Pet Insurance

Pet owners may be overpaying for medicine - regulator investigates vets

The veterinary industry faces investigation over concerns some could be overcharging for pet medicine.

The Competition and Markets Authority said it had "multiple concerns" after an initial review which saw an "unprecedented" 56,000 responses from the public and vet sector. There are fears pet owners may be overpaying for medicines and not being given enough information on treatment options.

The £2 billion industry has seen a trend in the last decade of independent practices being bought out by large groups, which the CMA says could be leading to weak competition.

In 2013 89 percent of veterinary practices were independent, but this dropped to 45 percent in 2021.

Some practices may also have incentives to reduce choice, the CMA said.

Sarah Cardell, chief executive, said: “Our review has identified multiple concerns with the market that we think should be investigated further… Given these strong indications of potential concern, it is time to put our work on a formal footing. We have provisionally decided to launch a market investigation because that’s the quickest route to enable us to take direct action, if needed.”

NimbleFins research found the average cost to get a dog's teeth cleaned is £233 but can be up to £500 in some practices.

Meanwhile the average cost of dog vaccines is about £82 a year for a booster and kennel cough, but prices can range from £68 to £97.50.

Vets have reported facing abuse from customers in the wake of the initial review, Anna Judson, president of the British Veterinary Association said.

She said: “Rising prices are a concern for everyone but it’s vital to recognise there is no NHS for pets. Whether they are employed by corporate or independently owned practices, vets deliver highly specialised, tailored care for the UK’s pets and the cost is a fair reflection of investment in medical equipment, supplies and medicines, and the time vet teams dedicate to the care of each patient.”

The CMA was told about the abuse during the review, as well as how vets were facing "significant" staff shortages, partly due to Brexit, which has created mental health issues.

The CMA said: "The high suicide rate in the vet profession was highlighted and reported to be fuelled by stress, overwork, abuse and frequent criticism in relation to prices."

It has launched a four week consultation into whether to begin a formal investigation.

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Helen Barnett

Helen is a journalist, editor and copywriter with 15 years' experience writing across print and digital publications. She previously edited the Daily Express website and has won awards as a reporter. Read more here.