According to a 2003 survey of pet owners conducted by Bardsley and Neidhart, Inc., two-thirds of those surveyed said they are likely to bring their pet to their veterinarian twice a year for a wellness examination if it would improve their pet's quality of life or increase its lifespan.
That same survey showed that almost 90 percent of pet owners consider their pet as one of the family, and nearly 70 percent think their pet's health care is just as important as their own.
It is no surprise; clients clearly want the best health care for their pets. And they want to know what they can do to help their pets live longer, healthier lives.
Helping pet owners learn more about the pet aging process, including why twice-a-year wellness examinations can help their pets live longer and healthier lives, is the focus of a new, clinic-centered educational initiative—National Pet Wellness Month. Sponsored by the AVMA and Fort Dodge Animal Health, and launched at the AVMA Annual Convention in Philadelphia, this year-round educational initiative begins in October.
"One of the first things pet owners need to know is that cats and dogs age faster than people and, because of that fact alone, significant health changes can occur in as little as three to six months," said 2003-2004 AVMA President Jack O. Walther, during the convention launch.
"An exam every six months provides the opportunity for early detection, treatment, or prevention of potentially life-threatening conditions."
The National Pet Wellness Month initiative relies on local veterinary clinics and the unique bond they enjoy as the pet owner's primary source for wellness information. As part of the initiative, veterinarians from around the country are signing up now to receive a unique and free In-Clinic Education Kit. It is designed to easily explain the pet aging process and the steps pet owners can take to enhance the quality of life for their pets.
According to Dr. Walther, "We've seen an increased percentage of aging cats and dogs in this country, resulting, in large part, from advances in veterinary medicine. Through the National Pet Wellness Month initiative, we veterinarians and our clinic staffs now have the tools to better educate our clients about the health benefits of semiannual wellness exams."
Currently, only about one in five veterinary clinics recommends a six-month examination interval for cats and dogs. Immediate steps that veterinarians and their staffs can take to support National Pet Wellness Month at their clinics include the following:
- Order a free In-Clinic Education Kit by e-mailing their name and mailing address to petwellnesslpm-adv [dot] com. Each kit contains a variety of educational tools, including posters, a pet aging wheel, brochures, client reminder cards, a pet wellness checklist, and other literature and point-of-sale material.
- Establish a twice-a-year wellness examination protocol, taking into consideration their location, seasonality, and other pet lifestyle considerations (see "Six-month wellness exam checklist" for suggested screenings).
- Establish an in-clinic pet wellness team and set regular team meeting dates.
- Meet with their team to explain the pet aging process and the health benefits of twice-a-year wellness examinations.
- Review with their team the contents of the In-Clinic Education Kit and determine how to use those materials to increase wellness visibility in their practice.
- Work with their team to establish goals and procedures to improve client compliance with twice-a-year wellness examinations.
- Discuss with their team the best approach for educating clients, including open discussions with clients on aging of their pet, and wellness benefits.
- Encourage their clients to schedule regular, six-month wellness examinations.
Remember, pet owners want to do whatever is best for their best friend.