Top veterinary industry trends for 2024

As always, it’s important to be aware of the key challenges so you can prioritise budgets and tackle them head on. Moreover, your practice can benefit greatly from planning, reinvigorating, and staying ahead of the curve after the end of the year.

2 July 2024 7 min read


Following a survey we conducted in 2023 involving over 240 veterinary professionals from Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, we’ll summarise the main findings from our most popular eBook, “Top Veterinary Industry Trends to Watch in 2024 and beyond.”

The biggest challenges in 2024

Veterinary practices worldwide are grappling with several key issues that threaten their operational stability and growth. The top challenges identified include:

1) Economic conditions and cost of living

The rising cost of living and economic instability are having a profound impact on veterinary practices and their clients. According to the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) workforce survey, over 40% of veterinary job vacancies in New South Wales take over 12 months to fill. This shortage forces existing staff to work longer hours under increased stress, which is not sustainable in the long term. Moreover, high-interest rates and financial pressures are leading to a decrease in demand for veterinary services as pet owners re-prioritise their spending.

2) Global veterinary shortage

The veterinary profession continues to experience a critical shortage of qualified professionals. This issue is particularly acute in rural areas, where practices struggle to fill vacancies and maintain services. This shortage is a global issue, affecting practices in Australia, New Zealand, the US and the UK.

3) Staff burnout and mental health

The demanding nature of veterinary work, combined with long hours and high emotional stress, contributes to widespread burnout and mental health issues among veterinary staff. Practices are increasingly focusing on initiatives to support their teams’ mental health and wellbeing. Addressing these issues is crucial for retaining skilled staff and ensuring the sustainability of veterinary services.

“These challenges reflect what we are seeing with high interest rates making it harder for practices to repay their loans or invest in their facilities. Moreover, clients are leaving practices or switching to other providers, we’re seeing 30% attrition versus previous years of 25%, thereby reducing the revenue and loyalty of the customer base. The demand for veterinary services has also decreased, as shown by the lower number of invoices and patients, indicating a recessionary environment.” 




Addressing frustrations with three key pillars

Our Trends eBook focused on three main areas where practices can make things better in a way that is useful and helps teams deal with some of the most common problems they face right now.

Solutions that are unrealistic or would be too time-consuming to execute are the last thing we aim to offer. Here are three things you can focus on:

  1. Managing the workplace and staff schedules
  2. Training your employees and investing in their mental health
  3. Leveraging key technologies for easier work/life balance

Managing the workplace

A key contributor, Jocelyn Birch Baker (thought leader, speaker, practice owner and veterinarian), provides nine key strategies to manage her highly successful practice. With the majority of her staff being women, she recognises the need to cater for work-life balance and their life priorities as care-givers and mothers.

Particularly, the framework put in place by business owners like Jocelyn demonstrates the power of how some people see it as a time for growth and can inspire creativity as well as compassion for your staff.

Implementing flexible working arrangements, such as part-time and casual work options, helps accommodate the needs of veterinary staff, particularly women who may have family commitments. By offering flexible schedules, practices can retain skilled professionals and create a more inclusive work environment.

This goes hand in hand with employee retention, to maintain a contented, productive, and motivated workforce. With the current state of affairs surrounding staff shortages, retention is more important than ever. You can also check out our blog for further ideas on how to address the vet shortage.



Training your employees and mental health

From our survey, 51% of respondents listed training and spending money on their staff as one of their top three investment areas for the year. This topic is extensive and merits more space, but in order to build on the efforts and research of others, Animal Emergency Australia (AEA) has compiled a list of the top ten work-related factors that contribute to poor mental health.

Having an open-door policy for two-way, honest, and transparent communication regarding training, career development, ambitions, objectives, and dedication from all leaders and managers is crucial, as is investing a healthy portion of your budget into staff training. Much like Jocelyn did with her team, it pays to have that conversation.

Additionally, Anthony Chadwick, Founder of The Webinar Vet, affirms:

“I speak to veterinary clients regularly and their biggest issue is trying to run a 5-vet practice with 3 vets. We need, as a profession, to look at this differently. How can we upskill and utilise our nurses better to take tasks off the vets? Can we use digital tools to lessen the load? For example, employ vets and nurses in more populated areas to do telemedicine triage for clients. Keeping staff happy is important and the comments at the recent SPVS congress in the UK demonstrated that continuing education is massively important. Doing that training virtually, democratises it by making it more affordable in terms of time and money but also reduces participants’ carbon footprint.”  




The significance of investing in your teams and giving them the opportunities they deserve cannot be overstated.

As an example of commitment to this, Dr. Michelle Dries (Kellaway) Chief Operating Officer, Vet Services at Greencross comments:

“As industry leaders, we are firmly committed to the continuing education and career development of our clinical and non-clinical teams, ensuring best patient outcomes, client satisfaction and engagement and wellbeing of our teams. We’re also committed to developing career pathways for our vets and nurses, which includes higher education opportunities such as MANZCVS, Diploma level and internationally recognised qualifications, as well as internship and Residency programmes for the growth of our specialist and emergency network. We are also proud that we were the first to achieve gold medal accreditation for our Mental Health First Aid initiative to help ensure we provide the best possible support for our incredible team members.”  




Training and wellness support are available from providers including:

Providing opportunities for professional development, such as advanced training programs and leadership symposiums, helps staff stay updated with the latest industry trends and enhances their skills. Investing in learning and development not only improves patient care but also positions the practice as an employer of choice, attracting top talent, which is critical in the current shortage climate.

“Our staff are our biggest asset. Investing in their health, skills and knowledge is by far the best use of our money and time. When staff are equipped to perform the work we are asking of them, our business benefits. Keeping well trained staff interested and invested in our business is our goal.”  




Leveraging key technologies to reduce administrative burden

From the survey, over 80% of participants confirmed they are looking to make their practice more efficient by optimising their technology. Clearly, veterinary practices are leveraging technology to alleviate some of these pressures, improve efficiency, reclaim time and reduce the administrative burden.

Some of the obvious technologies used are telemedicine, AI, advanced diagnostic imaging tools and practice management systems. Our eBook outlines the key benefits of each and details the revenue impact.

When it comes to tackling the unforgiving economic conditions and cost of living crisis, your practice management system (PMS) isn’t just there to help you manage and schedule appointments. It can alleviate and help you identify and reduce missed costs, which can save you over $60,000 per vet per annum. A well-designed, integrated PMS can also help you better manage inventory control, improve your client communication efforts and create easier workflows for your staff, thereby reducing stress and saving time.

In client communication, for example, your PMS can also help you educate your clients and promote your services. Peter Dickson, Country Manager of VetFamily, stated:

“With rising interest rates and living costs, pet parents have had to re-prioritise how and where they spend their disposable income. I believe that ‘education and communication’ are in fact part of the solution. The opportunity for practice owners is to continue to communicate with pet parents even when they aren’t visiting the clinic. For example, topical pet health information sent at the right time, including new products, will keep you and your business top of mind for when there is an improvement in the disposable income position.” 




It’s important for your teams to talk to your current service providers about the technology you employ so that you can make the most of its functionality. You’d be surprised at how much your existing infrastructure can be a game-changer for your operations and it doesn’t mean having to spend more money. You can unlock key features or integrations that could have a significant impact on your processes and workflows, simplifying many daily tasks.

“We leverage technology at High Street Vets to reduce the time taken and relieve the workload of routine tasks. Your practice management system is the absolute backbone of your practice. It must be functioning all the time, and everyone must know how to do their section of tasks easily and properly. The technology streamlines our systems so that everyone knows what is going on and also knows that the information is accurate and timely. It’s a win-win for everyone.” 




Creating opportunity and cultivating an optimistic lens

Despite the economic challenges, there is optimism about future growth in the veterinary industry. Veterinary practices are also expanding their services to include after-hours care, specialist branches, and new initiatives focused on education and wellness. This diversification helps attract new clients and provides additional revenue streams.

For example, some practices are implementing wellness plans that offer flexible financing options for clients, ensuring a steady revenue stream while providing comprehensive care.

“Insights that came through in the survey did reference ‘becoming a paperless practice’. What a great start. However, we need to go much further than this! 2023 was the hottest year on our planet. Accelerating climate change is impacting the health and welfare of the animals we love and need. Action is not only a moral and financial imperative; it will soon be legislated. There are many opportunities for our profession, our industry, and the broader animal care community to collectively act to future proof our businesses, become sustainable, reduce our emissions and advocate for policy change. This is how we must protect our animals. Please join Vets for Climate Action and book a call to learn more about our Climate Care Program for your business. It’s a great structured way to get on and make sustainability happen.”  




Others in the survey responses suggest they’re becoming more specialised, for example, there’s a trend towards offering quality medicine, surgeries, and specific care such as feline hospitals, small animal care, mobile veterinary services, dentistry, and arthritis care.

For example, in 2021, the specialised Inner West Cat Hospital was founded by two key partners, and they use technology to maximise their efficiency, create an easy working environment and provide exceptional care for their customers.

Judy Gillespie, Founder and Director of Vet Answers Online Community, concludes:

“There are some exciting solutions if you know where to find them and are willing to embrace innovation in your veterinary practice. Making the most of technology, including AI advancements, will allow you to deliver increased value to your clients through education and communication. Perhaps even more importantly, it can help your practice achieve more with less, as there are no quick fixes for the staffing shortages. As an industry, it’s time to start doing things differently, and the solutions already exist – you just need to know where to look.”  




Even with the significant headwinds, there is potential for growth and innovation. By embracing new technologies, investing in continuous education, and focusing on staff wellbeing, veterinary practices can navigate these challenges and thrive for the remainder of 2024 and beyond.