15 Big Ideas Veterinary DSRs Can Recommend to Boost Feline Care Visits
Back in 2012, the “Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study III – Feline Findings” revealed some major gaps in practice efforts to increase feline visits.
When surveyed practices were asked, “[Have you] implemented changes in the last 2 years to reduce stress for cats?”… 24% said, “No, but we intend to,” and 35% said, “No we do not intend to.” That’s a total of 59% who hadn’t implemented changes to reduce stress — a major barrier to visits.
In addition, when asked, “Has [the] staff been trained to make cat visit less stressful?”… 31% of the survey participants said No.
To address these issues, the team behind the Bayer study recommended that practices follow four main strategies to reverse the trend of low feline visits:
- “Lessen the stress level for cat owners”
- “Enhance the care provided to cats”
- “Increase visits” (through client education and stress-lowering experiences)
- “Build a reputation as a cat friendly practice”
Today — five years after the Bayer study report was released — we’re finding that not much has changed when it comes to increasing feline visits.
Yet, feline care represents 80% of a practice’s growth potential, IF practices can compel clients to bring in their pets.
As a DSR (Distribution Sales Representative) visiting practices every day — you can help clinics embrace cat-friendly strategies and boost feline care visits.
You’re in luck because we have super-power help on this subject.
Gary D. Norsworthy, DVM, DABVP (Feline) is the owner of Alamo Feline
Health Center in San Antonio, Texas, one of the largest feline practices
in the world. He’s also the editor and major author of seven feline textbooks (the newest textbook will be published at the end of this year) used by students and veterinary practitioners around the world.
Who better to provide you with great advice on how to help practices
increase feline care?
Here are Dr. Norsworthy’s “Top Ten Ways to Increase the Feline Part of
Your Practice” tips to pass along to every clinic you visit.
You’ll see many opportunities here to open conversations about staff training, new equipment, new treatments, and other solutions you offer.
- “One of the most important things cat owners want to know is a) do you love cats, and b) do you love MY cat. Decorate your office with cat things, handle cats appropriately but compassionately, have a dedicated exam room just for cats, keep cats away from dogs in your waiting room, hospital, and boarding facility. This dovetails with #2.
- Have cat-friendly staff, including doctors. MANY receptionists, technicians, and veterinarians LOVE dogs and only somewhat tolerate cats. Cat owners pick up on that immediately. Don't let your cat haters around feline patients and their owners.
- Don't be a referralist. Determine to learn how to do diagnostic and therapeutic procedures so you can keep your cases in-house. This will not happen overnight, but it will pay huge rewards.
- Invest in new technology and equipment. You will need to do this to properly diagnose and treat your challenging cases. If you do not have an ultrasound machine or digital x-rays, get them.
- Do most of your routine blood tests in-house. There are many very good machines available that give you reliable answers in 15 minutes. This approach give you answers while your clients are in your exam room. Strike while the iron is hot. It is much easier to get compliance at the time people are focused on their cats' problems. Many will cool off or be otherwise focused by tomorrow.
- Concerning convenience, if possible, do procedures the same day you see the cats or admit them for the procedure tomorrow. The best example is teeth cleanings. The hardest part of most feline visits is catching the cat and transporting it to the clinic. Don't make the client do it twice. The cat will probably be much smarter tomorrow.
- Have office hours that are client friendly. Working 9-5 restricts your practice to retirees. You need to offer early (7:00 AM) appointments or, at least, drop offs. and 6:30-7:00 pickups. Convenience is a huge determinant in the services everyone chooses.
- Become conversant with diseases that require long-term care. Examples include chronic kidney disease, diabetes, IBD, and lymphoma. We now have very good treatments for all of these. Be proactive in diagnosing and treating them. (Go to Norsworthy seminars to find out how!)
- As much as possible, don't take cats ‘to the back.’ From the client's perspective, ‘the back’ is where you go when you don't want them to see what you are doing. I draw blood, collect urine, and do ultrasound exams with the client present. This can be an opportunity to show how much you love cats and how you can handle them properly.
- Learn how to handle cats properly. Learn what to expect from cats by reading their body language. This takes practice and patience. Over-restraint is a real turn-off to clients. Under-restraint will get someone scratched or bitten. Proper restraint is acceptable to clients and gets the job done without abusing the cat.
Those are my ‘secret tips’ to my success.”
Now, the title of this post is “15 Big Ideas” — so what are Tips 11-15?
Debbie Boone, BS, CCS, CVPM, owner of 2 Manage Vets Consulting, LLC, weighed in on thesubject.Debbie is on the Fear Free(sm) Advisory Board, and she consults practices on becoming Fear Free Certified. We asked
her, “Is there anything DSRs can do to help practices pick up the pace
on feline care?”
Here are Debbie’s tips for success (Tips 11-15):
- “Quite often, clients don’t bring in their cats because it’s such a struggle. They struggle to get their cats into the carrier for the practice visit, and then find it difficult to bring their cats into the lobby in front of dogs. This is traumatizing to the cat and its owner.
Encourage practices to use the Fear Free tools, educate clients, and create positive experiences for cats and owners. If they can do this, clients will come in more often.
- We assume pet owners understand very basic things, but they don’t. I train all the Patterson University communication and customer service classes, and we talk about how many clients can’t tell a male from a female pet. Practices need to provide handouts and ask questions to make sure clients understand the importance of regular feline care.
- Practices can use social media to highlight the trouble cats can get into; even house cats. Ask, ‘How much time does your cat spend outside the walls of your home? Does he or she spend time on a deck or in a screened porch.? If so, it’s possible to become infected by a parasite and we need to see your cat.’
- A hands-on comprehensive physical exam is the best thing we can do for any animal. Try to get cat owners to schedule a physical exam twice a year. Owners do not know about medicine, science and symptomology, so they miss something important. Again, if the visits are positive experiences, clients are more likely to return.
- Address other common problems in cats. For instance, 70% of cats over age of 3 have a tooth resorption, which is very painful and you can’t see it without an x-ray. Many clients free-feed their cats, so they don’t notice that the cat isn’t eating. We need to help pet owners understand that the cat will decline rapidly when hidden problems aren’t addressed.”
Debbie noted that one of her clients, Caring Heart Animal Hospital in Matthews, NC, started following cat-friendly practices through the Fear Free program and other efforts. As a result, their practice has grown tremendously in the past year… even to the point of adding an associate.
You may want to show your customers their Cat Cubby demo video on their Fear Free web page for inspiration.
There you have it. 15 big ideas to discuss with every practice you visit.
Be sure to make a note of when you bring up feline visits with each practice, and which tips are embraced, so you can help your customers track how feline visits pick up over time.
Then, help them celebrate their efforts in supporting healthier cats!