2017 Preview: 5 Items That Define the Future of Pet Medicine

Dr. Patty Khuly

Vet medicine has changed so dramatically over the past thirty or so years that it would probably seem unrecognizable to anyone fast-forwarding from back then and dropping suddenly, time machine-style, into 2017. Who would’ve predicted it would go this way?

Actually, a few did.

2017 veterinary trends
Dr. Jack Stephens, a pioneer in veterinary pet insurance, sure seemed to know his way around the future. He predicted that expensive specialty care would come to dominate so much of veterinary healthcare that pet insurance would become a necessary part of responsible ownership.

So did Dr. Paul Pion, a seemingly prescient veterinary cardiologist and founder of the online Veterinary Information Network (VIN). His contribution to veterinary community through social media came almost too early, but soldiered on. Today, it remains the preeminent professional site for veterinarians to commingle freely, continue their educations, and commiserate when necessary.

There have been others, too, veterinarians who have changed the way we think and work. Heroes, mostly, but there have been some far-sighted stinkers, too. I will not name them here. Let it suffice to say that they’ve spearheaded some of the more questionably humane and dubiously-effective endeavors in the veterinary realm. After all, not all innovations are welcome additions to every industry.

Today’s horizon is no different. It’s got its good and bad — thankfully, more good — including advancements in veterinary science, more veterinarians and a higher standard of care.

But those are somewhat obvious, aren't they? We all know things will keep on keeping on. But what will the broader picture of pet medicine look like in 2017 and beyond? Now that’s the million-dollar question. Luckily, it’s one I’m prepared to take a stab at. Here goes:

#1 Home health care beckons

Want more choices in how you access your vet care? Never fear… a house call vet may not be so far away. As it stands, several new chains of veterinary house call-type practices are entering the market. One near me, an at-home euthanasia provider, is doing great work.

Given the financial challenges of house call work, however, I worry that pet owners may not get what they expect from practices who claim to offer full service vet care … but can’t because of their fundamental limitations (gas prices, pricey trucks, limited surgical options, few provisions for hospitalization, etc.).

#2 Pharmaceutical expenses will climb (even more!)

Now that drug makers are buying each other up and turning into big behemoths, price competition isn’t what it used to be. The up-side of this picture is that you’ll probably see more new drugs for your pets. The question is: Will you be able to afford them?

#3 Telemedicine (and other online technology)

Virtual doctoring and self-service medical records are two of the wonderful tools we might see soon. Imagine: Your own veterinarian, right there in person (well, almost), willing to take a second look at how your pet moves or acts, or perhaps checking in to see how her incision is doing.

Telemedicine is currently on offer, of course. X-rays and ultrasound images get sent to radiologists, for example. But technology is now getting so that it may well get easier to keep your pets home for their vet visit.

And just think of the benefits of being able to access your pet’s complete medical records online anytime you care to. Some companies are already making inroads here but I predict it’ll be a widespread “thing” in just a few years.

#4 Corporate chains are gaining momentum … and power

Want some vet care pronto? Want to go to a practice where everything is standardized and the level of care is uniform? You, too, can access plenty of veterinarians who increasingly choose to practice medicine at a corporate chain. These veterinarians may give up some independence and autonomy, but they’ve traded these for regular hours, a flexible schedule, and high pay (as long as they make their sales goals, of course).

This approach is so popular that almost a quarter of veterinary hospitals are now owned by hospital chains. Crazy, right? What’s even crazier is that just one company (VCA, owned by Mars) owns about 20% of all animal hospitals in the US. How does that grab you?

Make no mistake; this kind of industry power will affect your pet’s healthcare in one way or another –– both good and bad.

#5 Low-income medicine

Progressive shelters are increasingly trying to move beyond the adoptions business. They hope to expand the definition of “shelter” from serving public health and placing pets to providing more comprehensive medical services to their communities’ pets.

To be sure, it’s a worthy goal. After all, plenty of low-income families desperately need this kind of care, especially now that first-class vet care is getting so intolerably expensive. But to what extent do you want your tax dollars to support it? I mean, can just anyone access pet care from the shelter if they want it? If so, that not only sounds expensive (for the community), it also seems likely that the educated (who may or may not be able to pay) will be gobbling up the resources of those who aren’t. 

While you can't predict when your pet is going to get sick or injured, you can protect yourself from expensive veterinary bills. Embrace Pet Insurance gives you the freedom to do what’s best for your pet without stressing over the cost. Easily personalize your coverage to fit your budget and your pet’s needs, then visit any vet for nose-to-tail coverage. Check out what the Embrace plan covers or compare pet insurance providers to learn more.

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