I’ve heard tell that the only items that are recession-proof are lipstick and porn. While I wouldn’t know about the latter, the first is one I’ll fess up to. I can always dig up $7 for a new lip gloss when I need a “can’t-afford-nuthin’-else” pick-me-up.

The same, however, can’t be said for veterinary medicine.

The last month has been interesting, to say the least. Never have I witnessed such a dramatic slow-down at work. Whether my clients are well-to-do (about half of them) or just scraping by (the other half), they’ve mostly stayed away this past month.

It seems no one can get past the economic forecasts this month—so much so that a recent trip to buy my favorite fancy lipstick at a high-priced department store revealed a near-deserted parking lot (in Miami!) while the big-box econo-store down the street seemed to be bustling.

But cautious price-sensitivity is only one aspect of it. Fear seems to be the big driver. Whether you’ve seen your sizable stock portfolio plummet in value or you’ve just been down-sized with your house in foreclosure, it appears that people on both ends of the economic spectrum (including most of us stuck in the middle) are just plain scared.

Q: But how long can fear keep my clients keep from coming in to have their sick pets seen? A: It seems three weeks is the limit.

This week has finally seen brisker business of “just can’t wait anymore” cases. Sure, our routine care offerings are still getting dramatically fewer hits (I’m spaying about three pets a week and performing just a few dentals, for example), but I seem to be running a special on tooth root abscesses and broken legs, among other “s--- happens” conditions.

So is veterinary medicine recession proof? Clearly it’s not. Nonetheless, as long as people love their pets and animals still succumb to accident and disease, I can promise you no vet I know is being swept from the industry on a wave of fear.

Not so for technicians and other support staff, however. The hiring freeze is on. Techs everywhere are seeing their hours cut. Over-time is a thing of the past—for now, at least. Why? Because veterinary practice owners are scared, too.

Sure we can make payroll (our biggest expense)—but for how long? When we know our bank won’t hop-to-it when we ask for a loan, it’s not exactly a situation that suggests we keep our promises on a new tech’s pay-raise—much less hire another.

How long will it last, I wonder? As long as our clients refrain from seeking basic wellness care, I’d guess. But that prospect raises another specter: Reduced preventative medical attention means bigger emergencies.

Sometimes, it seems, you’re better off buying a little lipstick if it means it’ll fend off the bogeyman. But you knew I’d say something inane and self-serving like that, didn’t you?

;-)

So how about you? Are you spending less on veterinary care?