When Banfield’s State of Pet Health 2015 was released, it shed light on some worrying statistics. Beyond reflecting the general decline in the use of veterinary services (dogs averaged 1.5 visits in 2006, down from a mean of 1.9 visits in 2001), it suggested that veterinarians and pet owners are increasingly operating on two totally different wavelengths, with our conversation topics and vocabulary diverging sharply from the common concerns of pet owners.
While the majority of veterinarians want to speak about vaccines, spay/neuter, & parasite control, pet owners are most concerned with their pet's diet, exercise, play, and emotional well-being. These differences are creating less schedule routine visits, more emergency situations, and more pet owners seeking Dr. Google.
There’s two ways we can apply this information. Either veterinary professionals must change their rhetoric to match the expectations of their clients, or we need to do a better job educating the public about why we advocate for preventative medicine like antiparasitics, dental cleanings, and vaccine protocols.
Here at VitusVet, we fall somewhere in the middle. Yes, we believe that veterinarians need to emphasize warmth and emotional support in the exam room, and take additional time to think about behavior, nutrition, and mental health as essential parts of the routine check-up. But also believe in educating clients about the most pressing health threats, even when these conversations may be difficult or awkward.
The reason owners are concerned with diet, exercise, and emotional well being is because their concern for their pets mimic the issues most present in their everyday lives.
Millennials are now the largest pet owning demographic, and they are (on average) more committed to health and wellness as a function of exercise and diet. They consume news and media at lightening speed and adapt their choices and habits instantly based on the latest recommendations (85% of Millennials say staying current on news is important, while 65% of them seek news daily). The enormous glut of pet food varieties appearing on supermarket shelves, the presence of mental health issues in news and media, and a new focus on healthy eating and fitness (but not weight, oddly enough), combine to explain this novel outlook on pet care.
If vets want parasite protection and healthy teeth to be among pet owners’ main concerns, we need pet owners to encounter our arguments more frequently in their everyday lives, and take up the banner of our cause on social media. A reminder email twice a year that reads like a plea to spend more money (interruption marketing is about as transparent as saran wrap, these days) is not going to do the job.
We need to harness new media to get the word out. Entertaining YouTube channels. Informative blogs. Apps. Press releases. Social media campaigns. You get the idea. Imagine if we replaced #DonaldTrumpTheMovie with #HeartwormLivesDontMatter. If we build a cause, we build a solution. And step one is to win the support of Millennials as advocates for pet health. We need an army of Bob Barker’s for the next generation.
VitusVet exists because we want veterinary medicine to evolve with the times, stay relevant, and reach out to a new generation of pet owners who are ill-served by the current communication tools. Demand for human healthcare is constant, there is no reason pet care shouldn't be the same.
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