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How to Start a Veterinary Practice

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start a Veterinary Practice

Fast Facts

Investment range

$100,800 - $142,300

Revenue potential

$312,000 - $520,000 p.a.

Time to build

3-6 months

Profit potential

$62,400 - $104,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Growing

Commitment

Full-time

Pet ownership has increased in the last several years, driving the demand for veterinary services. People love their furry friends, and they need periodic medical care just like humans. 

If you have your veterinary degree and license, you could start your own veterinary practice to keep the pets in your community healthy. You can also make a nice living in a $60 billion industry.

But beyond your veterinary skills, you’ll need some business know-how. Fortunately, this step-by-step guide is full of all the insights you need to start a successful veterinary practice.

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Live your dream of helping animals
  • Large and growing market
  • Good profit potential

Cons

  • Licensing needed
  • High startup costs

Veterinary practice industry trends

Industry size and growth

Veterinary industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

Trends

  • The number of veterinary specialists, such as dermatologists, is on the rise.
  • Technology use in veterinary care is increasing and creating more effective care options for animals.

Challenges

  • A surplus of veterinarians is making the industry more competitive.
  • Prices for veterinary services have increased, creating a barrier for some people to get proper care for their pets.
Veterinary Industry Trends and Challenges

Demand hotspots

  • Most popular states – The most popular states for veterinarians are Maine, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.((https://www.zippia.com/veterinarian-jobs/best-states/))
  • Least popular states – The least popular states for veterinarians are South Dakota, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
Veterinary Practice demand hotspots

What kind of people work in veterinary practices?

  • Gender – 63% of veterinarians are female, while 37% are male.((https://www.zippia.com/veterinarian-jobs/demographics/))
  • Average level of education – The average veterinarian has a bachelor’s degree.
  • Average age The average veterinarian in the US is 43.6 years old.
Veterinary industry demographics

How much does it cost to start a veterinary practice business?

Startup costs for a veterinary practice range from $100,000 to $140,000. Costs include space rental, equipment, and kennels.

You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your veterinary practice business, including: 

  • Exam and procedure tables
  • Lighting
  • Scales
  • Stethoscope
  • Thermometer
  • Warming unit
  • Monitoring unit
  • Dental unit
  • Veterinary ultrasounds
  • X-ray machine
  • Anesthesia equipment
  • IV pumps
  • Endoscopic instruments
  • Catheter
  • Ophthalmic and aural exam equipment
  • Autoclaves, disinfectors, and sterilizers
  • Microscopes
  • Boarding kennels
Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$100 - $500$300
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Insurance$100-$500$300
Website$500 - $1,000$750
Space rental$5,000 - $10,000$7,500
Equipment$80,000 - $100,000$90,000
Kennels$5,000 - $10,000$7,500
Miscellaneous supplies$5,000 - $10,000$7,500
Waiting room furniture$5,000 - $10,000$7,500
Total$100,800 - $142,300$121,550

How much can you earn from a veterinary practice business?

What you charge for veterinary services can vary greatly, but these calculations will assume that the average person will pay $100 for a vet visit. Your profit margin should be about 20%. 

In your first year or two, you might see 60 pets a week, bringing in $312,000 in revenue. This would mean $62,400 in profit, assuming that 20% margin. 

As you gain traction, you might see 100 pets a week. With annual revenue of $520,000, you’d make a tidy profit of $104,000.

You could bring in more revenue by offering boarding services, grooming, and selling pet food and supplies.

Veterinary Practice earning forecast

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for a veterinary practice. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • Having the education and licensing required
  • Funding the startup costs
  • Breaking into a competitive market

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If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

develop a business idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a veterinary practice, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Market research could give you the upper hand even if you’ve got the perfect product. Conducting robust market research is crucial, as it will help you better understand your customers, your competitors, and the broader business landscape.

Analyze your competitors 

Research veterinary practices in your area to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews.

  • Make a list of veterinary practices that offer similar services. 
  • Review your competitors’ services – their features, pricing, and quality – and marketing strategies
  • Check out their online reviews and ratings on Google, Yelp, and Facebook to get an idea of what their customers like and dislike.
  • Identify your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. 

This should identify areas where you can strengthen your business and gain a competitive edge to make better business decisions.

Why? Identify an opportunity

You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a veterinarian for farm animals, or a veterinarian specializing in pet allergies.

You might consider targeting a niche, such as care for dogs.

This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away. 

What? Determine your products or services

Veterinary services encompass a wide range of medical, surgical, and diagnostic procedures aimed at maintaining the health and well-being of animals. Here are some common veterinary services:

  • Wellness Exams: Routine health check-ups and vaccinations.
  • Diagnostics: Blood tests, X-rays, ultrasounds, etc.
  • Surgery: Procedures ranging from spaying/neutering to complex operations.
  • Dental Care: Cleaning and extractions.
  • Emergency Care: Treatment for sudden illnesses or injuries.
  • Parasite Prevention: Treatments for fleas, ticks, and worms.
  • Nutritional Counseling: Diet and weight management advice.
  • Pharmacy: In-house medication dispensing.
  • Microchipping: Implanting ID chips.
  • Euthanasia: Humanely ending an animal’s life when necessary.
  • Behavioral Counseling: Addressing behavioral problems.
  • Specialist Services: Care in specific fields like cardiology or dermatology.
  • Physical Therapy: Rehabilitation and post-surgery care.
  • Exotic Animal Care: Treatment for reptiles, birds, etc.
  • Boarding & Grooming: Pet accommodation and grooming.
  • Telemedicine: Remote consultations.

You can add revenue with services like boarding or grooming. You could also sell pet food and other pet products. 

How much should you charge for veterinary services?

Your prices should depend on market prices in your area, but also on your costs of doing business. 

Once you know your costs, use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market is obviously pet owners, but that’s a broad group. You should spread out your marketing to include both Instagram and Facebook.

Where? Choose a veterinary clinic location

When starting a veterinary clinic, choose a location with high visibility, easy accessibility, and minimal local competition. Consider areas with a growing pet population and ensure ample parking. Investigate local regulations, and select a space that allows for expansion and houses the necessary equipment.

You’ll need to rent out a space for your practice. You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.

When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:

  • Central location accessible via public transport
  • Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
  • Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
  • Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
Veterinary Practice business idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Veterinary Clinic Name

Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “veterinarian” or “animal hospital”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “AllBreed Animal HealthHub” and “VetExpand Wellness Centers” over “Paws’n’Purr PetCare” and “FeatherFur Friends Clinic”
  • Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
  • Use online tools like the Step by Step Business Name Generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead and reserve your business name with your state, start the trademark registration process, and complete your domain registration and social media account creation. 

Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick a name, reserve it and start with the branding, it’s hard to switch to a new name. So be sure to carefully consider your choice before moving forward. 

Step 4: Create a Veterinary Clinic Business Plan

Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:

  • Executive Summary: Provide a concise summary of your business plan, highlighting your practice’s mission, goals, and anticipated growth.
  • Business Overview: Introduce your veterinary practice, including its location, the types of animals you’ll treat (e.g., small animals, exotics), and any specialized services you offer like surgery or dentistry.
  • Product and Services: Describe the range of veterinary services you provide, including routine check-ups, vaccinations, surgeries, and emergency care for animals.
  • Market Analysis: Analyze the local and regional market for veterinary services, considering factors like pet ownership rates, demographics, and the demand for specialized care.
  • Competitive Analysis: Identify and evaluate other veterinary clinics, hospitals, and pet care facilities in the area, emphasizing what sets your practice apart.
  • Sales and Marketing: Outline your marketing strategies for reaching pet owners, including online presence, community outreach, and partnerships with pet-related businesses.
  • Management Team: Highlight the qualifications and expertise of your veterinary team, showcasing their experience in animal care and medical practices.
  • Operations Plan: Detail the day-to-day operations of your veterinary practice, covering aspects like appointment scheduling, patient care protocols, equipment and facility management, and pricing strategies.
  • Financial Plan: Present financial projections, including startup costs, revenue forecasts, operating expenses, and expected profitability for your veterinary practice.
  • Appendix: Include any supporting documents, such as staff credentials, client testimonials, marketing materials, and financial statements, to strengthen your business plan.
what to include in a business plan

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to veterinary practice. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your veterinary practice will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts. Here’s how to form an LLC.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation. Read how to start a corporation here.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
types of business structures

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have. 

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a veterinary practice business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.  

types of business financing

Step 8: Apply for Veterinary Medicine Licenses and Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting a veterinary practice business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

You’ll need a professional veterinary license from your state.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your veterinary business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
types of business insurance

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.  

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as Chetu, DaySmart Vet, or IDEXX, to manage your patient information, diagnostics, bookings, and payments.

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.

Create a website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism. You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

Your customers are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales. 

Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Schedule Now”. This can sharply increase purchases. 

Marketing

Here are some powerful marketing strategies for your future business:

  1. Community Engagement Events: Host pet-friendly events or workshops in collaboration with local businesses to foster community engagement and showcase your practice’s commitment to animal welfare.
  2. Social Media Challenges: Create engaging challenges on social media platforms, encouraging clients to share pictures or stories of their pets, while incorporating your practice’s branded hashtag for increased visibility.
  3. Client Education Workshops: Offer free workshops on pet care and health-related topics to educate pet owners, positioning your practice as a valuable resource and building trust within the community.
  4. Loyalty Programs: Implement a loyalty program that rewards clients for repeat visits, referrals, or purchases, fostering long-term relationships and encouraging word-of-mouth marketing.
  5. Partnerships with Pet Influencers: Collaborate with local pet influencers or bloggers to feature your practice, reaching a wider audience through authentic endorsements from trusted figures in the pet community.
  6. Mobile Veterinary Clinics: Introduce mobile veterinary services to cater to clients who may find it challenging to visit your practice, offering convenience and extending your reach to a broader demographic.
  7. Pet Health Seminars: Conduct informative seminars at local schools, community centers, or pet stores to share valuable insights on pet health and care, establishing your practice as an authoritative voice.
  8. Referral Programs with Other Businesses: Establish referral programs with local pet-related businesses (groomers, pet stores) to cross-promote services, creating a mutually beneficial network.
  9. Seasonal Promotions: Run special promotions or discounts during pet-related holidays or seasons, attracting attention and encouraging pet owners to schedule routine check-ups or services.
  10. Testimonials and Success Stories: Share success stories and testimonials from satisfied clients on your social media and in local publications to build credibility and reassure potential clients about the quality of your services.

Focus on USPs

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your veterinary practice meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your veterinary business could be:

  • Embrace a holistic approach to pet healthcare, combining advanced medical treatments with a focus on preventive care and client education.
  • Your pet’s comfort is our priority, delivering gentle and fear-free veterinary services to make every visit a positive experience.
  • Unparalleled expertise in specialized veterinary care, offering cutting-edge diagnostics and treatments to address complex health conditions.
unique selling proposition

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a veterinary practice business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in veterinary practices for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in veterinary practices. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. 

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

You will  need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a veterinary business include:

  • Veterinary Technician – assist with patient care
  • Veterinary Assistant – feed and care for animals
  • Receptionist – make appointments, greet clients, take payments
  • Marketing Lead – create and implement marketing strategies
  • General Manager – scheduling, accounting

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Run a Vet Clinic – Start Making Money!

Running a Business

Veterinarians are valuable to any community, ensuring pet health and wellness. As a veterinarian, you can live your dream of helping animals while also being an entrepreneur. And in a $60 billion industry, there is plenty of profit to be made.

Now that you understand the business side of things, you’re ready to launch your successful veterinary practice!

Veterinary Practice Business FAQs

Is a veterinary practice profitable?

A veterinary practice can be profitable depending on factors such as location, client base, services offered, operational efficiency, and cost management. Well-managed practices with a steady client base can achieve profitability despite the costs associated with running a veterinary practice.

What happens during a typical day at a veterinary practice?

A typical day at a veterinary practice involves a range of activities. This includes appointment scheduling and reception, consultations and examinations, medical procedures such as surgeries and vaccinations, patient care and monitoring, client communication regarding diagnoses and treatment plans, record keeping, collaboration with staff, inventory management, and business administration tasks.

What is the growth potential of a veterinary practice?

The growth potential of a veterinary practice can be significant due to increasing pet ownership and the growing demand for veterinary services. Pet owners’ expanding expectations for comprehensive and specialized care, the availability of niche services, referral networks and partnerships, and technological advancements contribute to the growth potential of a veterinary practice.

What type of business is a veterinary practice?

A veterinary practice is a professional service business operating in the healthcare industry, specifically focused on providing medical care to animals. It offers a range of healthcare services, including diagnostics, treatments, surgeries, preventive care, and general wellness services for pets and other animals.

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How to Start a Veterinary Practice