Comprehensive animal health services for the 21st century
Until the 1930's, most veterinarians cared principally for large animals involved in food production in rural, agricultural communities. However, as more people migrated from the farm to cities, companion veterinary practices emerged to provide their clients with pet health services. Even so, pet health services grew slowly. In fact, 1985 marked the first time that more than 50 percent of AVMA members reported working in small-animal medicine, providing only companion veterinary services.
Today, companion veterinary practices have changed dramatically, evolving with technological and medical advancements and the growing knowledge of pet owners.
Progress in animal health services
Advancements and investments in companion animal care are driving solid growth in pet health spending and increasing consumer expectations. Even during significant economic downturns, the entire pet-care market seems “recession defiant," if not entirely recession proof, according to Packaged Facts' study of the U.S. pet market in 2020.
For example, during the Great Recession of 2008 and so far in the COVID-19 era, an increase in pet ownership protected the pet-care market from losses seen in other sectors. In March, April, and May 2020, which correspond with the "initial COVID-19 impact era," 5% of U.S. adults adopted a dog, 4% adopted a cat, and 4% adopted other types of pets, such as small mammals and lizards, according to Packaged Facts. This surge in pet acquisition drove demand for higher-ticket items such as habitats and crates as well as bedding and toys.
Better pet nutrition, as families moved from feeding their companion animals table scraps to commercial food improved pet health. Other key health advancements also improved the lives of pets: Vaccines eliminated deadly diseases for the most part; routine spay / neuter surgeries now represent the norm in many communities; and parasite prevention improvements made keeping pets and homes parasite free much easier.
Progress in animal health services comes much faster these days. Thanks to the 24-hour news cycle and easy access to online information and social media, consumers are better informed about the potential for comprehensive animal health. Fair warning, though, it's now much easier for clients to comparison shop for companion veterinary practices and to see how different hospitals measure up.
Core elements of comprehensive animal health services
Routine/preventive care. Pets live longer now because of safe, effective preventive care and better nutrition. While vaccines still play a critical role in protecting pets, routine care includes so much more now — from parasite protection and dental care to microchips and behavioral enrichment.
Sick pet and value-added care. Technology and other innovations in veterinary medicine let practitioners offer more options for pets with injuries or illnesses — acute, chronic, or otherwise. Veterinarians can diagnose and treat many more conditions and diseases than they did in the past, enabling their clients to manage their pets' chronic illnesses more effectively. Newer tools and medications provide far more pain control and healing, too.
In-house protocols, systems, and technology. Companion veterinary practices can harness powerful practice management and other tech tools to help them provide pet health care to their patients and better service to their clients.
To pull together everything required to deliver comprehensive pet health care, individual practices must:
- Define what comprehensive care means to you
- Integrate pet-care efforts onsite and in patients' homes
- Provide responsive communications with clients
- Maintain systems that seamlessly deliver on every promise of top-notch care and client service
- Use technology attuned to specific veterinary needs
Core elements of success
True comprehensive care should meet both the medical needs of pets and the ever-growing expectations of pet owners. Companion vets and practice managers should position their teams to integrate veterinary care advancements and define comprehensive pet health care for future generations.