Cost of USA veterinary education is too high

This is about declawing cats again. Please forgive me but this is a timely moment with the release of the new Paw Project movie. I want to find a way to stop the cruelty (for me) of declawing. For an American veterinarian, declawing cats is about profit and loss. It is about hard business. Business profit trumps doing the right thing. The right thing? This must be to not declaw. This is a short look at the influential bits of the money side of the USA veterinary business.

I am not going to look at the accounts of running a veterinary practice in America. I want to look at two things (a) a quick comparison of the salaries between UK and USA veterinarians and (b) the debt racked up by veterinary students. The cost of becoming a veterinarian must be a major factor in how a newly qualified vet thinks and therefore operates. High student debt immediately focuses the mind on money and subjugates ethics to the second tier of priorities.


The starting salary of American vets in 2011 was $46,9711. The starting salary for UK vets in 2011 was (at best) £33,5002 – this is $53,857.95 (U.S. dollars). It is difficult to compare salaries from one country to another but roughly speaking there is not a huge difference. This means that UK veterinary surgeries (businesses) make a similar profit margin to those in the USA. This is a rather imprecise picture but it is a comparison worth making because the British veterinarians make all their money from standard veterinary care excluding declawing cats, while declawing cats is a money spinner in the USA. The point I am making is that American veterinarians can make a decent living without mutilating (declawing) cats.


Second, the cost of veterinary training in the USA is too high and it is climbing much faster than the rise of the average salary of American vets. The newly qualified veterinarian is becoming increasingly burdened with massive and unmanageable debt incurred while being a student. It is becoming untenable to qualify as a vet. This might be because the schools and colleges are becoming too greedy. I am not sure. I hope someone will tell me.

usa veterinarian student indebtedness

Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

The knock-on effect of the high cost of veterinary education is that newly qualified American veterinarians are overly focused on making money. The whole purpose of their profession  – to improve the health and welfare of cats and other animals – could be relegated to second place. Debt burden must inevitably lead to a more commercial and callous approach to the profession which might translate to such things as vaccinating cats that don’t really need it and declawing cats – no cats need this.

There are deep rooted problems underpinning cat declawing. One of them is the culture of the people where the declawing takes place and another, I argue, is student debt.



11 thoughts on “Cost of USA veterinary education is too high”

  1. My white SH’d Chulita has just been operated on for pyometra. Total cost 150 TRY (Turkish lira) equivalent to $74, GBP 46. This is no piddling little operation. Great skill is required. There was an extra 10 TRY for her second antibiotic injection, but now she is on oral A/Bs. She has to be hand fed but is now drinking water by herself and started walking around a little bit 4 days after the operation. I wonder how much such a complicated operation would cost in the UK or USA. She would probably have been kept several days at the Vet under close supervision and fed intravenously too.

  2. In India its not Veterinary doctors but “Human Doctors” who are indebted throughout their lives due to the high cost of “Medical Education”.If not attaining a “Medical Seat” on merit then a student would require to pay at least 200,000 U.S $’s to attain a specialized degree in the Medical Profession.I can afford taking my pet to a vet in Mumbai but would avoid myself being admitted to a hospital or undergo professional medical care!Bizarre but true. Human medical expenses can bankrupt a average Indian as we don’t have “Medical Welfare” as in U.K, its just a personal “Medical Insurance” that saves the day in case of medical treatment. As for pets, there is no “Medical Insurance”, barring “Race-horses” and hence pets are a total luxury but the medical care is tolerable unless the pet is hospitalized.

    • Interesting. Is it true, then, that as the veterinarian’s training is less expensive, it is less good. How good are India vets compared to vets in the West? We have many Indian doctors working in England where GPs can earn £100,000 per annum. I don’t see Indian vets in England.

      • Right Michael.Both England and U.S.A might be having the maximum number of Indian origin doctors,and the specialist doctors are definitely in the multi-millionaire income bracket. 100,000 pounds(Rs1 crore/annum) according to my opinion is mind-boggling by Indian standards but not sufficient for a luxurious life by U.K cost of living standards.I have stayed in England for 5 months and also visited London for a week in 2010 and hence can compare the purchasing power of the pound in London and Mumbai(Bombay).As for Veterinarians,Mumbai definitely has good veterinarian doctors, charges comparable to the Indian cost of living and i presume they do good business in India itself and hence less migration of Indian Veterinarians to “First World” Country’s.The “Pet Industry” is booming in India and just a decade ago “Dog walkers” in Mumbai were unheard and today are a part of Mumbai’s employed . “Pet Dog Owners” provide ancillary employment to numerous people including the “Pet Food Industry”.I have attatched a photo i took just near my building of our locality’s famous dog-walker Mr Suresh.Gore which i have uploaded on “Wikepedia commons”.Do you see these many dogs being walked along the streets of London ? Veterinarians seem to be doing a good business in Mumbai and metropolitan Indian city’s.
        NOTE:- All the dogs are expensive pedigree breeds. Dog-walker Mr Suresh.Gore taking ten dogs of different breeds and different owners for their regular walks in Prabhadevi locality of Mumbai.

        • I love this photo, Rudolph because I can really sense the atmosphere in Mumbai. It looks like a nice area.

          The dog walker occupying the road 😉 LOL. We do have dog walkers in London and I presume England generally but I rarely see them. I have seen a dog walker with about 5 dogs on one occasion. They are rare.

          I am pleased that the people of India like companion animals. It is potentially a massive market for pet products.

          If I was younger, I’d open a store in Mumbai, selling pet products if I could get a visa!

          It seems that vets in India earn enough not to be tempted to come to the UK. But vets in the UK can earn £50,000 pa and more. A partner must be earning between £50 and £100k at a guess.

          DO you have cat sitters? Thanks for the full answer to my enquiry.

  3. Marc is right. The cost of education here has always been off the wall and gets worse every year.

    Even when I was a kid in a family with 5 siblings, it was understood that we would have to earn scholarships for college or not go at all.

    My son took out a school loan for his last 2 years of collage, and it took him over 10 years to pay it off. And, as Marc said, there is so much red tape involved in extending payments that it’s maddening.

    I don’t know what colleges do with all the $$, but I’ll bet that their sports programs receive much more than their professors.

    • Hence, I think it’s clear why vets and docs would become butchers. They’re driven to make their educations pay off!

    • Do you think the heavy and rising cost is due to the colleges becoming too commercial? They should be non-profit making organisations, shouldn’t they (perhaps they are, I don’t know). I don’t know about the financial aspects of running a college but education is so important that it should be available to all and be as cheap as possible.

  4. The student debt problem in US/Canada is a lifelong thing. I know an american lady who is a senior professor in the university in Lausanne Switzerland who is still in debt to the US education system and she is in her mid 40s. I can’t imagine being in debt my entire adult life like that. I met alot of people who were seriously depressed about it.

    When I lived in the UK it was that if you got a load you had to pay it back as and when you were earning over a certain amount – enough to make it reasonable to slowly pay back the loan. But if you were not employed or on a low wage you didn’t have to. I think in the US you have to pay no matter what or if you can’t then you must go through constant applications to renew the ‘hold’ stopping you from having to pay up right away.

    Perhaps it’s changed in the UK now?

    It’s a very difficult thing to be in debt tens of thousands for your whole life. I guess there is no other way? The real issue is that the education doesn’t get you a job at the end.

    In Slovenia it’s free and the education is good. You just need to be able to survive – pay living expenses etc but the tuition is free.

    Not sure about other systems and countries.

    • It’s a very difficult thing to be in debt tens of thousands for your whole life.

      Completely agree and it can affect the way a person deals with debt and money generally. It can alter the mentality.

      I qualified as a solicitor very late (aged 45) as I did a career change. It took me 7 years of studying etc.! The professional side of the training – The College of Law, Lancaster Gate, was paid by the local authority through a grant. Neat. That was more the norm in those days.

      I ended with no debt whatsoever. I feel lucky because I don’t think it is worthwhile going to university these days because of marginal advantage with respect to job prospects afterwards and the debt mountain accrued.

      • Michael – that’s interesting. All I know is back in the 90s nobody was particularly worried about the loans and paying them back because the system was designed as such.

        Can I ask – what was your first career?


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