Jul 29, 2022 - News

Veterinarian shortage hits U.S., but Iowa bucks the trend

Number of licensed <span style="background:#15a0ff; padding:3px 5px;color:white;">technicians</span>  and <span style="background:#fed260; padding:3px 5px;">veterinarians</span>  in Iowa 🐶
Data: Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

As more Americans are welcoming furry friends into their homes, a veterinarian shortage is causing long waits and lapses in care for our pets.

  • Yes, but: In Iowa our vet numbers have remained steady in recent years, evading the national drop-off.

Why it matters: Veterinarians are particularly important for Iowa's ag-centric economy. People rely on them for house pets and bigger animals.

State of play: Loan repayment programs, coupled with Iowa State's powerhouse veterinarian school, have helped vet employment rates stay higher, said Randy Wheeler, executive director of the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association.

  • The average student loan debt for a veterinarian in 2019 was $183,302, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

A federal veterinary loan repayment program offers vets $25,000 a year over three years if they practice in a high-need area, Wheeler said.

  • Iowa also created its own vet loan repayment program in 2020. A small number of rural vets can get up to $60,000 annually over four years. The program is set to expand in 2023.

Yes, but: Even if Iowa isn't suffering as much as other states, there are shortages in rural areas and emergency care.

Between the lines: Veterinarians have reported high levels of burnout and one out of six have reported contemplating suicide. Women, who make up 80% of veterinarians, are two times more likely to die by suicide than the general public, NPR reports.

  • "You're dealing with life and death on a daily basis," Wheeler said.
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