Ah, summer time. Lazy days outdoors, barbecues with friends, happy times with fireworks. They all sound great, yes?
Well, these situations and many other summer-specific circumstances can cause big health threats to dogs and cats — everything from heat stroke to thunderstorm anxiety to toxic plants in bloom.
And practices certainly see a jump in visits due to "summer issues" now through Labor Day.
So how can you help the practices in your area prepare for this busy season?
By making sure they have all the equipment, supplies and tools they need on hand. Here's a handy list you can review with each of your customers during sales calls.
1. Heat stroke/dehydration
Sadly, it's time again to remind everyone that pets should NEVER be left in hot cars. It's astounding to see another news story where someone left their dog in the car while they went shopping on a hot summer day. Veterinary practices see all kinds of cases of heatstroke from pets being left out in the heat for too long, even in shady back yards that you wouldn't consider too hot.
Heat stroke treatment usually involves fluid and mineral replacement, monitoring electrolytes, detecting and addressing secondary conditions such as elevated blood pressure, and keeping tabs on overall wellbeing and recovery. Ask practices about the age of their monitoring equipment (such as electrolyte analyzers) and whether or not they have plenty of IV fluids and supplies avaliable.2. Burns from hot pavement and BBQ grills
In a PetSitters.org article called, "How Hot is That Sidewalk?", we learn just how dangerous hot pavement can be for dogs' feet. The report included data from several areas of the country and noted, "The pavement temperature data I measured on the 95° day in South Florida was simply stunning. During the peak overhead sun periods, black pavement temperatures hit 140°F in mid afternoon between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. They exceeded 120° on blacktop between 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., which is still above the pain thresholds for most dogs… you will eventually cause permanent damage or blistering with continuous exposure." The same goes for those tempting meats sizzling away on BBQ grills. Dogs will be lured toward them and can be burned as a result.
Burn treatment depends on the case, of course, but may include antibiotics (to heal infections), pain medications, and bandaging the feet. In the worst cases, treatment will require hopsitalization, IV fluids, antibiotics, pain meds and more. Check with practices to see how they manage pet burns and if they're stocked with everything they need.
3. Anxiety related to thunderstorms and fireworks
July 4th is one of the busiest times of the year for veterinary practices, and also the biggest day for lost pets to be reported… mainly because fireworks terrify pets, causing them severe stress and even "runaway syndrome." In addition, many animals suffer from anxeity due to frequent thunderstorms that can occur in the summer.
Talk about these issues with your customers. What do they recommend to clients? Quite often, practices carry claming aids (prescription solutions as well as holistic or natural alternatives)… so you'll want to make sure your customers have pleny of stock on hand.4. Bug bites: mosquitos, ticks, etc.
While vector-borne diseases can occur all year long, this is the peak season for pet threats from mosquitos, ticks and other pests (even skunks!). Ask your customers about their protocols for heartworm, Lyme and other diseases that may be prevalent in your region. Are they screening all pets? Working hard to prompt prevention compliance? Keeping track of incidence rates?
As your customers answer these questions, they'll open the door for you to discuss screening tests, preventatives, statistics, client-education tools from manufacturers, new products, summer specials, etc.5. Travel with pets: safety, meds, microchip
These days, dogs are often brought along on family summer vacations. But quite often we hear about pets that run away in unfamilar locations, or the family forgot to bring along the dog's preventatives, prescription diets, etc.
Suggest that your customers create a "pet travel checklist and toolkit" with their clients. This many include a wellness check before the trip, making sure all prescriptions are current and filled, doing any necessary vaccine updates, stocking up on preventatives, prescription food, etc. — and most of all, checking for microchips and updated contact infromation. These steps and products will help families stay prepared and keep their pets safe during travel (while boosting clinic visits and purchases for your customers).6. Toxic foods, plants and foreigh objects
According to the Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, toxin ingestions and gastrointestinal foreign material (swallowed "foreign objects") are among their top ten reasons for pet ER visits. This is probably true across the country. And in the summer, toxins are EVERYWHERE.
Dogs, in particular, can't wait to grab a bite off the picnic table, or scarf up that dropped ice cream cone, or nose through a delicious-smelling trash bag on the curb. And of course, dogs find anything to be interesting — toys, string, balloons, a fresh pile of dog poo, you name it. In addition, all those glorious plants coming to life just mean there are oodles of chances for pets to nibble on something that will make them sick. The ASPCA comes to the rescue again with printable lists of plants that are toxic to dogs, cats and horses. You may be shocked to see how many plants are on the list, including some of the most popular garden plants enjoyed by homeowners, gardeners and landscapers.
Once again, here's a topic to bring up with practices. Do they have everything they need to manage toxic ingestion and foreign body cases this summer? Create a checklist to be sure, and mention any client-education materials available from product manufacturers.
Now that we've named six summer pet-threats that practices must deal with, here's an opportunity you may want to mention: summer boarding is summer care time!
Suggest to practices that they provide summer boarding add-ons to their customers — services they can offer during the pet's stay, for the owner's convenience. This many include adding on a skin exam, laser-therapy treatment session, dental cleaning, wellness checkup, bath and nail trim, and other upsells that help improve the practice's per-client value. As you talk about these add-ons, always check – "Dr., do you have everything you need to offer more of those services this month?"
We hope these ideas will help summer 2016 be a profitable sizzler for your customers and you, while more pets get the care they need to bounce back from those seasonal threats.