Petco retreats from ‘Pet Check’ program

The America Veterinary Medical Association, which persuaded Petco to change its “7-point Pet Care Check,” which could have discouraged pet owners from seeking veterinary care

Might pet owners view groomers as de facto veterinarians?

Yes, says the America Veterinary Medical Association, which persuaded Petco to change the retail chain’s “7-point Pet Care Check.” The campaign called on Petco groomers to examine a pet’s eyes, ears, teeth, nose, underside, skin, coat, nails and pads to “make sure nothing looks or feels abnormal.”

AVMA officials “received calls, comments and posts from AVMA members and state veterinary medical associations who felt Petco’s new ad campaign could cause confusion as to roles of the veterinarians and groomers,” spokeswoman Sharon Curtis Granskog said.

San Diego-based Petco tweaked its marketing and advertising to make clear that the pet check “is not a substitute for regular examinations and care from a licensed veterinarian.”

The company reported that it took quick action to correct any confusion.

“We welcomed the constructive, collaborative engagement with the AVMA and as a result have voluntarily made clarifications to our recent grooming campaign,” spokeswoman Megan E. Oxford said.

Did hospital owners think Pet Care Check posed a threat to their livelihood?

“Absolutely,” said Miami veterinarian Patty Khuly, DVM, MBA, a Veterinary Practice News columnist and graduate of the Wharton School of Business.

Groomers conducting pet checkups “erode the authority of the veterinary profession while undermining the value of the physical examination,” Dr. Khuly said. “Both pose serious risks to both short-term income and longterm viability of the profession.”

The World Pet Association, an industry group representing retailers and service providers, saw no economic danger to clinic owners.

“We have no reason to believe that Petco’s campaign was intended to put veterinarians out of business,” WPA President Doug Poindexter said.

“This episode has given groomers and veterinarians a great opportunity to publicly address and define their respective areas of expertise, reinforcing the notion that both vets and groomers play different, important roles in pet care,” he said.

Where should the line be drawn?

“Grooming professionals who suspect that an animal has a health issue should recommend that a veterinarian evaluate the pet,” Poindexter said.

Linda Easton, president of the trade group International Professional Groomers Inc., said her members must “be very careful not to cross the line into an area we have not been trained for.”

Unfortunately, she said, “It is common for owners to ask medical questions of their groomers. IPG certification specifically states groomers are not trained to offer medical advice and should not do so.”

She advised against grooming wellness checks because the service “may give owners a false sense of their pet’s health and well-being.”

“In some areas, veterinarians encourage groomers to empty anal glands, clean ears and trim nails,” Easton said. “In other areas, there are more limitations on groomers. Our certified groomers are trained to communicate with their local veterinarians about these matters.”


Originally published in the August 2016 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today! 

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