Barriers and next steps to providing a spectrum of effective health care to companion animals
December 1, Commentary in JAVMA
"Veterinary professionals work daily to prevent and relieve animal suffering and promote animal health and welfare. Accomplishing this means making safe, effective, and economic veterinary care available and accessible to as many animal owners as possible.
Cost is a barrier to access to care, and a pet owner's financial limitations may force decisions that are against the best interest of the pet's well-being. Between 1998 and 2011, a steady increase was observed in the proportion of owned pets in the United States that received no health care from a veterinary practice, from 32% to 45% for cats and 15% to 19% for dogs.1 This finding coincided with costs of veterinary services rising more rapidly than inflation, suggesting that increasing prices contributed substantially to reduced veterinary services for dogs and cats.1 In addition to rising costs, there is concern about the physical and geographic inaccessibility of veterinary care, with some locations in the United States having no veterinary services available or accessible to pet owners. This connection between the rising costs of veterinary services and limited accessibility of health care for pets should be a major concern for the profession.2
A compelling and immediate need exists to evaluate the ability of veterinarians to provide effective health-care options for pets and direct further efforts toward solutions to overcome barriers preventing the delivery of those options. Recently, stakeholder groups have begun to investigate concerns over pet owners' access to veterinary care and possible solutions. This commentary is intended to further raise awareness of this issue and extend a dialogue around the concept of spectrum of care."