Small Business

Veterinary Hospital Inventory: How to Get Your Practice Organized

January 4, 2022 • 6 min read

Whether you’re opening up a new veterinary hospital, expanding your practice, or simply getting organized, the right inventory management system can make all the difference. This article outlines exactly what inventory and assets your veterinary hospital might need and then elaborates on how to organize that inventory. 


What inventory does a vet need?

While every vet center is different, most veterinary clinics purchase many of the same things, from top-dollar equipment to low-cost consumables like bandages and dog treats. Here’s what your clinic may need to stock:

High-value assets

Your veterinary practice will likely need to invest in some expensive machinery and equipment from the very start. 

These assets may include:

  • Medical equipment, such as x-ray machines and ultrasound machines
  • Examination room equipment and furniture
  • Technology, including computers, printers, tablets, and credit card processors 

These items are considered long-term assets, not inventory because your business will not convert them into cash within the first year. You can use an inventory app like Sortly to track your assets and how much you paid for them. Then, your accountant can help you track these assets as they depreciate in value, year by year. 

Related: What’s the Difference Between Assets and Fixed Assets?

Supplies and materials

Supplies and materials at your vet hospital will vary depending on what types of animals you treat and whether you provide emergency services or surgical procedures. Your vet clinic may need:

  • Medications to stock a veterinary pharmacy, including flea and tick medicine, antibiotics, anti-parasite, and anti-anxiety medications
  • First aid supplies, including cones, gauze, and alcohol swabs
  • Grooming supplies, including scissors, coat shampoo, and cute little bandanas and bows
  • Vaccines
  • Surgical supplies, including scissors, retractors, forceps, and elevators 
  • Medical supplies, including syringes 
  • Safety supplies, including exam gloves and masks
  • Retail items, like dog food, treats, leashes and collars, and shopping bags
  • Traditional office supplies for the front desk

Supplies and materials are traditional inventory—inventory that’s turned over or expected to be converted into cash within a year. Ideally, your business will figure out how much inventory it needs to never run out of anything—all while never over-ordering or experiencing spoilage or obsolescence, either. 

Free Ebook: Supplies & Materials Tracking

  • Discover the three methods to track and manage inventory
  • Get actionable tips and best practices for inventory tracking
  • Learn how to track and maintain an inventory list


How do vets manage inventory?

There are three main ways to manage veterinary hospital inventory: by hand, using a spreadsheet, or with inventory management software. Here’s a bit more about each of them.

1. Manual inventory management

This inventory management system is manual, meaning your team will track each and every item by hand. Of course, writing a note every single time a vet tech uses a cotton ball isn’t realistic. 

Typically, vet clinics using this system keep physical inventory. That means that once a week or so, a team member physically counts items in exam rooms and storage closets, writing down what they’ve found. They’ll often use an inventory list to help them count. Then, they’ll decide what they need and place orders accordingly.

The problem with managing inventory by hand is that it’s such a tedious process. The same tasks are repeated over and over again each week, and it’s impossible to know what you’ve got on hand at any given moment. That means you’re more likely to run out of something important, like medication. 

2. Spreadsheet inventory management

Some vet clinics also keep track of their assets and inventory using a spreadsheet on Excel or Google. While inexpensive and convenient, spreadsheets are quite error-prone, especially since many items look and sound alike, and it’s so easy for an employee to jumble cells accidentally. 

Yes, there are many benefits to spreadsheets—especially when compared to manually tracking inventory. But most veterinary hospitals simply carry too much inventory (and turn it over too quickly) to track what they’ve got using a spreadsheet accurately. 

3. Inventory management software

Most clinics turn to inventory management software to easily track consumable materials in a veterinary practice. This kind of inventory management system automates the most repetitive, tedious parts of inventory management. You may also want inventory software that comes in app form.

Inventory management software works by creating a digital log of everything your business has on hand, even across multiple locations. Sophisticated yet surprisingly simple, the best inventory apps simplify inventory management—and allow your team to focus on patients. Plus, they run on equipment you already own, such as smartphones, tablets, and computers. 


Benefits of inventory management software for veterinary clinics 

There are many upsides to using an inventory app—especially for vet clinics. Here are just five ways inventory software can help your practice:

1. A digital, customizable system

Inventory apps like Sortly are totally customizable. They’re designed to be tweaked to match your business’s needs—and how your brain works. Since not all companies organize inventory the same way, you’ll want to choose inventory software that lets you decide how to organize, categorize, and describe your inventory.

For example, with Sortly, you can create folders for all your exam rooms, storage closets, operating rooms, and more. You can also create custom fields to track any details that matter to you. Adding pictures can also help your team quickly identify inventory. 

You can even generate and print barcode and QR code labels to place on inventory. It’s easy to do—and can help your practice stay organized as it expands. 

Inventory management software can also alert when you’re running low on something, or an item is approaching warranty end or expiration. That’s extra helpful if your vet practice purchases expensive equipment or has a veterinary pharmacy, too. 

2. Low stock alerts

Ever run out of flea medicine? Or recovery cones? There are items that your practice uses day in and day out—items you simply can’t afford to run out of. Inventory apps like Sortly can ensure you never experience a stockout again.

Simply set low stock alerts for items in your inventory—then decide who needs to be notified when your inventory starts to dwindle and when precisely to warn them. The right person will receive an alert at just the right time, so your clinic can avoid disruption altogether. 

3. High-value asset tracking

Chances are your veterinary clinic has invested in some pretty expensive assets, from x-ray machines to operating room equipment. 

Keeping track of these assets is essential, not just because they’re expensive but because they depreciate over time. By managing these high-value, long-term investments on an inventory app, it’s easy for your accountant to file taxes, claim depreciating assets, and help you complete a balance sheet

4. Top-notch reporting

Inventory reports are beneficial for a variety of reasons. First, as we already mentioned, your accountant can use them to prepare more accurate financial statements, prepare tax returns, and provide you with a better picture of your practice’s financial health.

Inventory reporting can also help you forecast demand, ensuring you practice better inventory control, even if the supply chain remains tumultuous. 

5. Keep exam rooms sufficiently stocked

Finally, one of the top reasons to utilize inventory management software is to ensure all examination rooms are adequately stocked at all times. Because apps like Sortly allow you to organize inventory by folder, you can easily ensure each exam room has everything it needs without even opening a cabinet or drawer.

This will help your practice run more smoothly, freeing up your administrators, vet techs, and veterinarians to focus on what really matters: your adorable patients! 

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About Sortly

Sortly is a top-rated inventory management software solution designed to help your veterinary clinic get organized—for good. Whether you’re a small business with just one location or a national chain of clinics, Sortly can help your team track everything from nail clippers to surgical equipment.  

Ready to get your clinic organized today? Start a free trial of Sortly, absolutely free for two weeks!