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Lab work for the elderly

Article

Regular diagnostic testing for senior dogs and cats is plenty profitable, says Dr. Thomas Burns, owner of Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod in South Yarmouth, Mass.

Regular diagnostic testing for senior dogs and cats is plenty profitable, says Dr. Thomas Burns, owner of Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod in South Yarmouth, Mass. Dr. Burns saw a 33 percent increase in gross revenue in his first year as owner when he added a new associate, increased fees, and—yes—instituted regular senior workups. "It's good medicine," he says. "We present it to clients financially like this: 'We're not doing as much vaccination, so we can focus on preventive work.'"

Dr. Burns' clinic runs tests every six months on senior pets: for dogs, a CBC, comprehensive chemistry profile, and urinalysis with an optional T4 panel or fecal exam at the discretion of the doctor; for cats, a CBC, comprehensive chemistry profile, T4 panel, and urinalysis with optional FeLV/FIV testing for at-risk cats. Owners of geriatric pets (cats more than 12 year old, and dogs 7 to 12 years and older) are offered chest radiographs (dogs), yearly tonometry checks (at-risk dog breeds), and blood pressure checks (cats).

Dr. Burns says that if you thoroughly explain to clients the need for senior-pet diagnostics and routine exams, you get compliance. "It's surprising. Clients who don't go to their doctor every year have no problem showing up with their pet every six months," he says.

And all that profitable diagnostic work serves a much greater purpose. "I can't tell you how many pets I've helped just with a routine fecal," Dr. Burns says. "And there's no other protocol that's benefited a certain segment of the pet population as much as senior diagnostics."

Dr. Burns' latest success story is a 13-year-old mixed-breed dog, Helga, who was diagnosed with a splenic mass after a routine exam and lab tests. After surgery, Helga is comfortable and has more quality time with her family. And those are the kinds of results that make Dr. Burns and his team the happiest.

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