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Veterinary medicine has advanced at lightning speed in the last couple of decades. We know so much more now about preventing and curing disease and treating chronic illness, a fact that I’m reminded of at every veterinary conference. But how often are we faced with pet-owners whose own understanding of good medicine seems to have stopped years if not decades ago?

There are things you can do to change this.

Are you taking advantage of all the information and assistance that’s out there for you, much of it free? Things like our dental health graphic to educate your clients? Do your clients know the full benefit of preventive care? Are you offering them wellness plans that help them to pay for it? Do you discuss pet health insurance when clients bring in new puppies or kittens?

We need to adapt to a changing world, and that includes those of us in veterinary medicine. We have no choice, really.

The New York Times recently ran an article about the impact on business of a struggling middle class, and I couldn’t help but think of veterinarians, and the impact of these trends on our already challenged profession:

As politicians and pundits in Washington continue to spar over whether economic inequality is in fact deepening, in corporate America there really is no debate at all. The post-recession reality is that the customer base for businesses that appeal to the middle class is shrinking as the top tier pulls even further away.

If there is any doubt, the speed at which companies are adapting to the new consumer landscape serves as very convincing evidence. Within top consulting firms and among Wall Street analysts, the shift is being described with a frankness more often associated with left-wing academics than business experts.

“Those consumers who have capital like real estate and stocks and are in the top 20 percent are feeling pretty good,” said John G. Maxwell, head of the global retail and consumer practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The folks who are not in the top 20 percent? They’re hurting, and that’s hurting the veterinary community.

No, we’re not helped when “Dr. Google” undermines the true expertise of the veterinarian, or when misrepresentations such as the recent “20/20” piece pop up. But these things are outside of our control, and we can counter them whent we in the veterinary community keep working on sharing the facts and providing ways for people who want to provide good medical care for their pets to continue to do so.

As a veterinarian, I’m in this to help you, and to help the animals we all love.

We’ve made a commitment to step up our game at  Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI). As the nation’s first and still the largest pet health insurer, we have the information and the reach to support the veterinary community — and we’re doing just that.

Our VPI-Veterinary Economics Financial Health Study being talked about as an example of our commitment to the veterinary community. Start here with a download of what we shared at NAVC, and if you’re at WVC, come to our back-to-back presentations on open sessions on Tuesday, February 18 (8 a.m. and 9 a.m., South Seas F, Level 3).

I’m putting the final edits of an expanded White Paper that will be released at the same time, and we’ll continue to share information from this vital study in the weeks and months to follow.

Watch this space …

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How important are pets in our culture? Very important, I’d say, and if you have any doubt at all, check out this advertisement intended to encourage people to sign up for health coverage. No matter how you feel about the Affordable Care Act, you can’t help noticing what this says about the power of pets. I wonder if this will get some people thinking about better healthcare for their companion animals, as well?