Ask Emily: Stop the bleeding: How to keep tabs on in-house use and waste

January 26, 2021
Emily Shiver, CVPM, CCFP

Emily Shiver, CVPM, CCFP, is regional director of operations at the Family Vet Group, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Shiver resides in Florida.

Experienced practice manager Emily Shiver shares her top 3 strategies for tracking in-house item use and waste at your veterinary hospital.

Our team at and Firstline magazine asked experienced practice manager Emily Shiver to answer your questions about life in practice for managers, technicians, assistants, client service receptionists, and more. Got a question for her? Email us at

Tracking in-house use and waste is just as important as your quarterly inventory counts. After all, they are a part of your inventory, which is the second-largest expense at your veterinary practice. Once you dive in and start tracking, you’ll realize that in-house use, waste, and discounting have something in common—all are sources of financial bleeding.

If you have a spreadsheet in each zone of your practice, you take something off the shelf to use in-house, write it on the list, and once a month, the inventory manager makes the adjustment in the PIMS software. Sounds simple right? Fast forward to quarterly count time and you are scratching your head wondering how on earth you are missing so many bags of pill pockets.

Face it, practice life is busy, and your team members are most likely not writing down every single item they take off the shelf. For example, they may have been pulled away to help a client and forgot to add pill pockets to the list. Let’s make this process easier because wasting products is like literally flushing money down the toilet.

To help stop the bleeding, consider these 3 simple steps.

Step 1: Create an in-house use list by zone

Go to each zone of your hospital and ask the team what items they pull off the shelf. Then, compile a comprehensive list. Some examples for an inpatient/surgery/dental zone would be:

  • Eye lubricant
  • Gloves
  • Candles
  • Cologne
  • Shampoo
  • Food for hospitalized patients
  • Pill pockets

Step 2: Create an allowance

Analyze previous in-house use sheets for a few months and add anything you were missing from quarterly counts. Then utilize this information to develop a monthly allowance for each zone. An example (for the above list) would be:

  • Eye Lubricant - 6 tubes
  • Gloves - 10 boxes
  • Candles - 2
  • Cologne - 2 bottles
  • Shampoo - 1 gallon
  • Food for hospitalized patients - 2 cases of canned and a 17lb-bag of dry food
  • Pill pockets - 2 cases

It will take you a couple of months to see the impact of your new allowance. So, take time to determine if you will end the month with extra products or if you have to add more throughout the month. Then adjust your allowance accordingly. Once you have this down to a science, help your team to stay within their budget.

Step 3: Raise awareness about waste

Create a waste log for each zone and include the item that is being wasted, the quantity, and who wasted it. If a team member wastes a product of any kind, it needs to be added to the list. Here are a few examples of potentially wasted products:

  • Vaccines
  • Broken injectables
  • Cytopoint
  • Catheters

Motivate your team to be part of the solution by doing the following:

  • Posting the monthly waste total
  • Setting a goal for the coming month(s)
  • Updating the total weekly in a visible location
  • Celebrating small and large victories

Raising awareness about waste through a fun challenge will make people think twice about pulling up that vaccine before the doctor or owner gives consent. Out of sight, out of mind is real, and once you start putting totals in plain sight, your team will respond positively.

While these solutions may seem a bit elementary, at my former practice, every zone stayed within their monthly allowance with zero complaints. The team also appreciated not having to remember to write down every item. A bonus: We experienced a 70% decrease in our waste.

I implore you to start putting these measures into practice. I promise you won’t regret it.

Emily Shiver, CVPM, CCFP, regional director of operations at the Family Vet Group in Florida.