There’s No Debate About the Consequences of the Veterinarian Shortage

Sep 15, 2023 at 1:09 pm

There currently appears to be a debate about the shortage of veterinarians within the profession.

There are those who believe there is no shortage of veterinarians. There are those who believe that there only appears to be a shortage, but that it’s an illusion because of the events and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. And there are those who believe that there is a shortage, but that the shortage is not nearly as severe as some might think.

Is there a veterinarian shortage? What a veterinary recruiter says

As the founder and CEO of The VET Recruiter, I’ve been recruiting in the animal health industry and veterinary profession for more than 25 years. Based on all I’ve seen during those 25 years, including what happened during the pandemic, I can say two things with certainty:

  1. There is, indeed, a shortage of veterinarians in relation to the demand for those veterinarians within the profession.
  2. The shortage is severe.

I know this not because of news headlines or articles I’ve read on the internet (although I will address those sources shortly). I know this based solely on the conversations I’ve had with veterinary practice owners and other hiring managers who have told me they need veterinarians, and furthermore, that they’re experiencing great difficulty finding those veterinarians. Some of them also tell me that even if they are able to find veterinarians, they’re not able to successfully recruit or hire them.

It has been my experience that the best way to know what’s happening within an industry or profession is to be on the front lines of that industry or profession, which brings me to the pandemic. I would agree that the pandemic had an effect on the job market overall, including the veterinary profession. However, I would not say that the current shortage of veterinarians is due to the pandemic. I would also not say that the pandemic is making it appear as though there is a shortage, when there actually is not one.

Instead, I will say that the pandemic exacerbated and accelerated the veterinarian shortage, which already existed before the COVID-19 virus did. In fact, I first noticed a shortage of veterinarians on my recruiting desk in 2008, and there has been a shortage in the profession every year since. The pandemic has only made it worse. (I have been writing articles about the shortage and have spoken about it during various veterinary conferences for the better part of a decade.)

Is there a veterinarian shortage? What the data shows

Frontline experience is not the only barometer by which we can measure the current and ongoing shortage of veterinarians within the profession. There are, of course, other sources of information:

  • According to the job site Zippia, since 2013, the unemployment rate in the veterinary profession has decreased from 1.0% to 0.2%.
  • Our firm’s LinkedIn representative recently showed me that there were more than 10,000 open veterinarian positions on its social media platform.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics has been projecting continued veterinarian job growth for the past several years and is currently projecting growth through the year 2031.
  • According to a report released by Mars Veterinary Health in March 2022, a shortage of nearly 15,000 veterinarians could exist by the year 2030. And ultimately, that could turn out to be a conservative estimate.

Is there a veterinarian shortage? What the media says

So, we have first-hand experience from the front lines of the profession, and we have data and statistics compiled and published by trusted organizations. After all, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is one of the foremost authorities on information regarding the job market. However, if we go back to the news headlines, we can find even more evidence regarding the shortage of veterinarians, not only in this country but also around the globe.

According to, the 10 largest cities in the United States are as follows (rankings in descending order, with the most populous at the top of the list):

  • New York City, NY
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Houston, TX
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • San Antonio, TX
  • San Diego, CA
  • Dallas, TX
  • San Jose, CA

If you were to conduct an internet search to look for articles regarding a veterinarian shortage involving or surrounding these cities, you would find them. If you were to conduct internet searches looking for articles about the veterinarian shortage in many states in the country, chances are high that you would find at least one article for almost every state. And, while unscientific, internet searches regarding a shortage of veterinarians in other countries would yield similar results.

When taken together, all of this evidence overwhelmingly points to the existence of a veterinarian shortage, in this country and around the world. And while there should be no debate about its existence, there is certainly no debate about the consequences of such a shortage, some of which we’re already experiencing.

5 consequences of the veterinarian shortage

1: A strain on existing veterinarians

A shortage of veterinarians places a heavy burden on those already in the profession. Existing veterinarians may be forced to take on larger caseloads and work longer hours, which can cause burnout. This strain on the current workforce can lead to decreased job satisfaction and, in turn, contribute to the overall attrition rate.

2: Animal welfare concerns

One of the most significant consequences of the veterinarian shortage is its impact on animal welfare. With fewer veterinarians available to provide care, animals may experience delayed or inadequate treatment, leading to unnecessary suffering and even death. Routine preventive care, vaccinations, and timely diagnoses can be compromised, affecting companion animals and livestock.

In fact, Banfield Pet Hospital is predicting there could be as many as 75 million pets without veterinary care by 2030.

3: Economic ramifications

The veterinarian shortage can have economic repercussions across various sectors. In agricultural settings, a shortage of large animal veterinarians can affect livestock production and food safety. The lack of veterinarians in rural areas can hinder agricultural productivity and impact the financial well-being of farmers and ranchers who rely on animal health services.

4: Public health risks

Veterinarians play a crucial role in safeguarding public health by monitoring and controlling zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans). A shortage of veterinarians can impede disease surveillance and response efforts, potentially leading to outbreaks that endanger animal and human populations.

5: Inhibition of research and innovation

Veterinarians are essential contributors to scientific research and innovation in fields such as animal health, medicine, and agriculture. The shortage of veterinarians can impede progress in these areas, limiting advancements in understanding diseases, developing new treatments, and improving animal care practices.


Considering these consequences, some of which are still emerging and evolving, it’s imperative that those who work in the animal health industry and veterinary profession exchange ideas and pool resources to address the shortage of veterinarians. Debating the existence of the shortage and not addressing the consequences may very well make the situation worse, in the short term and also in regards to the future health and well-being of the profession.

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Stacy Pursell, CPC, CERS, is a workplace/workforce expert and an award-winning executive recruiter serving the animal health industry and veterinary profession for 22 years. Stacy was a National Top Ten Account Executive and Pacesetter for one of the world’s largest executive search firms and the #1 recruiter in the Southwest region of the United States before starting her own firm in 2004. Stacy is the founder and CEO of The VET Recruiter, a globally respected search firm. Known as a trailblazer, Stacy founded the first search firm to exclusively serve the animal health, pet, and veterinary industries. Prior to focusing on the animal health, pet, and veterinary industries, Stacy specialized in placing executives for Fortune 500 companies. She also recruited for human hospitals and placed professionals in the broadcast television industry, including television producers for a major cable TV network. She placed CPA’s with a Big 5 Public Accounting Firm and recruited for a natural gas company, a computer software company, a leading provider of fiber based communications services, and in the fashion industry for one of the biggest names in fashion. She is a certified personnel consultant (CPC) and a member of an elite group of search professionals who have passed this challenging exam to show her commitment to the advancement of professional and ethical standards and to the quality of the work performed in the search profession. Stacy served as a volunteer board member for the National Association of Personnel Services (NAPS) for four years and is a preferred member of Top Echelon. She has won numerous awards in the search and recruiting industry over the years and is in the top 1% of executive recruiters worldwide. She was a 2014 and 2017 Finalist for Pet Industry Woman of the Year recognized by Women in the Pet Industry. In addition to being a certified personnel consultant, Stacy is a certified employee retention specialist (CERS) and a member of an elite group of about 30 search professionals who have passed this challenging exam. Finding and retaining employees is the #1 concern of employers in today’s marketplace and this certification helps Stacy’s clients become better at retaining their employees in order for them to have a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Stacy is a member of Vet Partners and has been an invited speaker to a number of veterinary conferences. She writes articles about the animal health and veterinary job market and career related topics.

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