I feel absolutely gutted to learn that yet another veterinary hospital we've used for 30+ years got gobbled up in veterinary consolidation. At least, that's what I thought when this first posted. In May 2023, I learned some new info, and made some corrections.
It's the incredible facility (with doctors and others I consider friends) where we go for emergency and specialty care. When it got bought several years ago by one of the smaller veterinary corporations, I wasn't thrilled, but I also consoled myself with the idea that at least they chose a smaller one. I imagined them banding together to fend off the veterinary consolidation giants. In December 2022, I learned they fell to the same huge company that also owns the general veterinary practice we use. It seems I cannot escape the long arm of NVA at least until someone bigger buys them too. HOWEVER, I recently learned that the FTC required Ethos to sell some practices BEFORE NVA bought them, and the hospital I worried about was one of them NOT included in the buyout.
Tracking Veterinary Consolidation
Thanks to another long-time veterinary writer I *know (or at least am connected to online and through shared real-life friends and just knowing a lot of the same people in the veterinary world), I learned about this site that tracks veterinary consolidation. It appears to be for a company that tries to help large veterinary groups be profitable (and maybe not suck so much for clients like me; I can only hope).
Seriously, I almost cried when I read that NVA bought Ethos. I even emailed a couple of pals who work there about it. I'm sure they can't say much, but my sense is that the change took a toll on many folks on the large veterinary team.
CORRECTION/UPDATE - May 2023, I learned that the FTC required Ethos sell off some hospitals before the NVA purchase. That means that the hospital I worried about is now with a different ownership (that I don't fully understand yet), but it appears it's now a "Veritas Veterinary Partner." As I have time to figure out more about what that means, I'll let you know. That happy news aside. I still worry about veterinary consolidation, and here's why.
Why Veterinary Consolidation Worries Me
I've written before about why veterinary consolidation worries me, including details about the not-fun experiences I faced after NVA bought the main veterinary hospital we use. Extra fun when the new manager there called to "educate" me, after I mailed a real paper letter expressing my disappointment in what I saw as a downgrade in quality.
I won't rehash my full list of concerns here, but I simply wanted to warn you that this will continue and expand and affect all or most veterinary clients soon.
Why Veterinary Consolidation Will Only Accelerate
This widespread veterinary consolidation will only accelerate since, as I've also written about before, at least 1/3 of veterinary hospital owners plan to sell in the next 10 years. Don't miss my full list of ways that veterinary consolidation might affect you in this prior post.
Yes, because I've written about veterinary medicine and veterinary business and pet topics for 25+ years, I 100% understand the financial pressures and constraints on veterinary practices. It's an expensive venture to provide full veterinary hospital services in communities of all sizes. And, as pet consumers like us expect more and more, costs continue to climb. At some point, the math makes only big companies viable.
I get all of that. Truly I do. And, yet, I fear for a future where someone like me simply won't have access to the kind of veterinary care and pet-care partnerships I expect. I just don't see how someone like me doesn't get overlooked or unappreciated amid such high-volume thinking and business ops.
What's Next in Veterinary Consolidation?
Whether the huge veterinary consolidation companies will remain privately held or not remains to be seen. According to this VCA was the *only publicly traded veterinary hospital company until Mars bought it in 2017.
Real-Life Experiences TK (that's journalism lingo for to come)
Our first experience with the specialty hospital under new ownership comes later this month when Mr. Stix sees his veterinary dermatologist. Stay tuned I guess.
When Ethos took over, the main drama I experienced fell into 2 categories:
- An online appointment scheduling option that didn't really work (someone still had to call me and ask all the same questions I'd answered online)
- A new rule about having to pay at least upfront when dropping off a dog for an outpatient procedure. Fun fact? I got overcharged by a LOT for the entire procedure, and when I went to pick up Clover, a front-desk staffer whose known me all the many decades as a veterinary client was aghast that I'd be told to pay in advance since as she well knows ... we've always, always, always paid our bills to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. I assumed I'd need to pay more at checkout since I was supposed to have only paid half, but it was a mess, and she ended up giving me a refund for a lot due to the overcharge earlier in the day. SMDH
I guess we'll see what happens in a few weeks. It's the same people providing care, but you never know how things have changed behind the scenes. So far, it means I'm getting a lot more promo emails that don't really apply to me since I'm a specialty client and not a general practice client. I unsubscribed since I get almost the exact same emails from our primary care practice.
I was referred to a VCA vet behaviorist, the only behaviorist in the State. When I researched her and the practice on the practice website, I was aghast to read the use of punishment in the handouts for reactivity I called my vet and she called the vet at VCA clinic who is also the director/owner. She was assured that the vet did not follow those guidelines and said they came from VCA, not her. And in fact, she has been great and only uses force free techniques. So while I can’t stand the idea of corporate takeover, this vet is apparently able to do her own thing.
Ugh! Good for you for speaking up. I’m glad to hear that the person you’re working with directly has the autonomy to do what’s right and to use modern, appropriate protocols.
I was unhappy enough about VCA (not to mention the big box Vet and grooming trend); I missed that Mars bought them. Nothing good will come of this; nothing good ever comes when profit is the only motive.
Yeah, it isn’t like the average person has access to these announcements.
My reply is not about the article. I am suffering. My 11 year old dog stopped eating 3 weeks ago..no conclusion after tests..Needed Entyce to consume a tiny bit of food. Suddenly she became severely diabetic. I gave her half cup of ice cream and a little insulin. She began to seize and continued for 2 hours as I rushed her to the emergency. I am guilt ridden. I feel like I killed her and can’t function. She had to be euthanized..nothing that could have been done. I am a mess thinking that I killed her.
Oh, Barbara. I’m so sorry to hear about what happened with your dog. It is NOT your fault. Diabetes can be complicated and really hard to regulate when it’s first diagnosed. It’s what caused her death. Not you.
Sounds to me like there was something else going on with her that then triggered the diabetes. I’m sure those last few weeks and especially her final day were very tough. I’m sure it all took a toll on you.
Wishing you strength and peace at this sad time.
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