The importance of putting a human face — the veterinarian’s — on pet-care advice

In recent years we’ve seen more pet owners go to Dr. Google for veterinary advice and to 1-800-YouKnowWho for their pet’s medication. What have we lost? I know a great many veterinarians — especially those who own practices — will look at the bottom line and think of the income we’ve lost, right off the bat.

That’s very important, of course, and I don’t want to minimize it. If we cannot keep the doors open, we simply cannot help anyone — not ourselves and our families, not our employees and their families, and not pets and the people who care for and about them.

But revenue is not the only loss we’ve seen. There’s arguably a greater one: We’ve also lost the ability to communicate with the pet-owners we’re not seeing because they’re not coming in. And that means we can’t help them not only with  their pets’ care but also  by showing them how a pet’s good health is essential to the entire family. Case in point: When people don’t ask veterinarians for advice on their pets’ health they end up with products that  their veterinarian probably doesn’t recommend — and that may not be safe around their children.  From Philadelphia Inquirer this week:

Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced an agreement with two companies to take pet collars containing the chemical propoxur off the market. After an assessment, the agency found “unacceptable risks to children” the first day after the collar is put onto the pet. […] Under the terms of the agreement, the companies […] can distribute the products until April 1, 2016. Even after that, stores can sell them until all are gone.

Here’s the rest of the story.  This one reason why as a veterinarian I am so keen on preventive-care plans such as our Preventive & Wellness Services (VPI P&WS). Staying well truly is the new get well, and you can’t give sound preventive-care advice to pet-owners you aren’t getting in the door. Preventive-care payment plans such as those set up through P&WS get new pet-owners on board — and keeping them coming back. I’ve seen the research, and I know it’s true: Give people a way to break preventive care into small monthly payments and they’ll bring their pet in for that essential care. And that means you’ll have a better shot at giving them advice on the safest and most effective kinds of parasite control, among other things. Need a place to start? Check out the Partners for Healthy Pets website, and then let us help you develop plans that will keep your clients coming back for your advice.

Speaking of a shot:  I think most veterinarians will react the way I did when I saw this post by Dr. Scott Weese. DVM, DVSc. DACVIM. Dr. Weese is a professor at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph and a zoonotic disease/public health Microbiologist at the University of Guelph’s Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses. Writing for the Worms & Germs weblog, he mentions  a “natural” care media outlet’s advice on keeping puppies protected from infectious disease: Expose them to those diseases. What could happen? He writes:

Sure, it might work.
— The puppy might get exposed to enough virus to develop an immune response but not cause disease.
— Or the puppy might get sick and require expensive veterinary care.
— Or the puppy might get sick and die.
— Or the puppy might do any one of the three above and also spread the virus to other susceptible dogs, whose owners didn’t make the conscious – and dumb – choice to purposefully expose their dogs to these potentially fatal viruses.

Here’s the rest of the post. We know that free advice is — the saying goes — worth what you pay for it. Sometimes it’s worth a lot less. Kudos to Dr. Weese for working so hard to counter bad advice, and to keep both pets and people safer and healthier.

Speaking of communications: Dr. Susan Little’s advice on getting senior cats to eat is fantastic, as are her tips on how to communicate them to your clients. does a wonderful job presenting these kinds of brief videos on all kinds of topics of interest to the veterinary community, and they do a great job. I will say, though, there was on tip I didn’t know — and know I do! Thanks, Dr. Little! (It’s about what kinds of dishes cats prefer, and it’s towards the end, so keep watching.) Here’s a link.