Job Market Going to the Dogs (and Cats)

Veterinary professions on verge of extreme shortage

There is no arguing that the pet population is on the rise. According to the American Pet Products Association, almost 85 million households have a pet, and over the last 30 years pet ownership has gone from 56% to 68% of all households.

The American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey 2017-18 indicates the number of dogs kept as pets in the United States has increased 50% from 1988 to 2017. Cats and dogs account for the largest share of household pets, with 2 out of every 5 households having a dog and 1 in 3 having a cat.

With all those fur babies, veterinarians are finding their hands full treating those pets.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a surge in veterinary professions, with data indicating an increase of 15,000 veterinarian positions between now and 2026.

Driving the need for more pet doctors is the fact that the average life expectancy for dogs and cats has increased. The average dog’s lifespan increased 12.4% from 10.5 years in 2002 to 11.8 years in 2016. Cats are living even longer, with a 17.3% increase from 11 years to 12.9 years during the same period.

As the number and age of pets increase, so does the cost to their humans. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey, household spending on pets has increased an average of 35%, from $431 in 2007 to $583 in 2016. The two main categories of pet expenditures are food and veterinary care, with health care increased from one-quarter of pet spending by households to one-third of the total.

For those interested in becoming a veterinarian, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers a Veterinary Medical Loan Repayment Program that will pay up to $25,000 each year toward qualified educational loans of eligible veterinarians who agree to serve for three years in areas where there is a designated shortage of veterinarians.

Michigan State University is considered a leader in veterinary education. Veterinary science courses have been taught at MSU since the institution’s founding in 1855, and the College of Veterinary Medicine was formally established as a four-year, degree-granting program in 1910.

For more information on MSU’s program visit cvm.msu.edu/.

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