Notes on preventive medicine, client education, and overall pet wellness from Adam Christman, DVM, MBA
I was having dinner last month and a client approached me, inquiring why my colleague was “overvaccinating” her dog with so many “shots.” She was pleasant and trying to understand why the veterinarian “was asking me so many questions about Lola’s lifestyle. Yes, we take her camping. Yes, she goes to doggie day care, and yes, she is our family.” She had a difficult time in making the connection between her pet’s risk factors and why her dog was being vaccinated against infectious diseases. I proceeded to discuss with her the reasons her dog was receiving those vaccines, and at the end of the conversation she understood but then said, “I just feel like you tend to be more like ‘vaccinarians’ these days.”
That got me thinking.... Has the pendulum shifted in the client’s perception of what wellness care means? Or do we have some work ahead of us to better describe what wellness care means for their pet? As veterinary professionals, our primary goal is to ensure the health and well-being of our patients. We are dedicated to treating illnesses and injuries, but it is equally important to emphasize the significance of preventive care. October is National Pet Wellness Month, a perfect time to remind ourselves and our clients about wellness care for our animal companions. And it has come a long way beyond standardized vaccination protocols. Here are reasons why wellness care matters:
Wellness care is about preventing diseases before they take hold, especially zoonotic ones. Routine vaccinations, regular checkups, and preventive medications can protect pets from a range of illnesses including deadly ones like parvovirus and rabies virus. By promoting these preventive measures along with fecal testing, we save pets from suffering and reduce the financial burden on their owners. I always have said that VIP in veterinary medicine stands for Very Individualized Pet. How we customize a vaccination protocol to meet the needs and wants of the pet parent and pet is paramount. Asking questions is critical in creating a vaccine and prevention plan that is best for the pet. Listening to our clients is key to providing exceptional and compassionate veterinary care and creating lifelong trust with them.
Regular wellness exams enable veterinarians to detect health issues at their earliest stages. This is particularly crucial for diseases like cancer, where early intervention can make a significant difference in prognosis while increasing the chances of successful treatment and survival. Our profession has come far with liquid biopsy for cancer screening. I am also seeing a lot of clinics recommend DNA testing for their patients. We now know that this testing is crucial in recognizing genomic markers that can be a precursor for disease and illness. In fact, several clinics are promoting DNA testing early in puppies and kittens to increase compliance for pet insurance.
Preventive care is not just about preventing illness; it is also about enhancing a pet’s quality of life. I love that we now have senior wellness preventive programs in place for our aging pets. Customization is crucial for the aging pet. Regular dental cleanings, proper nutrition, and weight management contribute to healthier and happier pets. Taking a proactive approach to recognizing and understanding pain in pets is equally vital in discussing wellness care with our clients.
We should not dedicate just 1 month to wellness care, but October is a great reminder to keep it top of mind. Wellness care for pets is like regular maintenance for a car—it keeps everything running smoothly, prevents breakdowns, and ensures a longer and healthier journey. Here are some ways you and your team can keep wellness care as your nucleus for practicing good medicine:
One of the most effective ways to emphasize the importance of wellness care is through client education. Provide your clients with video information, brochures, pamphlets, and online resources that explain the benefits of preventive care. Encourage them to ask questions and address their concerns with patience and empathy. If you want to level up client education, host a virtual “happy hour.” This can be a registered event where you rotate your staff and doctors through a monthly discussion on various wellness topics.
We know the importance of pet insurance, but it can be confusing to clients. Providing tools and resources for clients to learn will help empower their decision-making. Wellness plans offer a convenient way for pet owners to budget for preventive care. Consider offering wellness packages that include annual checkups, vaccinations, dental cleanings, and parasite control at a bundled rate. This can incentivize clients to commit to regular care for their pets.
Leverage digital platforms to keep wellness care on your clients’ minds. Knowing your audience makes a difference and will enhance your clientele knowledge base. Perhaps your clients prefer mailers vs text messages. Share informative posts, videos, and infographics on social media that highlight the importance of wellness care for all life stages of pets. Inclusive marketing sends a powerful signal for wellness care for all ages. Send out monthly email newsletters with tips on maintaining a healthy pet lifestyle and appointments.
Collaborate with pet stores, groomers, and boarding facilities to promote pet wellness. Develop cross-promotional partnerships where clients can receive discounts or incentives for using multiple pet-related services. This reinforces the message that wellness care is a holistic approach to pet health.
We are the trusted voice for our clients. Nothing sends a stronger signal to your community than displaying your dog or cat receiving a physical exam by you or someone else in the practice and spotlighting it on your blog or social media. This sends a powerful message to your clientele: “Even we take our pets to the veterinarian for a checkup.”
National Pet Wellness Month serves as a valuable reminder of the critical role we play as veterinarians in promoting the health and happiness of our patients. By continuously emphasizing the importance of wellness care and implementing creative strategies to keep it at the forefront of our clients’ minds, we can make a lasting impact on the well-being of pets in our care. Let us seize this opportunity to educate, inspire, and collaborate with pet owners to ensure that their beloved companions enjoy long, healthy, and joyful lives.