Dr. Shane Daigle is the owner of Graef Veterinary Hospital in Taylor, Texas, which provides comprehensive veterinary care to pets in the greater Austin area. “Being respectful, compassionate, quick, professional and available at all times is the key to our success,” says Daigle.
Dr. Shane Daigle was born and raised in Vinton, Louisiana, a small town of about 2,200 people in southwest Louisiana, seven miles from the Texas border. Daigle grew up on a cattle ranch and knew from a young age that he wanted to be a veterinarian.
Dr. Shane Daigle attended Louisiana State University for his Zoology degree in 1991 and went to Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine in 1995, which he graduated in 1999.
As pet ownership in the United States grows to 71 million households (up 4% in 2020), the need for veterinarians also increases. But what is the best practice? Is It Better To Own A Vet Practice Or Work As An Associate? Public or private? And where is the best place to work?
All of these questions can be answered with a closer look at veterinary medicine and developments in the animal health industry in the United States
We are fortunate to have the opportunity to meet with Dr. Shane Daigle and get some insight into the state of veterinary medicine in the United States.
Veterinary Careers and Growth Opportunities
A university graduate with a DVM degree has various options. Choices include, but are not limited to:
- Private practice
- Federal agencies (such as the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture … the largest employer of veterinarians in the country), FDA (Food and Drug Administration) or NIH (National Institutes of Health)
- Company veterinary medicine (animal experiments and livestock care)
- US Army / US Air Force (working dog medicine)
- Food safety (epidemiological research)
- Public Health (zoonosis research)
- Public Policy (cooperation with government agencies)
- Animal shelter practice (ASPCA and other animal shelters)
While each of these niches offer unique opportunities for veterinary medicine doctors, private practice has shown exponential growth and promise.
Veterinarians who specialize in the care of companion animals earn the highest overall income, led by those who have their own practice ($ 162,000 in 2016). Associate practitioners in the companion animal niche, on the other hand, earned just $ 66,000 to $ 90,000 in 2016.
Of all practice owners, those who treated animals from food sources earned the least, at $ 92,000, while veterinarians who treated animals, large and small, had an average income of $ 134,000.
79% of resident veterinarians worked in private practices in 2017 and found the best income opportunities in densely populated, affluent areas. Of these employees, 80% were surgeons and performed general medicine.
Small to medium-sized practices usually generate the majority of their turnover with wellness visits, while larger practices rely on laboratory services for the majority of their income.
The largest growth in the legal form of veterinary practices from 2010 to 2016 was recorded for non-profit organizations with a total increase of 31%. Partnerships only grew 9% while S Corporations saw 23% growth.
Conversely, there was a 23% decrease in sole proprietorship veterinary practices from 2010 to 2016. Businesses had the highest turnover, with a 2% increase in the three years after 2010 and a decrease of 14% in the three years before 2016.
The size of veterinary practices is also showing a trend. Those who kept ten or more employees and / or employees saw significant increases from 2010 to 2016.
In summary, pet veterinarians with their own practice with ten or more employees in affluent urban and suburban areas earn the highest salaries of any veterinarian.
Demographics for the Veterinary Profession
From 2007 to 2017, the U.S. veterinary industry saw massive growth of 32% and expects to employ 124,257 veterinarians by 2027. Once a male dominated profession, most veterinarians are now women and the numbers are increasing. Currently, 70% of veterinarians are female, up from 60% four years ago.
The majority of practitioners are millennials – 35% and growing.
With this demographic change comes promising cultural changes. Mental health and wellbeing are being catered for more than ever, and a focus on thriving in the workplace helps young zookeepers develop the industry positively.
Economic influence of veterinary practices
Animal health services are improving communities’ economies, and the proof is in the numbers.
Veterinary medicine creates more than 825,000 jobs, directly or indirectly, in the United States. More than half of these jobs are in veterinary practices, a quarter is stimulated by veterinary medicine and a fifth is indirectly related to animal health.
In 2016, these jobs had direct labor income of $ 18.5 billion, private practice value of $ 18.8 billion, production of $ 38.4 billion, federal income of $ 4.6 billion and created a national income of USD 4.7 billion.
The evolving role of veterinarians
Owning a private veterinary practice has the greatest earning potential and is a widely visible, familiar form of veterinary medicine. One effect of the Covid-19 pandemic was an increased demand for pets. This corresponds to an increased need for animal care.
“However, veterinary medicine is not the only option for a doctor of veterinary medicine,” explains Dr. Shane Daigle.
“Veterinarians work to control foodborne and zoonotic diseases. They test products to ensure the safety of humans and animals. They write public order and work to find homes for displaced animals. They also work with various companies and agencies to ensure that the animals are safe and healthy in these facilities. I see that veterinary medicine is being devoured by more and more corporations and investors. I see the value in staying true to who we are and what we are because we do better than the guys from the group. “