If you’re a vet in Malaysia planning your next big move, look no further. You’ve come to the right place. Here’s your ultimate guide on how to start a vet clinic in Malaysia.
According to this report from 2018 by The Star, there was (and still is) a severe shortage of veterinary practitioners in Malaysia, with only a total of 453 private vet clinics for a population of almost 30 million citizens.
With a vet to pet ratio like that, you can’t help but wonder why these numbers are so paltry. With the lack of qualified vets in the country and a need to import vets from abroad aside, many locally trained vets have found it difficult to set up shop.
Be it the hefty startup costs or stringent regulations, we answer the key questions and detail a step-by-step approach to get you off on your journey and a step closer to achieving your dream of opening a vet clinic or animal medical centre.
How To Start A Vet Clinic?
We’ve got you covered. Here are 6 steps on how to start a veterinary practice to help you get organised and on your way to becoming a successful ‘vetrepreneur’.
STEP 1: YOUR BUSINESS PLAN
As any successful ‘vetrepreneur’ (not a real word!) will tell you, the key to a successful veterinary practice (or any business for that matter) is PLANNING.
A well-structured and mapped out plan will help you keep your tasks and goals in check and guide you on your journey when times get tough (which they will).
As per the Malaysian Veterinary Council (MVC) Guidelines, all private veterinary clinics, surgeries and animal hospitals must be owned and operated by a veterinarian/veterinary surgeon on the MVC registry. Local and foreign graduate vets need to obtain their Annual Practising Certificate (APC) to practise veterinary medicine.
The first thing you’ll need is FUNDS, and the question on everyone’s lips, How Much Does It Cost To Start A Vet Clinic? Well, here’s a rough estimate:
- Rent RM2,500-RM8,000
This depends on the area in which you choose to set up shop, and as you can see, the range is quite significant. Alternatively, you could purchase your intended premises and the funds used to pay the mortgage instead. Whichever works better for you.
- Equipment RM100,000-RM400,000
The bulk of your start-up cost. This includes medical/surgical devices from surgical beds and lighting to imaging and anaesthetic devices etc. Lab equipment can be expensive if you intend to do your own lab work. Alternatively, you could send out your samples (blood/urine etc.) to local public and private pathology labs that run animal specimens.
The cost of kennel facilities (cages, play areas) is included here as well. The bulk of your cost would go to imaging devices like X-ray and Ultrasound machines which aren’t absolutely essential to start off with. Still, most animal medical centres these days have these basic imaging facilities.
- Non-clinical Rooms RM20,000-RM50,000
The cost of setting up areas like the waiting room, reception, staff pantries and lavatories fall in this category. Once again, it depends on how fancy you’d like your place to be. Be wise and mindful of your expected clientele when deciding. Know your crowd!
- Staffing RM12,000-RM20,000
You’ll need at least 1 or 2 clinical (licensed technicians) and 2 non-clinical assistants (receptionists, kennel attendants) to start with. It’s always good practice to have funds ready for the initial three months as business is bound to be slow when you first open. A tough art in its own right, employing staff with the right balance of qualifications and commitment will be key to the initial success of your business.
- Medication RM10,000-RM15,000
As most vet clinics in Malaysia dispense their own meds, you’ll need a starting stock of medications for use in your clinic and for sale to your pawtients. (their parents will pay!)
- Office Equipment & Clinical Management Software RM10,000
Your computers, network and management software can cost a pretty penny. Printers, copiers, Microchipping equipment and software should be considered as well.
- Marketing, Social Media, Signboards and Banners RM5,000
Getting your name out there is key, but be aware of the strict regulations on advertising professional services.
- Insurance RM5,000
Professional Indemnity (Malpractice) Insurance and Business Insurance is vital and not something you would want to stinge on.
Alternatively, you could purchase a running practice or a book of clients of a vet who’s closing shop/retiring. This might cost a fair bit more in your starting capital, but you’d save on the trouble of establishing yourself and your reputation, which can sometimes be priceless.
So there you go. Opening a professional business like a vet clinic can be pricey to start with but equally rewarding in the long run. Thankfully, banks in Malaysia are relatively kinder to professionals regarding business loans and short-term financing schemes. Consider leasing companies for the initial cost of your clinic equipment and renovation.
Your ongoing monthly expenses will include maintaining your inventory of drugs and specialty food. The bulk of this, however, will be for payroll, utilities and marketing.
Find your niche and build your clientele accordingly. While some vets operate general animal medical centres that see every pet and wild animal (besides humans) under the sun, many vets are specialised in a particular field, such as surgical or 24-hour emergency clinics, mobile vet clinics, etc.
You’ll need to carefully select an area that isn’t saturated with vet clinics and, of course, lots of people with pets living close by.
STEP 2: Establish Your Company
For Malaysian citizens, choose from one of the following forms of business organisations:
- Sole Proprietorship
- Limited Liability Company (LLC) where your vet clinic’s name will end with PLT (Perkongsian Liabiliti Terhad)
- Company, where your vet clinic’s name will end with Sdn Bhd (Sendirian Berhad).
Establishing a legal business entity such as a PLT or Sdn Bhd protects you from being held personally liable if you or your practice is sued.
If you’re unfamiliar with the process of starting a company, it’s best to approach a company secretary that doubles up as a tax agent and a company secretariat. They’ll appoint a company secretary, register for business taxes, manage your books, basically all the nitty-gritty bits of starting your own company.
STEP 3: Set Up A Bank Account
This will protect your personal assets and income as well as make filing for taxes a lot easier. Apply for business credit cards for all your clinic-related purchases.
Business accounts and loans often have better interest rates and higher lines of credit, as well as government-backed Small-Medium Enterprises (SME) incentives you could be eligible for.
As mentioned above, using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset (your home, car etc.) protection. This protection is often referred to as ‘the corporate veil’ in business law.
STEP 4: Permits And Licenses
All certified veterinarians and veterinary surgeons in Malaysia are registered under the Malaysian Veterinary Council (MVC), which comes under the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) purview at the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industries. All qualified veterinarians are granted official registration numbers under the National Veterinary Register.
Annual Practising Certificates (APCs) are required every year. Renewal costs of RM25/year.
To open a veterinary practice, you would require a license issued by the MVC. You can start your application process here.
You will need to have your clinic floor plan approved by the MVC along with various other requirements set by your local city/district council.
A veterinary clinic is generally run out of an office building. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Fitness (CF), which ensure that zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to rent, it is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CF. After a major renovation, a new CF often needs to be issued. As in most cases, bare units will be renovated before opening, be sure to include language in your rental agreement stating that rent payments will not commence until a valid CF is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build your new vet clinic, You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CF from your local city/district land authority (Majlis Bandaraya/ Perbandaran/ Daerah)
The Guide to Professional Conduct. issued by the Malaysian Veterinary Council, 1992 states that you would need to inform fellow colleagues within your area, as well as the general public, about your intentions to set up shop.
According to local celebrity vet Dr Salehatul Khuzaimah, it is a courtesy call to your colleagues in the vicinity. Vets will exchange operation hours and facilities offered and foster a close and cordial relationship with each other.
Join a National or Regional Veterinarians Association like Malaysian Veterinary Medical Association (MAVMA) and Malaysian Small Animal Veterinary Association (MSAVA). You can advertise your interest in opening up a vet clinic through these avenues.
As per the Guide to Professional Conduct:
- A signboard may be placed to notify the public of a new vet clinic or surgery. This sign may be illuminated by a fixed light and may display any of the following words only:
- Klinik Veterinar (Veterinary Clinic)
- Klinik Haiwan (Animal Clinic)
- Hospital Veterinar (Veterinary Hospital)
- Hospital Haiwan (Animal Hospital)
- The lettering should not exceed 38cm (15 inches) in height and, not more than two colours for the background and the lettering be used. A directional arrow may also be used to indicate the location of the vet clinic.
- A plate indicating the name and qualifications of the practising veterinary surgeon may be mounted on the front elevation of the practice. Such plate should contain no information other than the name, letters indicating a professional degree or diploma as entered in the Register, the title "Veterinary Surgeon", the hours of attendance and the telephone number. The lettering on a plate should not exceed 7.6cm (3 inches) in height.
- The sign must not be fixed at a location that is difficult to view or visit
- The drawing of animals on the sign or wall of the practice is highly unethical
STEP 5: Get Business Insurance
Just as important as setting up business bank accounts and credit lines, business insurance is a must to safeguard your new clinic. It protects the financial well being of your practice in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of policies for different types of businesses with varying degrees of risk. If you’re unsure, begin with Public Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that a vet clinic will need.
Other policies you might be interested in include Fire Insurance and coverage against national disasters like floods etc. which can be quite common in Malaysia.
STEP 6: Branding and Advertising
Your brand is your legacy. It should embody your mission and values. It sets you apart from your competitors and will define your very existence as a vet clinic owner and entrepreneur. With that in mind, take branding seriously. A strong brand is key to a successful business and its steady growth,
Design your company logo and pick a theme and colour palette that suits you. , From your signboards and social media posts to stationery and specialty products, using the same theme throughout your business will leave customers with an imprint of your brand and an immediate connection to your brilliant service and care.
It is worth noting that advertising of professional services is frowned upon within the medical and veterinary fraternity and is clearly stated on Page 7 of the Guide to Professional Conduct, 1992. Similar regulations to signage as stated above apply to your professional stationery, so be sure to take note of these guidelines and restrictions.
The best way to promote your business is by providing top-notch care and for this to spread by word of mouth.
While advertising your services outrightly on social media isn’t advocated, posts offering health tips and guides to care for pets are great tools for educating the community. It also increases public awareness of your very existence, your crackerjack skills, and your irresistible charm.
Instafamous and multi-talented vet Dr Ima conducts basic care guides and tips for pet owners on her various social media platforms daily.
Partnering with local businesses can help too. Offer discounts for referrals from your local groomer and pet store.
Organise an ‘open house’ when you open your doors for business for the first time. It’s a great opportunity to meet pet owners in the area and introduce them to your services and products.
Although not as popular in Malaysia, creating a website for your business can be very helpful in the long run and appear more professional than social media pages and profiles.
How To Start A Veterinary Practice?
The 6 steps above will set you on the right path to setting up your very own veterinary practice, be it for yourself or for a vet you choose to hire.
The starting salary for a fresh graduate veterinarian at a private vet clinic is around RM3,500-RM4,500.
How Much Does It Cost To Start A Vet Clinic?
Well, from our calculations above, you’ll see that you’ll need at least RM164,500 to set up a basic vet clinic with its bare necessities. Of course, most startup costs can be serviced by business loans and equipment, furniture and renovations covered by leasing companies.
FAQs - Answered by Legit and Successful (still practising) Vets
How much can you charge?
An average vet clinic fee in Malaysia is considered rather affordable compared to the rest of the developed world. The consultation fee for a routine visit to the vet could set you back anywhere from RM20 to RM100, depending on the demographics and nature of the visit.
To help you gauge what a fair set of charges is, scout your area for acceptable fees for consultation and services. Traditional prescription medications are marked up 2 times cost while chronic-use meds are 1.5-2 times cost.
Vaccine prices are within a standardised range, and food and specialty care items are set at the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) or marked up slightly.
What happens during a typical day at a veterinary practice?
Depending on the scope of the veterinary practice, standard services such as annual check-ups, lab work, and spay and neuter procedures will be provided at fixed hours during the day. For instance, some clinics will conduct surgeries in the mornings, followed by routine visits and checkups after lunch, followed by slots for vaccinations in the evening.
Time between patients should be set aside for home visits, staff meetings and educational sessions, and be prepared for the inevitable emergency visits.
How to keep your customers happy?
Pet owners are known to be as protective and caring of their fur babies as they are for their children. Remind yourself and your staff frequently that a worried parent of a sick pet can be highly sensitive and off their usual demeanour. Being extra courteous and empathetic to their feelings is vital in maintaining a loyal following.
As mentioned above, good skills and great service spread by word of mouth will be your greatest form of advertisement. So, hire friendly, experienced and knowledgeable staff, even if it costs you a little more. When you deliver excellent customer service and high-quality medicine, word will spread quickly.
Also, bear in mind that taking good care of your staff will reap your business rewards as they’ll always have your back and treat your patients as their own.
What are some skills that will help you build a successful veterinary practice?
- Strong interpersonal skills and great bedside manner
- Adept observational skills are vital as animals can’t verbalise their complaints
- Manual dexterity is an important skill to possess, as your patients tend to get anxious and/or aggressive when on your examination table
- Continuous education and professional development to keep you abreast with the latest in veterinary medicine, public health and local community issues.
What is the growth potential for a veterinary practice?
Veterinary practises that have made a name for themselves within a community have often expanded by opening new branches. It is, however, important to maintain quality standards of service and care by hiring capable surrogates and training a team of experienced staff to be worthy flag-bearers of your company and practice.
Mobile veterinary clinics allow you to reach a cohort of patients outside your local community, expanding your brand at the same time.
How can you make your business grow?
- Stock up on specialty products you believe in, such as food, supplements, skin care items, and toys.
- Offer mobile services and home visits. While premium charges do apply, your customers will be extremely grateful and faithful to you.
- Link up with your local shelter and do your bit for charity. Pro bono services will always hold you in good stead and reward your practice in the long run.
- Accept multiple forms of payment, including credit cards, online cash transfers, e-wallets as well as pet insurance,
- Sign up with Pet Insurance Providers like Oyen and become a part of their vet network.
What is the Oyen Vet Network?
A brilliant initiative by Malaysia’s best pet health insurance, you’ll receive referrals by Oyen from insured pet-owners in your area when you sign up for the Oyen Vet Network. You’ll get to focus on offering the best care to your patients without them having to worry about the incurring cost.
By signing up, your vet clinic will receive a prime listing on Oyen.my as well as a premium onboarding kit including flyers, banners and stickers. Attend a free webinar and learn about the company’s products, policies and coverage.
As there is a shortage of private vet clinics in the country, veterinarians in Malaysia are encouraged to take the leap of faith and put their awesome skills to the test. We hope this guide on How to start a Vet Clinic in Malaysia And Its Costs has been helpful.
All the best on your journey!
While you’re here, check out the 10 best vet clinics in KL and Selangor.
- Guide to Professional Conduct. Issued by Malaysian Veterinary Council, 1992.
- Veterinary Surgeons (Companion Animal Premise and Practice) Directive 2/2015 Veterinary Surgeons Act 1974.