So much has changed in the twenty plus years since I graduated. There have been advances in medicine and the level of care we can provide pets, even in a small, privately owned practice like mine, have drastically improved. The business environment has also changed, most markedly in the last few years (or maybe I just noticed it since I became a practice owner 6 years ago). I’m constantly wearing two hats, keeping current with my medical skills on one hand and on the other hand trying to run my business as best I can in the current business environment.
Historically, pet owners have purchased their pet’s medication at their veterinary hospital, but where consumers buy pet medication has gone through many changes in the last few years. First, online pharmacies came on the scene. Their heavy marketing drew the attention of many consumers, but there were, and still are some complications and risks associated with purchasing your pet’s medication online. The FDA has published guidelines for the consumer to help make safe decisions when buying pet medication. I have the link on the Wilderness Animal Hospital Facebook page and our website. Recently, retail stores have also started carrying pet medications, leading to more competition for pet owners’ business. Many veterinary pharmaceutical manufacturers tell veterinarians they only distribute directly to veterinarians, and medication being sold elsewhere is either counterfeit or “re-directed.” Re-directed means the medication is bought in bulk by a veterinarian and then resold to a retailer. In addition, the manufactures tell veterinarians they don’t guarantee medication that is re-directed. I have a hard time believing that all the pet medication out there being sold by online pharmacies and retailers is re-directed, so I take this with a grain of salt. When purchasing anything, using your best judgment is always advisable.
I am a firm believer in finding the best quality product at the best price and certainly understand pet owners wanting to save money by purchasing their medication at the best price possible. Part of my job as a veterinarian is making sure the medicine you give your pet is appropriate, safe and a quality product. Veterinarians often write prescriptions for medications but have no way of knowing anything about where the client will take the prescription and if the medication will be authentic and appropriate. In response to this, my business, like many other veterinary facilities, has moved to offer their own online pharmacy. The medication is shipped directly from my supplier to the client, so it is the same as buying medication from my business, but because it is shipped directly to the client, the price is equivalent to reputable online pharmacy prices. This is a win-win as I see it. The pet owner is able to buy the medication at a good price and I am comfortable knowing the medication they are using is good quality.
A major challenge I have as a business owner is how to keep my business affordable yet profitable. As a veterinarian, I always feel guilty talking about profit, because I was trained to take care of animals. But as a business owner I know I have to make enough money to provide the employees, equipment and the facility to do my job. Having said that, the business of veterinary medicine is changing, with the changes in vaccination protocols and loss of pharmaceutical sales, veterinarians must rely on revenues from medical treatment to keep their businesses profitable and viable. What does that mean to the pet owner? The price of medical care for pets will have to increase, as other sources of revenue disappear in the veterinary practice. The business environment is always changing and small business owners work hard to balance providing what they are passionate about staying profitable to keep their business open. My goal is to continue to improve as a doctor and to provide a great place for my patients, clients, and employees.