VETS are quitting their careers because of abuse from pet owners, according to new research.
The study from Aberdeen University also discovered that some vets are even receiving abuse from co-workers.
Researchers say three million new pets were taken on during the Covid pandemic. They add that financial pressures piled on pet owners are also adding to the abuse problem.
The study was carried out by psychologist Amy Irwin, who examined the problem of vets skills to do the job being challenged as well as aggressive responses when they delivered the bill.
Dr Irwin found this left many vets with anxiety, some of whom took their stress out on their co-workers.
The abuse both from customers and co-workers created a hostile work environment, with some vets questioning their working hours and even considering quitting altogether and finding new careers.
Part of the problem has been created by post-Covid demand and restrictions being lifted as pet owners take their companions to the vets for delayed check-ups, booster jabs and operations.
Dr Irwin interviewed 252 veterinary staff across the UK and Ireland, gathering a consistent picture of rude and aggressive customer behaviour towards vets.
She said: “The first study highlighted the importance of client behaviour, with veterinarians reporting that experiencing multiple instances of client rudeness could lead to them withdrawing from clients, either through reducing working hours or on-call commitments, or via a change in career focus.”
She suggested that pet owners themselves were in some cases “struggling with the financial aspect of veterinary care”.
She added that “participants suggested this type of reaction could sometimes be based on client guilt, where the client chooses not to proceed, or refuses a treatment, because they cannot afford it”.
Dr Irwin revealed that some of the abuse towards vets came from co-workers and was due to the “reduced job satisfaction and increased likelihood of quitting” and finding a new career.
The researcher pointed out “veterinary nurses in particular may be more at risk of leaving their practice or the profession if they are not provided with support from their organisation”.
Dr Irwin makes a number of recommendations for reducing the problem, including creating a “supportive workplace environment” and “building procedural support mechanisms”.