A survey reveals that 25% of pet owners in the UK are worried that veterinarians may provide excessive treatment for their pets.

Which? research findings indicate that eight out of ten individuals perceive veterinary treatments and medications as costly. Additionally, a quarter of pet owners harbor concerns regarding potential over-treatment of their animals by veterinarians due to ambiguous pricing. This issue has been highlighted by a survey conducted by Which?, a consumer champion organization. Consequently, research has shown that while individuals acknowledge the high expenses associated with vet treatments and medications, they encounter difficulties in comparing prices online due to the lack of transparency in pricing. In response, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has initiated a review of veterinary services in the UK to address concerns of excessive charges. The CMA notes that vet fees have been rising at a faster rate than other goods and services during the current cost of living crisis. Sue Davies, the head of consumer protection policy at Which?, emphasized the challenges faced by pet owners in obtaining reliable information and shopping around for veterinary services. The consumer group conducted a survey among 2,000 pet owners who had visited a vet within the past year, as well as analyzed the websites of veterinary practices. Their findings revealed that over a third (36%) of pet owners were typically informed about the price only after the appointment at the reception desk. When reviewing various veterinary practices, Which? discovered that the majority did not disclose treatment prices on their websites. A common practice in the industry is for vets to advertise a “pet plan” that covers basic services like vaccinations and health checks for a fixed monthly price, which is separate from pet insurance. Although these plans are claimed to provide significant savings, the individual service prices are often not advertised, making verification difficult. The survey also highlighted that 27% of pet owners at some point doubted the necessity of a treatment recommended by their vet. Despite their doubts, over half (53%) of these owners proceeded with the treatment, although more experienced pet owners were more likely to decline. One interviewee, Lisa Saunders, shared her experience of taking her dog, suffering from severe food allergies, to the vet for diarrhea and blood in his stool while on a special diet. After numerous consultations, blood tests, and antibiotics amounting to approximately £700, her dog’s condition did not improve. However, when Saunders consulted a different vet at the same practice, she was informed that the antibiotics likely worsened her dog’s condition and that he would have recovered without medication. The vet discontinued all medication, resulting in her dog’s recovery. Another survey respondent expressed concerns about refusing treatment for fear that their pet’s condition may deteriorate. The research also shed light on the issue of large corporate chains acquiring numerous independent vet practices. In 2013, independent practices comprised 89% of the UK industry, but this percentage has decreased to less than half (45%) in 2021. According to Which?, while consumer awareness of practice ownership may not directly harm them, it can diminish competition in the market, particularly when different practices within the same local area operate under different branding. As a result, the consumer group urges the CMA to address pricing transparency practices and ensure that pet owners can easily compare and select the best treatment option when utilizing veterinary services.

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