The coerenza approach: A guide to comprehensive pet care

Commentary
Article
dvm360dvm360 May 2024
Volume 55
Issue 5
Pages: 14

Team collaboration on exercise, enrichment, environment, nutrition, and responsibility can enhance a patient’s quality of life

pet and vet

Photo: Standret/Adobe Stock

Pet ownership is difficult. With endless options, advice, discouragement, and opinions bombarding owners, is it any wonder that clients arrive at our clinics frustrated, bewildered, and overwhelmed? They were thrilled about their new pet and now they are in the cross fire of well-meaning family and friends, pet companies, and social media—all vying for their attention and dollars and offering questionable combinations of advice.

On the flip side, veterinarians and their staff choose this career because of a lifelong desire to care for animals. This is not just a job; this is a core belief system. However, burnout is a huge problem in our industry that has reached epic numbers and proportions.1 Veterinarians are desperately needed and wanted across the country. Because of the rising costs of every facet of running a veterinary office, we now must fight for every dollar, every patient, and every pet just to keep things afloat. Many veterinarians have sought business advice that dictates an increase in productivity, more revenue per transaction, and more transactions per hour.1

The main problem with this reality? The animal loses on both sides. As veterinary clinicians and technicians, we didn’t get into this profession to see as many animals as possible per hour, day after day. Responsible owners want someone who invests as much time and effort in the health and outcomes of their pet as they do.

Taking care of our pets involves more than traditional medical treatments and a transactional business model. It requires a strategy that considers major aspects of their lives to ensure their overall health and happiness.2 This article presents an approach to care, focusing on the 5 essential components: exercise, enrichment, environment, nutrition, and responsibility. I propose that by educating and aligning these cornerstones with owners, veterinarians, and veterinary staffs, we can partner to create a better path of pet ownership that benefits everyone involved. By addressing these core pillars, we also aim to offer support for the mental and emotional well-being of every pet we treat.

Coerenza is an Italian word meaning coherence. Coherence is the logical connection among parts within a system, resulting in a unified whole. This idea of “treat the entire animal” is introduced to every veterinarian in their first semester of veterinary school.2 Shortly afterward, however, to properly study the medicine, we begin to break it down into systems, symptoms, and treatments. Along the way, we forgot to put all those details and minutiae back into perspective. However, a method I call the coerenza approach can redirect our focus to produce better relationships inside the clinic, give concrete advice that has proved to be a successful business model, and create devoted clients in the process.

Creating a collaborative approach among veterinarians, staff, owners, and pets will enhance everyone involved. Over several years of research and development, this approach has proved to work, creating a fostering, cooperative environment that reduces stress, improves quality of care, initiates the concept of preventive medicine, and generates more revenue for veterinary clinics. This is the evolution of animal care because of the proactive focus that treats in a way to avoid injuries and illness; provides a longer, better life; and in the process creates a cohesive, collaborative health team.

Exercise

Regular exercise plays a role in preserving our pets’ well-being and energy levels. Just like humans, it is well documented that pets experience physiologic benefits from activity such as enhanced heart health, weight control, and mental engagement. Making exercise an integral part of their routine helps prevent weight issues, which alleviates stress and boosts fitness.3 Whether it’s going for a walk, engaging in play sessions like fetch, or utilizing toys, games create opportunities for movement, which is essential for maintaining the joy and health of our pets.

Enrichment

Engaging in activities that challenge each pet’s mind is vital for keeping them sharp and preventing boredom or behavior problems. Enrichment involves activities that engage the pet’s senses, curiosity, and natural behaviors. This may include toys, scent-based games, agility training, and opportunities for socializing.4 By offering stimulation and enriching their surroundings, we can improve our pets’ quality of life in addition to supporting their cognitive and emotional well-being.

Environment

Pets, especially dogs, live in 2 dramatically different worlds: an air-conditioned, smooth flooring palace where they rarely get wet or dirty and an outside that holds more smells, textures, and variables than they could ever imagine. Creating and exposing the animal to engaging environments is crucial for maintaining the pet’s health and happiness.5 This includes keeping their living area clean, cozy, and hazard free. Providing spaces for rest, playtime, and exploration enhances their routine and contributes to their overall welfare. Monitoring factors like temperature, humidity levels, and noise can help create a stress-free environment that promotes health.5

Nutrition

Nutrition plays a critical role in our pets’ wellbeing. As the old adage goes, garbage in often means garbage out. A balanced diet tailored to meet their requirements is key to supporting their health and longevity. Each pet has specific needs based on factors such as age, breed, activity level, and health condition.6 With thousands of new brands in the pet food and treat aisle, coupled with polarizing opinions about raw foods or benefits of grainfree foods, there is no wonder that this topic is hotly debated. As every veterinarian and nutritionist knows, there is no single solution that works for all animals.6 We need to help owners cut through the noise to make responsible decisions based on facts and not opinions, likes, or marketing.

Responsibility

In a group of animals, each one has a different role. On the Serengeti Plain, every lion in the pride knows its role in stalking, maneuvering, and securing the next meal. Similarly, in the wild hallways of the Chicago suburbs, each dachshund in the pack knows who the boss is and who is Mom’s favorite. Humor aside, roles and responsibilities play a large part in the lives of animals. Addressing this facet of pet ownership can help negate behavior issues and unnecessary increased stress levels.3

By focusing on exercise, enrichment, environment, nutrition, and responsibility for each pet, we can help improve their overall health and happiness. It’s our responsibility as veterinarians and technicians to prioritize the essential needs of our furry friends so they can enjoy long and fulfilling lives.

The coerenza approach requires dedication, commitment, and consistency, but the upsides include client loyalty and happier and more productive staff who “buy in” to the right type of medicine to practice. Most importantly, it produces healthier, happier pets that are balanced and enjoying a remarkable quality of life, which is the primary reason we were called to treat animals.

REFERENCES

  1. Lloyd JW. Current economic trends affecting the veterinary medical profession. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 2006;36(2):267-279. doi:10.1016/j.cvsm.2005.10.008
  2. Domingues K, Franco NH, Rodrigues I, Stilwell G, Magalh.es-Sant’Ana M. Bibliometric trend analysis of non-conventional (alternative) therapies in veterinary research. Vet Q. 2022;42(1):192-198. doi:10.1080/01652176.2022.2142318
  3. Levine D, Millis DL, Marcellin-Little DJ. Introduction to veterinary physical rehabilitation. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 2005;35(6):1247-1254. doi:10.1016/j.cvsm.2005.07.002
  4. VanLeeuwen JA, Nielsen NO, Waltner-Toews D. Ecosystemhealth: an essential field for veterinary medicine. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1998;212(1):53-57.
  5. Scotney RL. Environmental enrichment in veterinary practice. The Veterinary Nurse. December 1, 2010. Accessed April 15, 2024. https://www.theveterinarynurse.com/content/clinical/environmental-enrichment-in-veterinary-practice/
  6. Davies M. Veterinary clinical nutrition: success stories: anoverview. Proc Nutr Soc. 2016;75(3):392-397. doi:10.1017/S002966511600029X
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