This industry consists of establishments of licensed practitioners primarily engaged in the practice of veterinary medicine, dentistry, or surgery for animal specialties, including horses, bees, fish, fur-bearing animals, rabbits, dogs, cats, and other pets and birds, except poultry. Establishments primarily engaged in the practice of veterinary medicine for cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, and poultry are classified in SIC 0741: Veterinary Services for Livestock.
The veterinary services industry is responsible for the care and treatment of companion animals (pets), sport animals (e.g., racehorses), and some livestock, as well as the protection of the public from exposure to animal diseases such as rabies. These services are generally performed by more than 58,000 licensed veterinarians in the United States, often within the confines of one of the roughly 22,500 animal hospitals and clinics in existence during the early 2000s.
According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), it is estimated that Americans spend roughly $20 billion in veterinary services for their pets. Total pet industry expenditures reached $31 billion in 2003. It is expected that spending on pets, both for veterinary and other products and services, will continue to increase.
The term veterinary clinic is used to describe any veterinary establishment where animals are seen, usually as outpatients needing such services as physical exams, vaccinations, and treatment of minor illnesses and injuries. A veterinary hospital is an establishment that has facilities to treat animals needing to be hospitalized for more than a day. Treatments requiring overnight stays include surgery (most commonly spaying and neutering), tooth extraction, bone repair, and the suturing of wounds.
Because of the substantial investment needed for drugs, instruments, and other start-up costs, most veterinary establishments are group practices, either partnerships or larger facilities that hire individual veterinarians and technicians as employees. Smaller establishments may consist of one to three veterinarians and a technician, who may also serve as receptionist and bookkeeper. Larger establishments may employ several veterinary specialists, additional technicians, an animal dietician, a dental hygienist, and an office manager.
VCA Antech Inc., based in Los Angeles, California, is the country's largest provider of comprehensive health care services for animals. By 2004, the company owned about 230 animal hospitals in 34 states. VCA's 20 diagnostic laboratories provided services for more than 13,000 animal hospitals throughout America. The company owned 50.5 percent of Vet's Choice pet food and had investments in Veterinary Pet Insurance. Veterinary Centers of America, Inc. reported...