May 8, 2024 - Business

Veterinary demand in Utah returning to pre-pandemic levels

Data: Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

New veterinary clinics are popping up in Utah, alleviating the region's need for pet care services.

Why it matters: Demand for veterinarians spiked during the pandemic, making it difficult for pet owners to schedule appointments for their furry friends.

Between the lines: People noticing ailments by spending more time with their pets and more discretionary income were some driving factors that prompted visits to the vet, assistant state veterinarian Amanda Price tells Axios.

By the numbers: Between 2012 and 2021, the number of veterinary establishments in Utah increased by about 12%, according to 2021 Census Bureau data, the most recent available.

  • The number of vet clinics in the country has increased by 8.4% since 2012.
  • The state's growing population has also prompted more veterinary clinics to open along the Wasatch Front.

What they're saying: Veterinary visits are now seeing "a return to pre-pandemic levels," Price tells Axios.

Yes, but: Rising costs and economic uncertainty have spurred some pet owners to delay health care for their pets, Price noted.

Zoom in: Residents in Salt Lake City — where more households have reported living with dogs than children — love their pets.

  • A 2017 survey found 38% of households said they owned a dog while just 22% reported living with someone under 18.

The big picture: Many more vets are probably needed to meet demand.

  • As of 2022, there were about 86 million dogs and 66 million cats in the U.S., an annual increase of about 2% per year since 2016, according to Mark Rosati, a spokesperson for the American Veterinary Medical Association.
  • In 2023, the AVMA noticed demand for companion animal veterinary services returning to pre-pandemic levels, a trend expected to continue this year, Rosati told Axios.

What we're watching: Veterinary schools are increasing class capacity and several new vet schools are in development, Rosati says.

  • Starting in 2026, Utah State University's veterinary school intends to increase its class size from about 30 students to 80, according to Price.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify Utah State's 2026 plans for its veterinary school.

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