IMPORTANCE OF COMPANION ANIMAL PREVENTIVE CARE
August 19, 2011
DR JEFF KLAUSNER
Chief Medical Officer, Banfield Pet Hospital
Former Professor and Dean, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine
Applications to vet school - Veterinary education - Internships / residencies - Veterinary workforce - Veterinary practice opportunities - These components of veterinary medicine all impact each other. Today's discussion was about how we can stress in veterinary medical education some factors that will greatly enhance profitability in practice, making veterinary medicine a more enticing career ambition for young people and a more successful career choice. Major points presented were:
#1 - A major problem in companion veterinary medicine is the vicious cycle of loss of profitability in practice. There is much data demonstrating that people are buying fewer new pets and are making fewer visits to the veterinarian. This is driven, in part, by things like multi-year vaccines and availability of parasiticides over the counter, such that people no longer are required to come to the veterinary clinic for care. Loss of sales of medications and other products is reflected in loss of profit for practices, which generate much revenue by service but often do not have appropriate profit margins built into service. As veterinarians raise prices to stay solvent, pet owners may find alternatives, such as looking for information on the Internet and avoiding going to the veterinarian unless their pet is ill. This is not in the pet's best interest, nor is it a good investment on the part of the owner. Lack of opportunity to provide preventive care is an animal welfare issue, a disease prevention issue for both animal and human diseases, and an economic issues for pet owners and business owners. Banfield has mined their extensive medical record database and shown an increase in preventable diseases over the last 5 years; the State of Pet Health Report 2011, at the Banfield website (www.banfield.com).
#2) Veterinary education concerns for our profession revolve around decreasing numbers of applicants per available opening, and increasing student debt without a coincident rise in starting salaries.
#3) Preventive care is the most cost-effective way to improve animal health and maintain companion animal veterinary medicine as a viable business model. The AVMA is partnering with industry, the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges, Banfield, and other groups with the goal of ensuring veterinarians are better equipped to understand and provide preventive care for their clients and ensuring clients come to understand the value of preventive care. This is entitled the Partnership for Preventive Pet Healthcare.
What can colleges of veterinary medicine do to promote this effort?
- Ensure that students have basic knowledge in nutrition, behavior, dentistry, and other aspects of preventive care such as control of internal and external parasites, and breed- and age-associated risks
- Ensure that students understand the importance of preventive care - clients want a healthy pet
- Ensure that students have the skills needed to establish a trusting relationship with clients and understand the importance of those relationships
- Ensure that students know how to communicate the value of services offered
The overall goal for every companion animal veterinarian, whether they are seeing general practice or specialty cases, is to:
- gather a complete history and perform a complete physical examination
- build good rapport with the client
- work toward early detection of disease with subsequent early intervention
- offer value to the client by explaining preventive care through the frame of known risk factors and ways available to manage those risks