Are we paying too much for the vet?

Hong Kong pet owners are at cats and dogs over the cost of vets.

A study released by the Veterinary Services Board this week finds that 47.5% believe fees are unreasonable, while 45.2% are quite comfortable with them.

The biggest beef is the cost of consultation: in two-thirds of clinics, a general consultation with a dog or cat costs $200-299. Of those who had taken their pet to the vet in the past 12 months, the median expenditure was $2,000.

Overall, however, 62% say they’re satisfied with the value received and 77% are happy with surgeons’ professional knowledge.

Despite the discontent over prices, the Hong Kong vet market is over-supplied.  We have one of the world’s lowest vet-to-pet ratios and it may be about to get worse.

In 2010 the city had one vet for every 735 pets, compared to 1:2543 for Singapore and 1:3072 for the US.  The number of vets working here has doubled in the past 10 years and is forecast to grow by another 20% in the next three years, the report says.

Fees for service

We may also see an influx of graduate vets returning from abroad. Approximately 240 Hong Kong students are studying veterinary science in foreign universities, 59% of whom say they are likely to return to Hong Kong.

At the same time, Hong Kong’s love affair with cats and dogs is cooling. The number of pet dogs and cats increased by 71% from 2005-15, but will grow just 7% over the next three years, the study found.

The report estimates that 14.8% of Hong Kong households have a pet, and just under 11% of households keep a cat and/or dog (by comparison around half of all UK households have a pet cat or dog.)

Cats and dogs

The study doesn’t reference Lantau specifically but this area is part of the biggest pet-loving region of the city. NT West, which includes the outlying islands as well as Tuen Mun and Tsuen Wan, accounts for 38.3% of all pets. The region also has the largest number of vet clinics, representing 39 of the city’s 146 total.

Lantau has five vet clinics. South Lantau, with two vet centres serving approximately 10,000 people, has as many as Tung Chung, with several times the population. Discovery Bay has a single clinic.

According to the study, the biggest problem for the clinics is high rents (81%), followed by the level of competition (36%) and the lack of qualified support staff (34%). A third also cited ‘difficult customers’ as one of their biggest issues.

The full report is available here.

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