The great OTC debate: Flea and tick product sales

Many veterinary practices are worried about parasite product sales slipping, thanks to some products going over the counter. So, is this a good thing or a bad thing? Depends on who you ask.
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Aug 01, 2010
By dvm360.com staff
Bring up the issue of flea and tick product sales to veterinarians, and you might get an earful. Some practice owners are furious with the companies for offering the products over the counter after relying on veterinarians for so many years to promote their products. Others see it as a great way to spread the word about parasite control and increase compliance. And the response from still others? Eh ... c’est la vie.

But no matter what, there's no turning back now, so you might as well do what you can to keep your business strong in light of these changes, says Dr. Karen Felsted, CPA, MS, CVPM, CEO of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues. You can still generate revenue from product sales, Dr. Felsted says—you just have to be smart about it. And start with education.

"Everyone in the practice should have two or three sentences ready about why a particular product is beneficial," Dr. Felsted says. If team members use the product for their own pet, even better. "If you have a compelling story to tell when clients are there, they'll go ahead and buy it from you," Dr. Felsted says.

But keep an eye on industry prices, she adds. Clients will buy flea and tick products from you because they trust your expertise—and you can charge a little bit more than pet stores because of the value-add of convenience—but they'll go elsewhere if they can get the products for much cheaper. "Pay more attention to the outside market," Dr. Felsted says. "You have to offer a reasonably competitive price."

One last tip: Send reminders. Work with your team to set up a system to alert clients about parasite control every three or six months, just like you do with vaccines, Dr. Felsted says. Often clients just need that last little push before buying flea and tick products from your practice.

Data source: 2010 Veterinary Economics State of the Industry Study

The complete package:
How do you feel about flea and tick control products being sold over the counter?
Your colleagues vent: A view from both sides
Crush the critters—looking for more on flea and tick prevention?
Crush the critters
Looking for more on flea and tick prevention? Visit the Parasitology Center at dvm360.com/parasitology. You'll find articles, quizzes, and audio and video clips to help you manage cases in your practice and keep patients healthy. But don't hesitate—those bugs aren't going away anytime soon.

The complete package:
How do you feel about flea and tick control products being sold over the counter?
Your colleagues vent: A view from both sides
Crush the critters—looking for more on flea and tick prevention?