Pet owners may not be getting value for money because of a lack of competition in the UK veterinary sector, a regulator has warned.
Claims that the cost of pet care has soared faster than inflation has prompted a review of the £2bn sector by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
It is appealing to pet owners and people who work in the industry to come forward about their experiences.
The watchdog said it would seek to find out why, despite consumers facing a cost of living crisis, the price of vet services has risen faster than the rate of inflation.
Ownership of vet practices have consolidated in the UK, with independent practices now only accounting for around 45 per cent of the sector, down from nearly double that less than a decade ago.
Sarah Cardell, CMA chief executive, said: “Caring for an ill pet can create real financial pressure, particularly alongside other concerns.
“It’s really important that people get clear information and pricings.
“There has been a lot of consolidation in the vet industry in recent years, so now is the right time to take a look at how the market is working.
“When a pet is unwell, they often need urgent treatment, which means pet owners may not shop around for the best deal, like they do with other services.
“They may not have the relevant information to make informed decisions.”
The CMA investigation was welcomed by consumer champions Which? whose consumer protection policy head Sue Davies said: “Consumers have no choice but to turn to vets when their beloved pet is sick or injured – often footing eye-watering bills in the process.
“Which? research has uncovered a number of areas of concern, such as pet-owners not knowing the price of treatments until after their appointment, people being unaware their vet is part of a chain and difficulties shopping around for cheaper medication.
“The Competition and Market Authority’s review must consider these issues and lead to a more competitive veterinary industry which makes it easier for pet-owners to shop around for the best option for them and their pet.”