Our Take on What’s in Store for Veterinary Practices in 2024

Our Take on What’s in Store for Veterinary Practices in 2024

The veterinary industry has certainly seen its share of ups and downs over the last few years in terms of business valuations, acquisitions, consolidations, sales, and general performance. Now that businesses are getting more accustomed to operating in an environment marked by high inflation (that’s coming down) and high interest rates (that will likely come down), and the threat of a recession is waning, we predict 2024 will foster greater stability in the veterinary marketplace.

Starting with acquisitions and consolidations, following last year’s lull and the prior two years’ bubble, we anticipate there will be a gradual uptick in 2024. With so many of the larger veterinary practices and hospitals already targeted for acquisition and consolidation, we would expect to see interested parties begin exploring smaller practices, with two or more doctors and strong profitability. While valuations may be up slightly from last year, returning to 12 to 18 times EBITDA common in 2021 and 2022 is not likely.

There’s also indication that deals will involve less cash up front, be more complex, and cover longer time spans. Considering continuing labor challenges, it wouldn’t be surprising for acquirers and consolidators to look for current doctors to sign on to longer employment contracts than in the past.

As for actual business performance, the environment remains challenging. Pet owners are tightening their belts to address the impact of inflation and interest rates on their disposable income. A number of sources are citing decreases in veterinary visits and longer time lapses between visits. This will likely continue in 2024.

To offset declines, 2024 will likely see an increased interest in practices expanding their value proposition, by adding or expanding services and high revenue sources (to include things like dental) and exploring technology upgrades. No doubt, promoting operating efficiencies by eliminating non-value-added work with technology and keeping a close watch on inventory and material costs to protect profit margins will remain priorities for all. The upside of all of this effort is that these actions – and their results – make a practice more attractive to buyers and investors.

At the same time, growing interest in new delivery channels like telemedicine and new business models like mobile operations will continue in 2024, although we wouldn’t expect it to be at a pace that causes any major industry disruption…at least not this year.

My observations are general and, in truth, they can turn on a dime (although I don’t think that will happen), especially considering the many factors that can impact the economy and business today.

While understanding the big picture landscape is important to inform goals and business decisions, focusing on your practice is where the real opportunity can be found. Whether you’re looking to develop a business strategy; bring a CFO-like focus to your operations; or need accounting, tax, audit or other business advisory services, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We are RBT CPAs. For over 50 years, businesses across the Hudson Valley, New York and beyond have partnered with us because they know we believe we succeed when we help them succeed, and we can be Remarkably Better Together.


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