Bottoms up for better pet health
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes. That's especially true when it comes to zoonotic parasites. To catch parasitic infections early—and highlight the need for prevention—the team at Fidalgo Animal Medical Center in Anacortes, Wash., has made fecal screenings part of the routine.
"Instead of running fecal screens only on patients with GI symptoms or those with suspected parasite infections, we started recommending routine fecal screens for all of our patients," says Annie Pulzone, LVT. "We wanted to increase our patients' health and reduce the risk of zoonotic parasites."
The team began routine testing in November 2008 and immediately saw an improvement in patient health—and in the practice's bottom line. There were no marketing costs involved in launching the program, Pulzone says. Instead team members spread the word, starting from the client's initial phone call. Receptionists ask owners to bring in their pet's stool sample for every wellness exam.Technicians repeat the need for routine testing upon check-in and discuss the dangers of parasites. During the exam, veterinarians also reinforce the protocol. And if clients forget the stool sample, the team encourages them to drop it off later in the day, without needing to bring back their pets.
"Clients have come to expect this as part of our annual wellness exam," says Pulzone. "On annual wellness exam and vaccination reminders, we include a line asking clients to bring in their pet's stool sample."
Patient benefits aside, the new protocol has made the practice healthier too. "We ran twice as many screenings in 2009, which, of course, means double the revenue," says Pulzone. More clients also started investing in monthly parasite prevention. "The protocol increased sales quite a bit," she says. "We were surprised to see that so many apparently healthy pets had parasites."
Routine fecal screening has brought about dramatic changes for Fidalgo Animal Medical Center. Clients accept the need for regular screening and are more interested in preventing parasite infections than simply treating them after the fact.