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Expert opinions on the economy and its effects on veterinarians


Two experts share their forecasts for the veterinary industry.

Time will tell

No one can predict the economic future, says Fritz Wood, CPA, CFP, a financial consultant who owns H.F. Wood Consulting in Lake Quivira, Kan. But Wood doesn't see doom and gloom in the veterinary industry. He says 70 percent to 80 percent of veterinary practices have experienced single-digit growth during this recession. That's shockingly low, he says, only because of expectations of double-digit growth brought about by increasing consumer spending on pets over the past decade.

Wood says veterinary industry manufacturers and distributors aren't faring nearly as badly as other industries. The U.S. Treasury Secretary has said the recession will end in 2009. But it's all informed conjecture: "Some economists say commercial real estate and the credit card industry are the next to crash," Wood says. "And with all this stimulus spending, we've got to have some serious inflation at some point." Wood is confident in the historical strength of veterinary medicine, but as to the rest of the economy: "Who knows?"

Where's the relief?

"Things seem like they've hit bottom, but we're all just slogging through," says Tom McFerson, CPA, a partner with veterinary accounting and consulting firm Gatto McFerson in Santa Monica, Calif. The terrible public fear from January and February has lessened, he says, but people are still keeping their wallets closed.

McFerson says the hardest hit have been specialty practices (read "Examining specialty practice".) Also hurt have been new general hospitals that weren't well-established when the recession hit as well as hospitals in areas where demographics have changed drastically because of home foreclosures.

"I haven't heard of hospitals closing," McFerson says. "But a few places are reaching that point and may need to make some drastic changes." After seeing this recession, McFerson says he wouldn't call veterinary medicine recession-proof: "It's recession-resilient. It can bend, but it doesn't break."

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