Report explores disconnect over preventive care

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The fifth annual State of Pet Health Report from Banfield Pet Hospital, released Aug. 12 at Banfield’s Pet Healthcare Industry Summit, attempts to answer this question: “What is the disconnect between how veterinarians position preventive care to pet owners and what pet owners truly believe?”

Vincent Bradley, Banfield president and chief executive officer, said, “It’s no secret that although the veterinary profession is making great strides in prioritizing preventive health care, we still have a long way to go to ensure all pets get the care they deserve.”

MotiveQuest, a consumer research company, analyzed more than 2 million conversations about pet care that appeared in online forums, on blogs, and on Facebook in 2014. The company searched for terms such as these: dog, cat, puppy, kitten, pet, fur baby, pet supply, pet stores, cat food, dog food, veterinarian, vet, pet insurance, pet health, and pet hospital.

InfographicThe resulting report, “Making Pet Care Personal: A Guide to Improving Preventive Care for Pets,” recommends expanding the definition of preventive care. Veterinarians say that preventive care includes vaccines, neutering, and parasite control. Pet owners ask, “What about my pet’s diet, exercise, care, play, and emotional well-being?”

In online conversations, about 81 percent of pet owners say they believe that the pet owner is responsible for preventive care, while just 19 percent believe that the veterinarian is responsible for preventive care.

“For many pet owners, interactions with their veterinarian are not meeting their expectations and are seen as transactional,” according to the report. “They’re tied to specific services, like vaccines or parasite control.”

When pet owners consider the overall wellness of their pets, they turn to day care providers, groomers, boarders, breeders, and trainers for advice.

As mentioned in online conversations, the most common reasons that pets visit the veterinarians are as follows: specific diseases, 13.1 percent; signs of illness, 8.1 percent; behaviors, 7.7 percent; sickness, 7.6 percent; fleas and ticks, 3.5 percent; check-ups, 3.2 percent; and heartworm medication, 2.3 percent. Only the last three categories fall under preventive care.

Pet owners most commonly look online to find additional information about behavior, health concerns, breeds and genetics, and food, nutrition, and diet.

“Veterinarians have an opportunity to listen,” according to the report. “We want a seat at the table—preferably at the head of the table—with other trusted sources like breeders, trainers and groomers so we can partner with them to ensure that pets are getting the care they need.”

Pet owners say, “As a pet owner, I want a veterinarian who ...” does the following:

  • “Advises me, but lets me make decisions.”
  • “Respects me.”
  • “Puts my pet first.”
  • “Goes the extra mile.”

According to the report, “Veterin­arians have significant opportunities to bridge the communications gap, to build a stronger relationship with the pet owner and promote the need for preventive care at every stage of a pet’s life.”

The report offers these recommendations to veterinarians:

  • Service: Highlight the knowledge and expertise of veterinarians—beyond vaccines and parasite control.
  • Understanding: Discuss with owners their pets’ health, social skills, and behavior and expectations for their pets’ future.
  • Long-term planning: Incorporate discussions early on about pets’ life stages, breed-specific needs, and personalized care.
  • Relationships: Focus communications on relationships between pets, owners, and veterinarians; emphasize the pure joy of pet parenting, not just medical care.

Related JAVMA content:

Banfield finds increase in FIV, borreliosis (June 1, 2014)

Banfield: Spaying, neutering correlate with longer lives (July 01, 2013)

Banfield report reveals increase in overweight pets, arthritis (June 15, 2012)

Banfield reports on state of pet health (June 15, 2011)