Help your customers prepare for warmer temperatures and busier travel schedules for pets and their owners
As you’re paging or scrolling through this Vet-Advantage April issue, it probably feels like summer is just around the corner. (For some of us across the country, February felt like summer was just days away – but who’s complaining?) The warm weather brings changes and challenges for companion animals, and in turn, lots of opportunities for your veterinary customers to build stronger relationships and loyalty with pet owners. The expertise and recommendations you provide now can help everyone have a successful summer.
More time spent outside means an increased chance of exposure to parasites, diseases, and injury for animals. Clinics who take a proactive approach and stress the importance of prevention to their customers can help their pets avoid potentially dangerous – and costly – health issues while increasing practice revenue and client satisfaction.
Importance of prevention
Leptospirosis is a serious zoonotic disease that historically, few veterinarians recommended vaccinating against, but things have changed over the past five or six years. Today, leptospirosis is far more prevalent and vaccines are much safer, so with dogs at an increased risk of exposure during the summer, now is an excellent time to discuss adding lepto to your clinics’ vaccine protocol. Leptospirosis is spread mainly by contact with water or soil contaminated by the urine of infected animals. In the past, mainly roaming rural dogs or hunting dogs were considered at risk, but thanks to a warmer, wetter climate, urban growth, and so many unvaccinated animals, now ALL dogs of all sizes are at risk. Urban dogs can even be exposed due to rat urine on city sidewalks. In one study, 90 percent of rats tested carried at least one Leptospira species. Be prepared to talk about the safety and cross-protection of leptospirosis vaccines and provide your veterinarians with up-to-date information they can pass on to their customers.
Warm weather brings out an abundance of parasites lurking where families and their pets enjoy the outdoors, so it’s the perfect time to remind pet owners of the dangers parasites pose and increase compliance to prevent them. The convenience and easy administration of prescription oral flea and tick chewables are a great selling point for veterinarians to regain lost revenue from over-the-counter preventives. Testimonials from customers and clinic staff are an excellent way to showcase the effectiveness of these products.
Clinics that are proactive in educating their clients on the importance of a comprehensive approach to preventing fleas, ticks, mosquitos and intestinal parasites will not only build customer loyalty, but increase profits. A 2014 study by the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) and Bayer showed that 9 of 10 veterinary clients want to be notified of a high incidence of parasites in their county, and 89 percent stated they were likely to set up an appointment for testing and prevention. Veterinary clinics can set themselves apart by reaching out to their customers with localized, targeted information about pests and disease risks on their Facebook page, Twitter, and via text or email. They should be sure to always include a message to contact the clinic to find out how to protect the pet. If you work with practices within a certain geographic area, go the extra mile and pass on any relevant information you run across concerning potential health threats in their region.
My husband and I took the plunge and bought a travel trailer last year – in large part to camp with our dogs. Our first weekend we learned that just about everyone who camps has at least one dog – and a surprising number of cats – with them, too. Pet owners love to take their companions with them almost everywhere, and veterinarians can help make traveling with pets safer and more enjoyable. Obviously, vaccinations are a must, along with parasite prevention – particularly for vacationers taking their pets into areas known for heartworm, Lyme or other tick-borne diseases.
The summer travel season is an ideal time to discuss the importance of microchipping as the best way to ensure that a lost pet is returned, whether it’s miles from home or gets loose on a walk in the neighborhood. The internet is full of heartwarming stories of lost pets reunited with their owners thanks to a microchip, and forwarding these examples to your clinics gives them some great testimonials to share, both during appointments and on social media to promote the effectiveness of permanent identification. For pets that may not take so well to travel, make sure your clinics are well-stocked on products to prevent motion sickness, digestive upsets and diarrhea, along with Bordetella vaccine for those dogs that will be in a boarding kennel while their owners are out of town.
The advent of summer brings with it two seasonal events that many pet owners (including yours truly) dread – thunderstorms and fireworks. A 2016 online survey conducted by the Harris Poll and commissioned by Zoetis found that 44 percent of dog owners reported their dogs show signs of noise aversion – the “behavioral, emotional and clinical signs of fear and anxiety” in response to loud noises. This can include everything from trembling, panting, pacing and whining to dangerous escape behavior and property destruction. July 5 is generally one of the busiest days of the year for animal shelters, dealing with pets who have escaped or run away during Independence Day fireworks celebrations, and with dogs who may be surrendered due to behavior issues resulting from noise aversion.
Many pet owners don’t consider noise aversion as a medical condition that can become more severe if it isn’t addressed and treated. Veterinarians who take the time to educate their customers on this issue and offer solutions can have a positive effect on the wellbeing of pets and their owners. Be prepared to discuss the many items available – from prescription medications to homeopathic and pheromone products and anxiety wraps. Behavioral problems are the number one reason pets are relinquished to shelters, so recommending effective products can help to strengthen the bond between owners and their animals.
Take the time to familiarize yourself with the impacts that warm weather can have on the health and wellbeing of pets and their people, talk to your customers about the products that can prevent problems or provide solutions, and you can all look forward to a summer of success.