I have written and talked about discount vaccine clinics and shot wagons that pull up to human pharmacies, feed stores, and even gas stations to give vaccines for their pets without examinations or even a medical history. I have called out the veterinarians that do this as unethical and demeaning to the noble profession of veterinary medicine, and blamed them for providing a grossly inferior level of preventative care, sold effectively and dishonestly as a cheaper, but equal to what general practices offer.
However true that may, it has recently come to my attention that rather than focus on these entities that are here to stay no matter what little regard “real” veterinarians have for them and no matter how much I rant and about them, they are here to stay, and we (the “real” veterinary industry) are part of the reason these places emerged to begin with. The truth is, that well before discount shot clinics and shot wagons became rampant in our industry, starting more than a decade ago, preventative veterinary well visits started to decline and have continued to do so. Thus, the finger we should be pointing first and foremost is at ourselves.
The Telling Statistics
24% of pet owners feel that routine check-ups are unnecessary.1
33% pf pet owners say that they would only take their pet to a veterinarian if he/she was sick.1
As previously stated, veterinary visits have been declining for almost a decade.1
Preventable but deadly diseases like distemper, parvo, leptospirosis, and lyme disease are on the rise.1
1 in 4 pets has his/her health compromised as he/she lives with a preventable parasite, some of which put the human family at risk.1
1 in 3 pets has their lives shortened and their quality of life compromised because of health consequences and chronic pain from living with dental disease.1
Banfield Pet Hospital. State of Pet Health 2011 Report, Volume 1.
Now more than at any other time of my career, I am presented with pets riddled with disease that is too far gone to realistically successfully treat, but could likely have been treated if it had been detected earlier through yearly routine visits.
As a practitioner of veterinary medicine that chose this career path first and foremost for love of animals and to help them and the families that love them as vital family members, these statistics are very distressing to me. At some point along the way, we have failed to convey to pet owners the importance of preventative pet health care, to make them understand how badly things can go for their pets when they do not comply with our recommendations, and heed our advice. Why is this the case? Have pet owners just become increasingly more stubborn than they were in past years? Have they become increasingly less caring of the pets? The answer to both questions is resoundingly no.
The problem lies with an increase in complacency about preventative medicine. It is not that as general practitioners we do not believe in a yearly examinations, stool and heartworm screening, and administration of flea tick and internal parasite preventatives. The problem is that we became so accustomed to excellent pet owner compliance with preventative medicine that our communication skills with regard to the topic diminished. For years, as people saw their pets living longer and healthier – by in large because of a long enjoyed era of preventative veterinary health care – as we no longer effectively communicated the reasons for things we recommend, pet owner perception of the value of preventative health care offered by general practice has waned.
As much as I enjoy treating emergencies, working up challenging medicine cases, and performing lifesaving surgery, I have become reinvigorated in my dedication to connecting with pet owners about the importance of preventative pet health care. I am revamping the entire culture of my practice, from the client care advisors at the front desk and patient care advisors that take medical history and initiate the visit; to the certified veterinary technicians and doctors.
We will not simply go through the motions of a preventative health care visits. We will explain every nuance of the wellness visit, discuss each infectious disease that we immunize for given the patient’s life style and/or geographical risk factors. We will explain why we screen for parasites and recommend safe medications to prevent them. We will do all this, not by lecturing to the pet owner, but by having an open, honest, sincere, and respectful discussion with each client.
For you, my beloved fans that take the time to read my posts and listen to my podcast, but many live too far away to connect with me directly in my veterinary practice, I will offer you the next best thing: begin a preventative pet health care series that details each aspect of the preventative health care visit and why it is important. It is time that we all reconnect with the value of preventative medicine, to embrace it and enable our pets to live longer, with better quality of life, and our human families risk kept to a minimum. Thus, stay tuned, as there is much more on this topic to come.
See Follow Up Preventative Pet Health Care Posts By Dr. Roger Welton:
Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne, FL, Chief Editor of the Veterinary Advice and Information Website, Web-DVM, and founder/CEO of Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care.