Veterinary planning: Do we need to know how many pets there are?

There’s a great deal we don’t know about pets in the United States. We make decent educated guesses, for sure, and we’ve come to rely on numbers from organizations such as the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Pet Products Association. Both the AVMA and APPA put out massive volumes of numbers for study, but they’re working off well-designed surveys for their information. Something akin to an actual count of companion animals we’ll never have, because the U.S. Census Bureau doesn’t ask about pets, and I’m guessing it’s unlikely they ever will. (In fact, if you search the Census Bureau’s site for information about pet-ownership, what you get is the AVMA’s survey results.)

Does it matter if we don’t have information about companion animals on the census?

Consider: Spending on pets adds up to $58.5 billion dollars, according to the APPA (and yes, that’s another educated estimate). When that kind of money is in play, numbers really do matter, especially when it comes to business planning and public policy matters. As  veterinarians, we have a dual responsibility with regard to planning and public policy: We are a key element not only to keeping the animal population healthy, but the human one as well. Accurate information helps in that regard as well.

Maybe it’s time we have a spot in the next census. While many will no doubt scoff at counting companion animals and others will consider it a further invasion of privacy, the information gleaned from having what’s the closest we can get to an actual count of how many companion animals (and what kinds) can be put to good use in advancing both animal and human well-being. And it will help to keep our nearly $60 billion industry (and all those related jobs) healthy as well. (’s policy blogger, Mark Cushing,  also has some thoughts on the matter, here.)

More post-AAHA notes from my reading this week:

Speaking of data: The New York Times seems to have gone to the dogs in recent years, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I’m constantly finding articles of interest to our profession there, whether it’s about student loans (a story based on facts that our VPI-Veterinary Economics Financial Health Study confirmed in many areas) or the latest trends in pet products. The NYT’s story coming out of the APPA’s Global Pet Expo is about pet gadgets. Aside from the “oh, cool!” (or “how silly!”)  aspect of many of these electronic devices, I have to wonder if we can employ them to help our clients keep their pets more active — and hence, at a proper, healthier weight.  We’ll have to see if these gadgets are anything more than  novelty in the years to come.

Generation after generation: Would you want your child to be a veterinarian? It seems as if the urge to follow in a family tradition is undeniable in some clans. I have to admit I loved this article from the AVMA, about families in which the love of veterinary medicine is passed down through the generations, in this case from father to daughter:

“I know how medicine was practiced a long time ago with no computers and the file card and price sheet in hand,” [ Dr. Scott Gounaris] said. “And now the drugs are different and the standards of care are much higher. Legally, we’re more responsible for things now, too. I’m looking forward to teaching her, but I’m looking forward to learning about new advancements in the veterinary field from her as well.”

Dr. Gouraris’ daughter Rebecca is a member of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine‘s Class of 2016. I wish her (and all veterinary students) the very best as they enter our profession!

Efficiency in veterinary medicine:  The article isn’t really about veterinary medicine or dogs (although it seems like that on the surface). But if you want a boost to start your week, check out the discussion of the efficiencies we take for granted in veterinary medicine. Some of the comments are interesting, but don’t wade in unless you want to deal with all the heated discussion surrounding the Affordable Care Act. Yes, human medicine can learn from us in some ways, and vice versa.

He’s ba-a-a-a-ck: The National Geographic channel found itself with a hit on its hand when is put a show by a Southern California dog trainer names Cesar Millan. Not long after, it seemed that every veterinary behaviorist was calling for the cancellation of the popular show. When it finally ended, it was because Millan wanted a break — the outcry had nothing to do with it. And now he’s back with a new show. While his life story is an interesting one, I have to side with my colleagues when it comes to his techniques. Be prepared to discuss this controversy with your clients. As for NatGeo, wouldn’t it be nice if they offered some animal-related programming that reflected current standards and practices? They also have “The Incredible Dr. Pol,” who seems to take pride in retaining his “old school” ways, to the horror of many colleagues.

Are dogs better than an alarm clock? I always like to end a post on an upbeat note, ideally with something to make readers laugh or smile. Click here for this week’s, a compilation of videos of dogs who really, really want their people to wake up, now.