Plan your attack on pet obesity—veterinary patients' lives depend on it
If it seems like you're seeing more and more overweight pets, you're right. The 2012 Banfield Pet Hospital State of Pet Health study reported a 37 percent increase in the number of overweight dogs and a 90 percent increase in the number of overweight cats during the past five years—and you are well aware that obesity in pets is also linked to diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and high blood pressure.
This problem clearly isn't going away anytime soon. So what can your practice do to better educate pet owners and actively help pets lose weight?
Walk the walkThe 2009 Veterinary Economics State of the Industry report showed a distinct gap between the recommendations veterinarians made to clients and the kind of care veterinarians and other team members provided to their own pets. Before employees can counsel clients effectively, they need to genuinely understand the issues and how to deal with them.
Schedule a series of days for everyone in the practice (doctors included) to bring in all of their pets—no hiding the plump ones at home. Use this opportunity to examine and weigh each pet and assign a body condition score. If needed, determine a weight-loss goal and make a plan.
This isn't meant to be punitive—you can make it fun and educational. Use some of the pets as the focus of one or more staff meetings and training sessions. One idea is to have everyone assign a body condition score to a pet and use the results to discuss what pets should look like, what each body score category means and what the right treatment is for this pet. Give a prize for the employee who correctly guesses the body score. Also recognize that everyone's home routines and pet relationships are different and strategies that work for one pet and one pet owner (or employee) may not work for others.
Once you've weighed all the pets, start your own Biggest Loser contest for employees' pets, track the results regularly and award prizes to the winners. Use the success stories when talking with clients. Post before-and-after pictures in your reception area, on your Web site, in your newsletter and on social media. Share what worked and what didn't work.
Starting with team members' pets brings this issue closer to home and helps them understand the challenges clients face. Now when they talk to clients, it's about something they've lived through, not just an issue they've read or heard about.