The business of better diabetic veterinary care


Carrying diabetes products at your veterinary practice is more than a convenience to clients-it's vital to treating the patient immediately before the condition progresses.

There are many challenges to running a successful veterinary practice these days. How you respond to these challenges ultimately will shape the future and viability of your practice. To remain vibrant, it's valuable to identify each area of practice that's hurting.

Jeff Rothstein, DVM

Maybe you're concerned about losing revenue from drug and inventory sales. Some experts say we don't need to worry about this and should focus on medicine and surgery. But product sales are an important part of our financial success and impact our practices' profits and value. I know that when my team makes an effort to provide these products, we're kept in the loop with our clients and can better monitor compliance. It's harder to do that when the products come from other places.

Here's one example of tying good medicine into good business. Diabetes mellitus is one of the more common diseases we see in aging dogs and cats. A number of years ago pet-specific insulin was introduced and marketed to veterinary practices. Many practices, including mine, jumped on board and carried this insulin and associated products, syringes, diets, monitoring equipment, and so on. Carrying these products allowed us to keep a watchful eye on our diabetic patients. We could tell if they were receiving insulin on a regular basis and see how many dosages were administered. We also had a better idea if proper syringes were being utilized, which of course impacted proper dosing.

Unfortunately many practices, including mine, stopped carrying these diabetes-related supplies due to complications with the product and also availability. It has a minor impact on revenue but, worse, we're now out of touch with many of our diabetic patients. The reality is that we don't need to have an all-or-nothing approach to selling products.

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First off, veterinary practices can now carry species-specific insulin products that are available for both cats and dogs. As you know, once diabetes has been diagnosed, it's essential to get the patient started on insulin as soon as possible. However, I've found many times when scripting out treatment that clients delay picking up the product—often for several days or more. Carrying these products is more than a convenience—it's vital to treating the patient right away before the medical condition progresses.

Remember: Diabetes is a serious chronic disease that requires close monitoring by both the client and your clinic team. That's why it's important to design protocols, like yearly health screenings, that help detect diabetes at its earliest stages. When you do discover a new case, explain diabetes treatment to the client in layman's terms using a reference such as, and outline the steps involved with regulating and monitoring the condition. Developing codes for glucose curves and diabetic recheck exams makes it easier on the team to properly invoice services connected to diabetic care, and these codes can also trigger recheck exams and associated treatments.

Carrying diabetes-associated products makes sense. It keeps the practitioner in the loop so you can best keep patients regulated. Remember to price your products and services fairly and appropriately to fit your practice's markup system and region. Some products like glucose monitors may have a small markup of, say, 20 percent, so they're cost-effective, and others may have a small handling fee. Good diabetic care means keeping an eye on your veterinary patients every step of the way. It's the perfect example of good medicine leading to good business.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Jeff Rothstein, MBA, is president of Progressive Pet Animal Hospitals and Management Group in Michigan.

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