Declining client visits
Q. I have noticed a significant drop in feline visits in my hospital and do not know how to address it. Any suggestions?
This is an industry-wide trend and is due at least in part to the fact that, as a profession, we have not emphasized the need
for and value of regular veterinary visits.
Veterinary visits can be stressful for cats and produce anxiety for owners. We must acknowledge that cats and cat owners are
different from dogs and dog owners. We need to make our practices more sensitive to this and make it easier and less traumatic
to take what appears to be a healthy cat to the veterinarian.
Too often an owner will not see the value in examining a seemingly healthy cat. We need to emphasize the fact that signs of
disease can be subtle and cats hide illnesses well. We need to provide a schedule and a facility that make it easier to comply,
and we must demonstrate real value to the pet owner.
Every effort should be made to make feline visits as stress-free and comfortable for both the cat and the cat owner as possible.
I suggest you implement the AAFP's recommendations to establish a Cat Friendly Practice ( http://catvets.com/).
Building a relationship as a trusted adviser and not just as a provider of services is increasingly vital as we differentiate
our practices from all others and establish ourselves as the go-to sources of accurate information.
Q. My clients visit me only when there is a crisis and go to vaccine clinics or less expensive facilities for vaccines. It
is difficult to maintain a hospital–trained staff and state-of-the-art equipment for complicated cases only. Any suggestions?
Unfortunately as a profession we have not done a good job of emphasizing the value of preventive healthcare and regular veterinary
visits. Many pet owners have associated vaccines as the reason they see a veterinarian, and increasingly vaccines have become
commodities that are price-sensitive.
We must learn to impart the value of preventive healthcare, which includes vaccination against infectious diseases as one
component that rounds out a complete and thorough physical examination, parasite prevention and control, and early detection
of disease states.
The Partnership for Pet Preventive Healthcare (http://partnersforhealthypets.org/) is a vital source of information to increase the implementation of wellness guidelines and improve pet health. The goal
has to be to make preventive healthcare as important as disease treatment.
Increasingly, wellness plans, or preventive healthcare plans, that include vaccination are being developed and marketed. The
reality is we need to increase the value perception of preventive healthcare in general.
Michael A. Paul, DVM, has been in the veterinary profession for 40 years in private practice, corporate veterinary medicine,
organized medicine, and not-for-profit foundation leadership. He has presented at national and international meetings and
is a regular contributor to several publications. He is currently the principal of MAGPIE Veterinary Consulting. He lives
in Anguilla, British West Indies.