2019 Veterinary Capital Equipment Guide


Written by:

Bio not available.

Essential, advanced technologies – now more affordable for your veterinary practice customers.

If you’re discussing new equipment with your veterinary practice customers – whether their current systems are wearing out, they’re adding new services, they’re renovating or expanding their practice, or they’re about to build a new location – the following are five great reasons for them to invest in equipment NOW, before the end of 2019.

  1. Tax incentives make it more affordable: Under IRS Section 179, veterinary practices can enjoy tax incentives on qualifying equipment purchased and put into service between January 1 and December 31, 2019. For instance, they can deduct up to $1 million in qualifying equipment.1 Nearly 70% of surveyed small businesses say they’ll make the most of this rule.)2
  2. New products make it more affordable: Surprise! It now costs less to invest in advanced solutions. Many of today’s technologies are quite affordable, especially compared to the models introduced 10 years ago. New versions of previously unattainable “big ticket” technologies offer exceptional diagnostic and treatment advancements at significantly lower prices.
  3. They’ll enhance patient care and set themselves apart in the local market. When veterinary practices invest in advanced solutions, they’re showing local pet owners that they’re devoted to the very best care for their beloved pets. If a new practice opens in town, you can bet they’ll have the latest technology for diagnostics, treatment, and practice management. Being advanced keeps your customers competitive.
  4. If they’re hiring, they’ll also have a competitive advantage. New veterinary school graduates and other talented professionals are looking for jobs with practices that use the most up-to-date, advanced equipment.
  5. They’ll enhance the value of their practice for a future transition: If a veterinarian is close to retirement or thinking about selling his or her practice, they may wonder, “why should I bother with new equipment?” Two reasons: they’ll enhance the practice’s value to potential buyers while they benefit from better tools in the meantime.

To help with specific options for capital equipment this year, Jeff Albachten, equipment solutions manager at Covetrus, explained what equipment sales reps are seeing in the market, from both a manufacturing and sales perspective. In addition, several veterinarians weighed in on the real-world importance of the latest advancements. We’ll examine the top nine categories in a two-part series. Dentistry, digital radiography, electrosurgery, hematology analyzers, and IV pumps will be covered in this issue. Look for laser therapy, lighting, monitors and ultrasound in the December 2019 issue of Veterinary Advantage.


With today’s many choices in advanced oral-care systems and tools, veterinarians can invest in better medicine and keep their practice thriving as competition grows from all sides. Many practices are expanding their dentistry capabilities by adding high-speed compressor-driven dental machines (now considered the standard of care, especially for sectioning), along with wet tables, lighted handpieces, CT (CAT scan) and other equipment.

Imaging, portability, and integration are big trends for advanced care. “We’re seeing an interest in portable radiography units, which give practices a singularly valuable asset to use on multiple patients,” said Albachten. These units help the team look below the gums and identify oral health problems, such as fractures, cysts, and tumors – which can be treated before they become worse. At a minimum, the images provide baselines to monitor for future changes. Oral radiography/digital X-ray and CT are becoming the standard protocol for more and more practices.

One of the biggest advancements that has improved the quality of practicing veterinary dentistry in 2019 is the addition of a cone-beam CT, said Susan Crowder, DVM, DAVDC, owner of Companion Animal Dentistry of Kansas City, Kansas. “It allows us to see more of a tooth, with 3D views. This is especially helpful for root-canal therapy, so we can do our best to save that tooth. We’ve also been able to find some nasal tumors that were non-clinical. The patient wasn’t showing signs, but we found it on the CT.”

In addition, oral health data integration is becoming expected among practices, said Albachten. “Software companies are working hard to integrate data from the dental side into Practice Information Management Systems (PIMS), which helps drive enhanced overall patient experience and care.”

If your customers aren’t sure about the return on a dentistry equipment investment for their practice, show them the numbers: how offering expanded oral-care services brings a new revenue source that pays for itself in a very short time.

Digital Radiography

Here’s great news for any type of practice; small animal, large animal, mobile, and exotics: The opportunity cost of switching or upgrading to one of today’s digital radiography and other imaging systems is dramatically lower than it’s ever been. And with digital radiography’s exceptional images, enhanced integration into patient records, and real-time coaching, they have spectacular options.

Your customers will certainly want to compare systems before they choose the right one, but most systems now offer the following benefits:

  • Crisp detail from varying depths of view, plus notation capabilities and instant connection to patient records
  • The ability to show clients image comparisons, so they can see what’s normal and what may be wrong with a patient
  • Built-in “position prompts” to help make sure the team knows how to correctly capture images with each patient
  • Cloud storage for easy image retrieval and sharing when working with specialists
  • Training and ongoing support from the manufacturer to ensure success within your team

As an emergency critical care specialist, Dr. Justine Lee, DACVECC, DABT, CEO of VETgirl, LLC, said she loves digital radiography for several reasons. “Not only does it help with the efficiency of flow in the ER, but it also allows us to promptly get a radiographic interpretation from a board-certified veterinary radiologist!” she said. “Plus, I’ll admit that I often have our veterinary technicians take ‘extra’ radiographs, as it doesn’t ‘cost’ us anything while optimizing the quality of radiographs we are evaluating.”

One more thing to think about for 2019: Related to digital imaging is an emerging trend where practices are adding CT scan technology (computed tomography scan, also known as a CAT scan). “CT was once considered too advanced for most practices’ needs, so it was considered practical only for specialty or referral practices as well as universities,” said Albachten. “That’s not the case anymore because of new models that are more affordable with an ROI that makes sense. We’ve been placing CTs in all kinds of practices, in the same realm as digital imaging and ultrasound. It’s part of advanced imaging for better care.”


It’s exciting to say that in 2019, practices have more options than ever when it comes to reducing tissue trauma, pain, and recovery time in patients requiring surgery. Electrosurgery or electrocautery equipment is yet another category offering advanced benefits at a lower price point.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified, is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author whose traveling surgery practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. “Electrocautery is not mandatory to perform surgery, but once you have it, you’ll never want to be without it,” said Zeltzman. “It allows you to create the surgical incision in the skin while reducing bleeding. When you encounter ‘bleeders,’ the equipment can help you coagulate small blood vessels within a split second. Cautery is a time-saver, an aggravation saver and a device to decrease bloodletting. Indirectly, it decreases anesthesia time.”

Dr. Zeltzman added that there are many types of electrocautery systems out there, from well under $1,000 to several thousand dollars. Most of today’s units provide exceptional control over cutting and coagulation procedures through a simple switch. “Be aware that some cautery handles can be autoclaved, while others need to be gas-sterilized,” he said.

Out in the field, Albachten and his team are seeing practices embrace electrocautery for its many benefits: everything from base units with standard frequency (to treat skin tags and other dermatology procedures), to high-frequency and fully advanced tools. “Your choice depends on the services you want to provide,” he said. “All options reduce tissue trauma at the cellular level, but as you go higher up in cost and capabilities, you can employ the units for both cautery and surgical procedures (to cut and coag vessels at the same time) for many types of patients and needs.”

Most electrosurgery/electrocautery equipment manufacturers provide extensive training for a veterinary practice team. Plus, technique courses are offered at national and regional conferences and other industry training venues.

Hematology Analyzers

Advanced hematology, chemistry, and urine analyzers are available from several reputable companies, and all manufacturers promise easy procedures and quick, accurate results. Plus, they automatically integrate with PIMS to help give a veterinary practice team a complete diagnostic picture of each patient. This helps with baseline data for wellness checks as well as sick patient diagnoses.

Andrew Loar, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology & Internal Medicine), Laboratory Director, Co-CMO & Co-founder, ZNLabs – veterinary diagnostics, said as an internist and oncologist, as well as the director of a national reference diagnostic laboratory, he has seen significant improvement in the quality, reliability and selection of in-house hematology equipment.

“The obvious advantages of most of these analyzers include rapid, and generally accurate, results – which are particularly useful for screening healthy animals and pre-surgical evaluations,” he said. Dr. Loar noted that in-clinic testing is performed with an understanding of the limitations of these compact yet efficient machines, such as the inability to identify band neutrophils, abnormal nucleated cells or in-vitro platelet clumping. Moreover, repeat testing of the original specimen is seldom beneficial, nor cost-effective. “Clinical and IT support staff must be vigilant to ensure reliable capture of patient results and pet-owner charges,” he said.

Most hematology equipment manufacturers will work with veterinary practices and offer ongoing training/resources to make sure they’re getting accurate results they can count on for their patients. And results are automatically integrated into the patient record along with any outside lab results for a truly comprehensive picture.

IV Pumps

When it comes to getting the most accurate benefits for patients, the best practice is to make sure the veterinary practice team is using the same brand of IV lines as the pump brand used. That’s first and foremost to ensure that the lines’ stiffness and holes match up perfectly to the pump.

Why is this such a big deal? Each manufacturer is slightly different, which can be troublesome when mixing products. Rick Warter, RVT, national equipment sales manager at MWI Animal Health, explained this in the 2018 capital equipment guide: “Let’s say you want to give the patient 100 milliliters an hour. Using the wrong line, you might deliver 120 ml in an hour, which means in five hours you intended to deliver 500 ml but instead delivered 600 ml. In a small animal, this can be very bad. Or it can go the other way, where you don’t deliver enough fluid to a dehydrated animal with a heart condition. This puts an extra burden on the circulatory system.”

The other issue is age. If the IV pumps have been in use for more than five years, the system could be underperforming, which can be downright dangerous.

If it’s time for a veterinary practice to upgrade its IV pumps and lines accordingly, Albachten has great news. “We’ve had new entrants into the IV pump market, and they’re a little more affordable – under $1,000,” he said. Albachten and his team have helped practices on a budget finally invest in units that work for them.

“As a criticalist, I’m spoiled because we have over 40 fluid pumps at Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota,” said Dr. Justine Lee. “To me, fluid pumps are standard of care in veterinary medicine, as they help deliver a precise amount of fluid therapy and improve quality of care.”

About the Author: Pam Foster is a certified SEO copywriter and content-marketing writer specializing in the veterinary industry. veterinarycopywriter.com.

1. https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/new-rules-and-limitations-for-depreciation-and-expensing-under-the-tax-cuts-and-jobs-act

2. https://www.libertycapitalgroup.com/small-business-loans-blog-archive/2019-guide-to-irs-tax-rule-section-179-for-small-business/ (As per a survey that was done by the National Federation of Independent Business or NFIB for short, almost 70% of small businesses are planning on taking advantage of this tax code.)

Photo Credit: istockphoto.com/Alexpunker