA has also published a new guide for vets, which it hopes will help them to more effectively explain care cost issues to clients.
However, despite recent falls in inflation and the prospect of a reduction in the domestic energy price cap next month, junior vice-president Anna Judson said professionals were still seeing the impact of the economic gloom in their practices.
She said: “The overall cost of day to day living, including high energy costs, remains a serious concern for both vet businesses and their clients.
“Sadly, our members are telling us they continue to see situations where pet owners are struggling to meet the costs of caring for their animals, which is leading to some tough conversations when animals need treatment.
“We’ve been supporting the profession by encouraging owners to speak to their vet promptly if they have concerns about cost.
“Our new free guide, The value of veterinary care, is helping vets to explain the value of vet care and why it costs what it does, as well as offering advice on preventive measures and insurance.”
Although the domestic energy price cap for an average home is set to be reduced from the current £2,074 a year to £1,923 a year from October, it is widely feared that many households will find this winter more difficult than the last because of the reduction in available government support.
Similar challenges are also being faced by businesses, and the Veterinary Management Group is urging its members to remain cautious about costs.
Its junior vice-president Liz Somerville said: “The lowering of the price cap reflects recent falls in wholesale energy prices. But, make no mistake, energy prices remain high for businesses and for householders.
“Operating costs for veterinary practices are increasing at an alarming rate and, ahead of winter, this is another reminder for practice leaders and managers to continuously review energy contracts and be sure they are getting the best deal for their business.”
Both groups’ comments came in response to the findings of the latest survey conducted on behalf of Dogs Trust by the polling organisation YouGov.
Out of more than 1,200 dog owners surveyed, 40% said they believed it would be more difficult to provide all their pets needed this winter than during the last, with almost half (49%) highlighting vet bills as the biggest financial concern specific to pet ownership.
The charity said it is continuing to lobby for government support, including a suspension of VAT on veterinary services and pet food, as well as a potential cut in business rates for veterinary practices.
However, while officials say the volume of rehoming requests it is receiving has dropped slightly during the summer – after more than 52,000 applications were made last year – they have pleaded for owners not to wait until the cold weather arrives to seek help if they need it.
Chief executive Owen Sharp said: “Thousands of people are still calling us every month needing help.
“The results of our poll are a stark reminder that we mustn’t be lulled into a false sense of security about what lies ahead.”
Similar concerns have also been raised by Cats Protection, which has reported an increase of nearly 50% in the number of cats being given up for rehoming between January and May this year, compared to the same period in 2022.
Territory operations manager Kerry-Louise Fairweather said that, while it would do all it could to help struggling owners, it was also expecting a tough winter ahead.
She said: “Already this year, we’ve been regularly hearing from struggling owners who have had to make the difficult decision to give up their cat because they can’t afford the cost of their care anymore.
“Not only is this absolutely heartbreaking for those owners, it also places a strain on our centres and branches, so we are bracing ourselves for a difficult few months.”
Credit to: ‘Act now’ plea as winter worries hit vets and pets (Vet Times)
Vet Times. (2023). ‘Act now’ plea as winter worries hit vets and pets [online]
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