It is a simple math problem, as easy as a homeowner’s budget. If more equine vets leave practices than there are coming into practices, there will be fewer to care for our horses. Just like the expression, there is more month than money.
The reasons fall into several groups. The first and most important reason is money. Small animal vets make about double what a horse vet makes. The second reason is time. This is divided into the time behind the wheel traveling to farms in rural areas and the time required for a few vets to cover the practice over 24 hours, seven days a week. The third group is defined by this generation’s work expectations, where life outside of work is expected.
This podcast only partially discusses all factors involved in the diminishing supply of equine veterinarians. It can’t. The AVMA and the AAEP are working tirelessly to correct the imbalance. The veterinary schools are doubling their annual output of veterinarians. However, it is essential to understand the horse owners’ effect on the equation. In basic terms, if our horses were less sick or lame, the need for horse vets would decrease. Veterinary organizations will never address this concept for obvious reasons. But here, at The Horse’s Advocate, I can look at this approach to resolving the problem.
Getting your horse’s house in order is a concept that reduces illness and lameness in horses, making their lives better. It also lowers horse owners’ costs and loss of use of their investment. This is a win-win situation. As a result, the veterinarian’s workload is reduced, allowing them more free time. But there is a problem. Veterinarians’ expenses are increasing (education, medicine, equipment, labor) while the workload decreases (population of horses and owners willing to pay), driving up the cost of care. Adding to this is the combination of work sent to dentists, bodyworkers, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and other “para-veterinary” workers, which removes income opportunities for the equine vet.
Equine veterinarians are in a crisis with no single viable solution appearing. Vets want to do all the work on your horses within a 9 to 5 workday and have weekends off. Air conditioning, heating, and you bringing your horse to their clinic would be sweet. Horse owners making their horses healthier may be the best solution where all parties win.