the American Veterinary Medical Association’s annual conference in
St. Louis, Missouri, USA, in July, several sessions and press conferences
focused on one significant issue: an overall 17% decrease in veterinary visits
for US pets over the past two years. This sobering figure comes from the Bayer
Veterinary Care Usage Study, a collaboration among Bayer Healthcare, Brakke Consulting and the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues.
It was conducted in two phases.
2,000 US dog and cat owners, the first phase identified six root causes for the
decline in vet visits, including the economic impact of the recession (no
surprise there), plus cost of veterinary care, fragmentation of veterinary
services, a perception that regular veterinary checkups are unnecessary and cats’
resistance to being caged, transported and handled.
final cause should sound familiar to many petfood manufacturers: use of the
Internet vs. office visits—39% of respondents said they look online if their
pet gets sick or injured, before consulting a veterinarian. For our industry,
it would be use of the Internet vs. reliable, science-based sources of information
on petfood and pet nutrition.
the second phase, 401 US veterinarians were surveyed, showing a gap between pet
owners and veterinarians in terms of providing long-term health care for pets. The
study did develop some recommendations for veterinarians to combat
the downward trends and negative owner perceptions (see www.bayer-ah.com/news.cfm). But nowhere
was there a discussion of nutrition or petfood.
is no surprise: There seems to be a huge disconnect between veterinary
care and nutrition. Most US veterinarians would admit their formal education on
companion animal nutrition consisted of one basic course that, in some cases,
had to be taught by a professor from another program because no veterinary
faculty had the knowledge or expertise to teach it.
information on nutrition received after veterinary school usually comes via a
handful of petfood manufacturers that sell through the veterinary channel. Of
course, their products and information are all fine, but let’s face it: That
information is by its very nature prone to be limited and biased.
the dozens and dozens of continuing education sessions offered at this year’s
AVMA conference, I could count the number of nutrition-related sessions on one
hand. Among the 25-30 veterinary groups and associations meeting as part of the
conference or contributing to the educational program, two devoted specifically
to nutrition—the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition and the American College of Veterinary Nutrition—were noticeably
absent. (It was encouraging to see a new group, the Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians, as part of the program.)
a recent study by researchers looking into the petfood buying preferences of
owners of overweight dogs showed that over 83% of owners, no matter what their
dogs’ weight, consider their veterinarians the most important source of
information on dog nutrition (see www.petfoodindustry.com/7709.html). Talk
about a disconnect!
have to wonder: If vets had more solid knowledge and expertise about nutrition
and petfoods to share, would that inspire owners to bring in their pets more
often? Would a call or visit to the veterinary clinic be their first course of
action rather than turning immediately to the Internet?
importantly for our industry, imagine how much your companies and brands would benefit
from better informed and educated vets and a much stronger connection between
them and you.
I agree with the content of your article. In fact, I quoted a portion of it on my blog at http://guidetopetnutrition.com/pet-food-nutrition-do-veterinarians-know-what-to-recommend-68.html. I wish you the best.
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