Winter is a good time to educate customers on the products and solutions available for dogs and cats today.
As veterinary dermatology continues to evolve – and new therapeutic products become available– veterinarians have more and more options for addressing skin issues. “Manufacturers have done an excellent job of offering the active ingredients in forms that help increase client compliance, such as shampoos, sprays and wipes,” says Denise Piekarski, dermatology marketing manager, Dechra Veterinary Products. “Distributor sales reps should utilize their manufacturing partners to discuss the active ingredients and forms to increase client compliance.”
In addition, the availability of more topical products has enabled veterinarians to rely less on systemic antibiotics often associated with antibiotic resistance, especially when clients do not comply with a prescription, notes Piekarski. “Because topical products contact the bacteria in such high concentrations, they are rarely associated with the development of resistance,” she explains. As the animal health industry – including pet owners and the medical community as a whole – become increasingly concerned about the threat of resistant organisms, topical dermatology products should play an important role in resolving bacterial skin infections, she says.
Lifelong and year-round
Primary skin conditions, such as flea allergies, adverse food reactions and atopy, are life-long and require constant management, explains Piekarski. “Skin and ear infections tend to be secondary to one or more of the aforementioned allergies and can be caused by a multitude of organisms, including Malassezia pachydermatis (yeast), Staphylococcus pseudintermedius, Demodex mites and others,” she says. “These organisms are responsible for the two main dermatology issues veterinarians see – pyoderma (skin infections) andotitis externa (inflammation/infection of the ear). Most topical therapies also contain additional ingredients that have benefits beyond just addressing the organism, and these are often what set certain brands apart from their competitors.”
Skin disease can occur year-round in some dogs and cats, depending on whether or not their allergies are triggered by a seasonal pollen or another allergen, such as fleas, notes Piekarski. “In cold climates, the winter can be a slower derm season compared to the South, but it is still a good time for sales reps to talk to their customers and educate them on the dermatology products available.”
In colder climates, homes are heated and the humidity evels tend to decrease considerably, she explains. Dry conditions – and the fact that pet owners tend to bathe their pets less frequently in cold-weather months – can be associated with skin issues, such as seborrhea sicca, or simply dry skin in an otherwise normal pet. Dry skin tends to itch more, and when pets scratch their itchy skin, it becomes damaged and more susceptible to infections.
There are many convenient and economical dermatology solutions designed to address dry skin, says Piekarski. Distributor reps can offer their customers:
• Moisturizers, such as those containing oatmeal and fatty acids.
• Products containing ceramides, which aid in moisturizing, repairing, and restoring dry, damaged skin.
• Sprays that permit increased time between bathing.
• Wipes for use on smaller areas or for wiping snowy feet.
• Oral fatty acid supplements containing Omega 3fatty acids.
The cost of care generally increases once pets develop a skin issue, so preventive care is actually less expensive for pet owners, she notes. “Distributor sales reps can provide clinics with manufacturer support materials – including videos, pet owner brochures and proper treatment techniques – to assist with client compliance, as well as educational materials to help veterinarians keep abreast of conditions and products, and ease any objections they may raise, she adds. “Distributor sales reps should work with their manufacturer partners to determine what tools are available to easily identify products that treat these organisms.”
Working with the customer
Distributor sales reps can approach their veterinarian customers with a plan to educate them on their options for treating their patients’ skin issues. “They should start by asking about the frequency of skin issues at the clinic,” says Piekarski. “The answer is usually, ‘high.’” Sales reps should then inquire about what the clinic currently uses to address these issues, and whether they have “clear and specific protocols using modern tools and techniques,” she explains.
From there, Piekarski recommends the following:
• Introduce products that can fill any and all needs, gaps or issues you identify, such as products for yeast infections, bacterial infections, recurrent infections in allergic dogs, etc.
• Work with manufacturer sales reps that specialize in dermatology products and can educate you on the product or portfolio you intend to introduce.
• Look into programs that support your sales efforts with new clinics, specialty practices and hospitals that could use an update in their methods.
• Provide CE or in-clinic education to bring veterinarians and staff members up to speed on new products.
• Introduce practices to other helpful resources, such as those offered through the American College of Veterinary Dermatology or professional guidelines(e.g., AAHA guidelines).
• Attend meetings where dermatologists speak about dermatology.
“Distributor sales reps may also want to recommend that clinics view skin conditions as a small part of the dermatological management of patients,” says Piekarski.“Dogs rarely have an isolated skin infection or issue without another underlying dermatologic condition. A skin infection may just be the tip of the iceberg and will never clear until the root cause is addressed.
“Sales reps should follow a needs-based approach when discussing dermatology products, focusing on the best products, materials and protocols for each clinic’s situation, she says. Once a clinic has success with the recommended products, reps can introduce additional products to expand or enhance the clinic’s capabilities, she adds.
Any successful treatment depends on the client’s compliance. “Distributor sales reps can provide clinics with support materials – videos, pet owner brochures and proper treatment techniques– to assist with pet owner compliance, says Piekarski. “To make sure clients comply with treatment and follow-up, veterinarians need to set realistic expectations about the longevity of each condition. Since many skin issues are secondary to allergy, they generally require lifelong – or at least long-term – care, and only a few skin conditions are truly curable.”
Good communication between veterinarians and their clients is essential to ensure pet owners have realistic expectations about their pet’s skin condition. “In the case of allergies, these skin conditions are controllable with lifelong management,” says Piekarski. “The benefits of managing allergic cases in the general practice are maintaining client relationships, decreasing severity of symptoms and improving the human-animal bond. It is also a continual source of revenue (e.g., exams, product sales, etc.) and bonding when clients are satisfied by their pet’s response to the treatment plan.
“Pet owners often become frustrated with unresolved dermatology issues, causing them to leave practices for a second opinion,” she continues. “Managing dermatologic issues medically, and managing the client’s expectations, helps create a long-term relationship between pet owner sand the practice.”