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Banfield Report Finds Vet-Client Disconnect

What is preventive care? The answer depends on who is being asked.

A suggestion for veterinarians: Discuss with owners their pets’ health, social skills and behavior.

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Do veterinarians and pet owners speak a different language? That appears to be so, according to a study by Banfield Pet Hospital.

For starters, the Portland, Ore., company discovered that the two groups deviate in the definition of preventive care. With veterinarians, preventive care means checkups, vaccines, spay/neuter surgeries and parasite control. With pet owners, it’s diet, exercise, care and emotional well-being.

And while veterinarians want to be the go-to source of preventive care, pet owners often turn to groomers, boarders, trainers and breeders as trusted sources.

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

Bradley released the company’s fifth annual State of Pet Health Report last week during the Banfield Pet Healthcare Industry Summit.

Previous reports harvested patient data for information about pet life spans, disease prevalence and other issues. The latest report was based on what the company called “online anthropological research.”

“We reviewed more than 2 million online conversations posted to blogs, forums and other social communities for more than a year to learn what pet owners say to each other and where veterinarians may be able to help,” according to the report.

Among other findings:

  • 81 percent of pet owners believe they are responsible for preventive care. Nineteen percent say it’s the veterinarian.
  • Pets most commonly visit a veterinarian because of specific diseases or disease symptoms. Low on the list are preventive care purposes such as check-ups and the dispensing of vaccines or flea, tick and heartworm medications.

Preventive care has taken a back seat in recent years, Banfield noted. A 2011 survey found that dog owners were comfortable waiting 11.4 months between veterinary visits. The interval rose to 16.9 months in 2014.

Under a section of the report titled “What veterinarians can do today,” Banfield recommended:

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