Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts About Pet Food"

This is the title of a book by Ann N. Martin that exposes the fact that euthanized dogs and cats have traditionally been appallingly common ingredients in many commercial pet foods. In addition to this practice, Ann also contends that pet food companies have been known to include other less than wholesome ingredients to fulfill minimum nutrient requirements, such as: diseased cattle, contaminated meat, moldy grain, roadkill, and rancid fats from restaurants to name a few. At first glance, these charges may seem outrageous, but upon reading the book, the sources of information are quite credible. There is also the reality that if one really looked into what went into the creation of a hot dog prepared for human consumption, these claims would not seem so over the top for pet food.

Further evidence of abysmal ingredients being included in the production of commercial pet food was detailed in the reputable news show 20/20 on an episode aired last year that confirmed allot of what Ann Martin's book claims. From personal experience, I recall after performing necropsy (post mortem examination for the determination of cause of death) in pathology lab during my senior year of veterinary school, unless owners were interested in arranging burial or private cremation, the carcasses and body parts were stored in barrels that were periodically picked up and transferred to rendering plants. Rendering is the process by which animal tissue waste is converted into valued, stable materials that are utilized in the production of many items ranging from glue to soaps and moisturizing creams. In her book, Ann Martin contends that in addition to these items, nutrients derived from rendered animal tissue waste end up in many commercial pet foods.

Whether or not one chooses to believe Ann N Martin and/or the 20/20 pet food expose piece, one cannot deny that there is enough credible evidence to at least consider the possibility that many pet foods are derived from what most pet owners would consider dreadful ingredients. What's more, in an industry that is still grossly unregulated, pet food labels are allowed to be deceiving, gaining pet owning consumers' trust with less than forthright presentations of pet food ingredients. In her book, Ann N Martin presents the limited information offered in this blog post in much greater detail, as well as delves into a great many other unspeakable ingredients that end up in pet food. She also explains the deceptiveness of the pet food labels, and the reasons they are so misleading.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Online Pet Medication Retailers Hurt The Pet Owning Consumer In The Long Run

As the popularity of purchasing pet medications from online pet medication retailers continues to increase, it becomes an ever increasingly controversial aspect of the pet health care industry. Veterinarians are disturbed by this trend first and foremost because of the loss of pet medication revenue being funneled instead to large pet medication online corporations. From an ethical standpoint, the sale of many of these medications occurs by unethical means, that is, manufacturers whose policy is to enforce quality control by making their products veterinarian exclusive, have this policy circumvented by online pet med corporations that entice a few o greedy vets into buying mass quantities of these medications on their behalf to be channeled into the online retail market for a fee. According to the May 2008 edition of Veterinary Practice News in an article titled "Product Diversion," the online retail pet med market diverts $200 million to $300 million per year on flea preventive medication alone, representing a staggering amount of revenue lost for veternary clinics.

When pet owners choose to save a buck by using these outlets, they think that they are getting one over on the system and sticking it to us greedy vets, but they never stop realize that they hurt themselves, other pet owners, and the community as a whole in the long run. From a strictly economical standpoint, when pet owners choose to buy their pet medications from an online pharmacy rather than a local veterinary clinic, they divert their money from their local economy, and instead feed a corporate giant could that not care less about the economic stability of their city. Local veterinary clinics use revenue to provide health care for their employees and provide them with regular bonuses and raises. Health care, bonuses, and regular raises allows veterinary clinic employees the financial freedom to spend, thereby infusing their own money in the local economy.

Revenue is also used by many clinics to give back to the community. In my clinic, we donate net profits on certain products to a memorial fund established to provide health care for pets of the less fortunate that could not otherwise afford it. We also provide significantly discounted health care services for many animal rescue groups in our county. We are but one example of countless veterinary clinics that engage in giving back to the community for the benefit of animals and pet owners.

By choking off a significant share of the pet care industry's revenue by choosing to patronize corporate giants for your pet health medication needs, veterinary clinics are left with a diminished capacity to provide for their staff and engage in community works. As this trend approaches a critical point where revenue is lost to the point that practice ability to maintain quality employee standards (a situation that is already occuring), practice owners have no choice than to either cut staff, cut benefits, and/or seek alternate ways to make up for that revenue.

One aspect of veterinary medicine that corporate giants cannot touch or capitalize on or exploit is our minds and our skills. With preventive medical sales becoming increassingly a less significant source of revenue for veterinary clinics, practices are gradually establishing a shift where a greater focus is placed on services rather than products. As a result, while the online pet med retail shopper may save $5.00 to $15.00 on preventive medications, they and other pet owners will pay more for examinations, dental prophylaxis, in-hospital treatments, surgeries, and just about any other aspect of veterinary medicine that falls under the category of "services." The Veterinary Practice News Article quoted from earlier in this post is actually a how-to article for veterinarians to begin a veterinary practice paradigm shift from a reliance on product sales to a greater reliance on revenue procured from services, as the result of the increasing popularity of online pet med retailers.

The ones that indeed get hurt the most from online pet med retailers are the many pet owners that continue to choose purchase their preventive medications from veterinary clinics. They unfortunately share in the burden of increased costs of services at no fault of their own. However, while pet owners who frequent online pet med retailers may save a little here and there, when the time comes that their pets require veterinary services to maintain or sustain their pet's health, they too will feel this burden, and in the long run, their preventive medications savings will be at best minimal, if not negated or worse.

My message to all that order pet meds from online pet med retailers is to realize that you purchase veterinarian exclusive medications that are obtained by unethical means dictated by greed above all. If this does not detract you from buying meds online, then consider that you contribute to the compromise of your local economy by funnelling your local money out of your community an into the pockets of corporations. Consider also that this loss of veterinary practice revenue comes at the cost of maintaining optimal employment conditions for veterinary practice staff and leaves us less disposable income to engage in community works that help people and animals of the community. Finally, know that in the long run, your patronage of online pet med retailers will ultimately cost you significantly more in pet health care services, likely negating any savings you may have gained under the best of circumstances. However, for the pet owners that loyally purchase their products from veterinary clinics, through no fault of their own, have to help shoulder the burden of increased cost of services that your actions contributed to.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Long Overdue "Thank You" To My Pet Owning Clients

Client relations can be the single most frustrating and stressful aspect of veterinary medicine. The medicine and surgery for the most part are the enjoyable aspects of the veterinary industry, and while challenging cases can lead to difficulty and stress, this stress pales in comparison to the strain poor client behavior places on a practice. Whether clients are difficult because they are ignorant, demanding, stubborn, overbearing, callus, or downright mentally ill, client actions or lack thereof can make for an occasional disagreeable work environment. Given this reality and our human tendency to more acutely remember bad situations as opposed to the more pleasant ones we experience, many of my posts reflect client troubles, especially in my "Incredible But True" segment.

What unfortunately gets overlooked when these few bad apples take center stage in our minds, are the thousands of dedicated, compassionate, generous, and amicable people I feel privileged to call my clients. While I remain ever cognisant of these quality individuals, the recent outpouring of well wishes, cards, and gifts that came with the recent birth of my son (who came early by a tense emergency c-section), I was emphatically reminded of the the kindness of the majority of my clients. Subsequently, this post is dedicated to showcasing the wonderful ways that clients brighten our lives.

Leading up to holidays, clients frequently surprise us with home baked goods, sandwich platters, candy, flowers, and other goodies. Our office becomes so overflowed around Christmas time that we have to dedicate an entire 4x6 cork board to hang all the greeting cards up, and the food and treats fill up all the spare space in our treatment area.

Many clients bring us food and treats when even there is no holiday, just because they want to do something nice for us. One particular client that travels a great deal and has several pets that are treated by us, always presents a neat little gift from yet another interesting place he has just returned from visiting. Another client who frequently brings his beloved black lab in for yearly visits and grooming, always makes it a point to bring the office a box of freshly prepared, still warm, Krispy Kream Donuts.

Other clients astound me with their dedication to their pets. One gentlemen works an extra job to pay for all of his dog's veterinary care, with all of his dogs having been obtained by rescue. Recently, a lady who had been putting off a well needed knee surgery for her dog for some time, booked it finally, apologizing that she took so long, but explaining that she had to wait to get her IRS tax return check to pay for the procedure. Another dear client that is disabled and cannot walk or drive, brings her shihtzus in on her lap as she navigates the streets and sidewalks on her motorized wheelchair, in the process having to cross a busy highway to reach my office.

So often my day is brightened repeatedly by clients that come in for visits that I have known and built a repore with for so long, that I consider them friends. Interaction is so casual and enjoyable with these clients, that appointments often take on more a manner of social pleasantry, than professional doctor-patient-client relations. Repeated experiences like this create relationships with clients on an intimate level, where we share personal anecdotes, advise one another about good restaurants and offer other helpful tips, and sincerely inquire about the well being of one another's families.

To all of you wonderful clients that brighten our days and who are the life blood of our practice, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing us the privilege of being entrusted with the wellness of your beloved pets. Please never forget the gratitude we feel for your dedication to your pets and the agreeable manner in which you treat us and carry yourselves in general.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Have Mercy, Fireworks Enthusiasts

July 4th has come and gone, but like every other year, the fireworks continue to persist and will do so for weeks to come. While this may prove to be a nuisance for residents of suburban neighborhoods, the regular sounds of fireworks drive many dogs and cats to shear panic, in some cases, even to the point that it is a detriment to their health.

This reality is clearly evidenced in the weeks leading up to July 4th and for weeks thereafter, with the barrage of calls clinics receive from clients seeking sedation for their pets that experience severe fireworks anxiety. In response to the explosive noises that many fireworks cause, numerous dogs and cats enter a state of severe and utter panic. Not only is this mentally abusive to these animals, but many will be panicked to the point that they hurt themselves by trying to chew through doors, knock heavy objects or wall unit furniture on top of themselves, and fall from elevations such as decks and terraces, to name a few of the accidents that regularly occur. For animals with cardiopulmonary conditions, such as congestive heart disease, allergic tracheobronchitis, or collapsing trachea, the metabolic stress that fireworks induced panic places on the these patients, can lead to crisis or death. What's more, for many canine and feline patients that experience fireworks anxiety, the feeling of panic is so severe that even conventional sedatives do little to comfort them.

Now, having been one to enjoy a good homemade fireworks display myself on more than one occasion, I am not trying to be killjoy. If fireworks are legal where you live and you like to celebrate our nation's independence by blowing off some fireworks, however, I merely ask that you make the effort to do so at a park or other clearing reasonably removed from homes. If this is not convenient or even possible, then at least keep your fireworks activity to July 4th, and ONLY July 4th, thereby sparing pets prolonged mental torment with potential physical consequences.