AVA responds to alleged veterinarian ‘upselling’

AVA President Ben Gardiner
AVA President Ben Gardiner

Australian Veterinary Association  President, Ben Gardiner responds to media coverage alleging ‘upselling’ from veterinarians:

“Recent media articles alleging ‘upselling’ by veterinarians treating pets are disturbing because they mean we either have vets recommending services beyond the defensible, or we fail to communicate effectively about the value of the services we are recommending. It likely reflects the difficult reconciliation of the importance of pets in our lives with the rising costs of accessing the latest diagnostic and treatment services available. It is unfortunate there is no link between the degree of emotional value placed on a pet and their owner’s capacity to afford veterinary care. But affordability is only partly capacity and partly a value judgment.

“Governments also make decisions on affordability. Over the past couple of decades, we have witnessed a significant decline in public veterinary services (PVS) and publicly funded laboratory services, across all jurisdictions. The recent agreement over terms of engagement of private vets in an emergency animal disease outbreak is welcome but should not subvert the need for a properly funded PVS. Unfortunately, the ‘value’ of the PVS is complex to assess, and unless or until major breaches of biosecurity, chemical violation, animal welfare or food safety occur it remains vulnerable to budgetary cuts. It’s become a ‘catch 22’ – these veterinarians have done their job so well that they’ve created some redundancy.

“Within the AVA our biggest idea is to ‘drive the success of the profession’. Our purpose is clear: we believe our society and our animals have a better future if serviced by a successful veterinary profession. But such a big broad idea raises plenty of questions.

  • How can we positively influence society’s understanding and expectation of our services?
  • How can we raise graduate earnings while sustaining strong veterinary businesses?
  • How can we influence governments re the need for a strong public veterinary service?
  • Is the supply of veterinary graduates being effectively managed to meet projected demands?
  • How do we take best advantage of changes in technology, biomedical advances and demographic shift to deliver more efficient services?
  • How can we mitigate the impact of ongoing deregulation and the rapid growth in competing para-veterinary training courses?
  • Can we remain a single identifiable veterinary profession?

“Unsurprisingly, there are no simple solutions, but to help bring about a successful profession, we have taken the many ideas generated from you through consultation last year and distilled them into advocacy priorities, developed project plans and allocated resources to them. Our top five priorities are:

  • ensuring the financial sustainability of the profession
  • planning an effective veterinary workforce
  • filling the gap in government veterinary services
  • better regulation
  • fighting antimicrobial resistance.

“You may have seen these priorities before. I include them here to reinforce that no matter which part of the veterinary profession you belong to – public, private, clinical, research, teaching, industry, employee or employer – we have taken ideas, made plans and are taking action on issues that are relevant to you. We each have a part to play in effectively communicating the value proposition for ‘high quality’ veterinary services in both public and private practice.”



  1. In the March 2014 issue of the magazine, page six had an article relating to this matter which focused particularly on the fact that preventative dental care is necessary and not an “up sell”. While I completely agree with this, turn to page 11 and we see an educational dvd from iM3 for vet practices which is titled “Identifying the goldmine in your practice” – complete with a picture of a dog digging up treasure. I’m sure if a client saw that lying around, they would assume dental care was being recommended for other reasons than their pet’s best interest.

    • Hi Megan, we can see how that could be interpreted… which is why we try to clearly communicate that Vet Practice is for practitioners, not patients (or patient’s owners, at least). However, we don’t believe that providing top quality care for pets is mutually exclusive from running a profitable and successful practice. It’s up to the individual practitioner to decide whether profit or care take top priority, and we’re confident the vast majority make the right choice.


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