Veterinary groups form coalition to jumpstart visits to veterinarians


St. Louis - The number of veterinary visits is falling, and a new partnership between veterinary associations and animal health companies aims to reverse the trend.

ST. LOUIS — The number of veterinary visits is falling, and a new partnership between veterinary associations and animal-health companies aims to reverse the trend.

The Partnership for Preventive Pet Healthcare was unveiled at the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) annual meeting in July. And its goal is to hasten the call for better preventive care for the 160 million dogs and cats in the United States.

The program, explains Dr. Ron DeHaven, executive vice president and CEO of AVMA, was created in an attempt to mobilize the profession in an effort to better communicate the necessity of preventive care to pet owners. And that will require a fundamental philosophical shift in the way most veterinary practices deliver services.

"The veterinary profession is simply not doing enough to communicate the benefits of preventive pet healthcare to owners," adds Michael Moyer, president of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). And data is showing an inverse relationship between a decline in veterinary visits and double-digit increases in preventable disease conditions like diabetes, ear infections, internal parasites and dental disease. And while the recession didn't cause these trends, it has amplified the health problems for pets.

The groups are asking for veterinarians to adopt a wellness/preventive medicine approach to care rather than relying on sick-animal care. The goal, DeHaven says, is to open access to veterinary care for those pet owners who are not routinely visiting veterinarians.

While veterinary officials have noted a decline in veterinary visits, especially by cat owners, data generated from millions of pet records by Banfield Pet Hospital is showing increases in common and preventable diseases like diabetes, heartworm, internal parasites and dental disease as first reported by DVM Newsmagazine.

There has been a variety of reasons for these trends, AVMA's DeHaven notes, including a sluggish economy, changes in vaccination protocols, the Internet as a source of information for many pet owners, and the growth of online pharmacies and a shift in distribution of flea-and-tick medications.

While there are strategies to compete in all those areas, the economic downturn can be reversed when the profession embraces a wellness platform for veterinary care.

"Proactive and sustained actions must be taken by the profession, the industry and academia," Moyer says.

The problem, he adds, didn't happen overnight; in fact the symptoms have been present for more than a decade.

This new partnership aims to help veterinarians and pet owners by creating guidelines, new educational tools and educational awareness programs directed to pet owners in 2012 or early 2013.

The partnership includes organizations from AVMA, AAHA, Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, Abbott Animal Health, Banfield Pet Hospital, Bayer HealthCare LLC, Boehringer-Ingelheim Vetmedica, Butler Schein Animal Health, Elanco Animal Health, Hill's Pet Nutrition, Merck Animal Health, Merial, MWI Veterinary Supply, Novartis Animal Health, Pfizer Animal Health and Veterinary Pet Insurance.

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