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Case Study: Sampler packs boost dietary compliance


To get pets eating appropriate diets quickly, this doctor offers clients a sampler pack of the therapeutic diets he recommends for cats with kidney disease.

"Kidney disease is the No. 1 disease I diagnose," says Dr. Arnold Plotnick, DABVP, DACVIM, owner of Manhattan Cat Specialists in New York. "And cats with kidney disease that eat appropriate diets live longer." The key, he says, is for clients to try each of the available diets until he or she finds one the pet will accept.

To get pets eating appropriately as soon as possible, Dr. Plotnick sells sampler packs, which include a can of each of the six therapeutic diets he recommends for cats with kidney disease. He says that even fussy cats usually like at least one of the six. "We donít currently offer sampler packs of the dry food. Itís a little too labor intensive," Dr. Plotnick says.

"If I'm pretty certain a patient has kidney disease, I send the client home with the sampler pack and say, 'Any of the therapeutic diets in this sampler pack is acceptable and will work for your pet. So, use whichever your cat enjoys most.' " says Dr. Plotnick. "Or, if I call the client to tell her the results of the blood test, I ask her to come in to purchase a sampler pack."

Dr. Plotnick then has the client gradually transition the cat to one of the new diets, usually over three or four days. "I tell the client that sudden changes in diet can sometimes cause vomiting or diarrhea. If the cat likes the new diet after this transition period, the owner can keep the cat on that food or try one of the other samples, again introducing the new food over three to four days," he says.

More than 90 percent of his clients purchase a sampler pack and follow his therapeutic diet recommendations for their pets. "I probably see fewer compliance problems than a regular companion animal practice would, because clients who seek out a feline-only practice like mine are generally crazy about their pets," he says.

Dr. Plotnick charges $6 for the kidney disease diet sampler pack. A technician or receptionist puts together 15 packs at a time and records them in the practice management software. The system alerts team members when theyíve sold 12 packs and need to make more, Dr. Plotnick says.

The team has sold 52 sampler packs since July. Although $312 isn't a huge boost to practice income, Dr. Plotnick says these clients find the right food for their pets faster, increasing compliance. And because of their trust in his recommendations, the pet owners keep returning to purchase the diet.

You could also develop sampler packs for overweight cats or those with struvite crystalluria. "Basically, you could use this strategy for any illness that treatment requires a dietary change," Dr. Plotnick says.

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