The Competition and Markets Authority has opened a review of the veterinary sector after concerns that pet owners are paying too much or not being given enough information to make an informed decision. 

Asked why the CMA had decided to launch the review, its Senior Director for Consumer Protection told BBC R4's Today programme this morning that: "the costs of many vet services are rising higher than the cost of inflation, and it can be really hard to find out how much it's going to cost you, both for routine treatments or if something goes wrong and you need to find emergency care for your pet."

George added: "There's many other [veterinary] services and costs that people cannot have predicted and they can find themselves unexpectedly facing some really high bills, and when other household bills are going up very steeply at the moment we want to do everything we can to make sure that people can predict how much it is going to cost to see a vet, both for routine stuff but also for things if there's a crisis."

The authority is also looking at whether there is enough transparency over practice ownership.

With the percentage of independent practices falling from 89% in 2013 to 45% by 2021, the authority says people may not be clear if their vet is part of a group which owns other vet practices in their area or that the services which are being sold to them (such as diagnostic tests or treatments at a specialist animal hospital) are provided by that group.

This, it says, could impact pet owners’ choices and reduce the incentives of local vet practices to compete.

The CMA is now asking veterinary professionals, people who supply veterinary products and services and pet owners to take part in the review by completing an online questionnaire: 

In particular, it wants to hear practitioners' experiences of:

  • Pricing of services, including whether pet owners were aware of how much a treatment would cost, and how they pay for it (whether they pay themselves or via insurance)
  • How prescriptions and medication for pets are arranged and sold
  • Choosing a vet surgery and whether people are aware that their vet may be part of a larger chain which might also own other surgeries in the area
  • Using out-of-hours and emergency vet services where options might be limited

The questionnaire will remain open for six weeks.

The CMA will outline the issues it identifies and announce its next steps early in 2024.

PS: Whilst you're here, take a moment to see our latest job opportunities for vets.