Veterinarians and team members have been working for years to educate pet owners about the care pets need to stay healthy.
And undoubtedly we've made progress. Many pet owners simply don't understand the need for routine care throughout their pets'
lives. They're ignoring your recommendation for checkups and wellness visits and think of the veterinary clinic as a place
for pets who need shots, not regular care. The bottom line is, pets aren't getting the care they need, and dangerous illnesses
are going undetected and untreated.
Results from a recent study show that we still have a long way to go. This finding comes from the Bayer Veterinary Care Usage
Study, a research initiative conducted by Bayer Animal Health, the National Commission on Veterinary Economic issues, and
Brakke Consulting. Concerned that the number of dog and cat visits to veterinary clinics was decreasing at the same time the
pet population was increasing, the study's authors set out to measure what exactly pet owners thought about the need for veterinary
services and whether pets were getting adequate care.
The study identified six key reasons that visits have been declining: the U.S. recession, the fragmentation of veterinary
services, the Internet, a lack of understanding about the need for care, sticker shock, and feline resistance to transportation
to the veterinarian. (For details, see "6 factors that lead to fewer visits to the veterinary practice"). While you can't necessarily do much in your practice about the recession or the fragmentation of services in the market,
there are many things you can do to address the other four factors, starting with educating pet owners about the care their
REACH OUT TO PET OWNERS
Like many veterinarians, you likely spend so much time immersed in pet care that you forget not every pet owner knows what
you know. This study is clearly a wake-up call. Thirty-six percent of pet owners surveyed said that were it not for vaccinations,
they wouldn't take their pet to the veterinarian. And 24 percent said they thought routine checkups were unnecessary. (See
"Pet owner attitudes toward routine exams").
This lack of knowledge is alarming. It indicates that many pets aren't getting even the minimum level of care they need. When
pet owners don't bring their pets in for regular exams, they miss the chance to have a veterinarian spot something like heartworm
disease or kidney failure—invisible conditions that have serious consequences if left untreated. These pet owners also miss
the opportunity to learn how to take better care of their pet at home—for example, feeding the best kind of diet and keeping
the pet on a parasite prevention program.
Perhaps no surprise, clients with "indoor pets" (and we all know there's no such thing as a pet that never ever goes outdoors) thought their pets needed less care than outdoor pets and were less likely to have visited the veterinarian
in the past year. In fact, 15 percent of pet owners said they thought indoor pets didn't need checkups at all. These pet owners
don't understand that while an indoor pet is less likely to be hit by a car or involved in a fight, it's just as likely to
get cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, or another serious ailment.
More surprising is the fact that pet owners with older animals were also less likely to have seen the veterinarian in the
past year. The idea that older pets need less care than younger ones makes no sense, but that's exactly what pet owners seem
On a positive note, survey participants indicated that education can make a difference in the care they provide their pets.
A large percentage of dog and cat owners said they would take their pet to the veterinarian more often if they really believed
the pet needed exams more often, if it would help their pet live longer, and if they knew they could prevent problems and
expensive treatment later. (See "Reasons clients would visit the veterinarian more often")