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Vet costs rise faster than inflation as value for money review launched

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Vet costs have risen above the rate of inflation, placing pet owners under further financial strain in the cost-of-living crisis. The watchdog has launched a review of the £2bn sector over value and information concerns.

Almost two-thirds of UK households own a pet, with the number swelling during the Covid-19 pandemic.

With so many animal lovers, and with figures suggesting vet costs have soared, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a review of the £2bn sector.

It comes following concerns that pet owners may not be getting a good deal or may not be receiving the information they need to make good choices. It is also concerned that pet owners may not find it easy to access the information they need about prices and treatment options when it comes to choosing a vet and which services to buy.

The CMA noted that ownership of vet practices has changed in recent years. Independent practices accounted for 89% of the UK veterinary industry in 2013, which fell to approximately 45% by 2021.

In some cases, a single company may own hundreds of practices but it may be unclear to people whether their vet is part of a large group.

It said being unaware of other practices in the area or services being sold could impact owners’ choices and reduce the incentives of local vet practices to compete.

‘We want to hear from you’

The CMA is keen to hear experiences of both pet owners and vets when it comes to:

  • Pricing of services, including whether pet owners were aware of how much a treatment would cost, and how they pay for it (whether they pay themselves or via insurance)
  • How prescriptions and medication for pets are arranged and sold
  • Choosing a vet surgery and whether people are aware that their vet may be part of a larger chain which might also own other surgeries in the area
  • Using out-of-hours and emergency vet services where options might be limited.

A review of the CMA’s findings will be released early next year.

Sarah Cardell, the chief executive of the CMA, said: “Caring for an ill pet can create real financial pressure, particularly alongside other cost of living concerns. It’s really important that people get clear information and pricing to help them make the right choices.

“There has been a lot of consolidation in the vet industry in recent years, so now is the right time to take a look at how the market is working. When a pet is unwell, they often need urgent treatment, which means that pet owners may not shop around for the best deal, like they do with other services. This means they may not have the relevant information to make informed decisions at what can be a distressing time.”

Big bite of your finances

Recent research by Tesco Bank Pet Insurance revealed that two in five people are currently not insuring their pets, with the cost-of-living consideration a key theme in responses.

But pet owners could find themselves significantly out of pocket if their cat or dog is caught in an accident or gets struck down by illness.

Analysis of Tesco claims data from 2022 showed that for cats caught in an accident, the average claim paid was £803, while for illness it was £691. For dogs, the average accident claim was £879, while illness can cost owners an average of £822.