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The Family-Pet-Veterinary Team Bond
“The Bond” the human-animal bond, intimate, symbiotic relationship created and cultivated between a person and a pet, specifically for Hill’s Pet Nutrition and our partners, dogs or cats, is definitely one of the delights of living. Pets play a prominent role in our lives and those of our clients and their families. Our role as a veterinary health care team member and advocate for the pet’s best interest is to facilitate the mutual enjoyment between pets and pet owners to help enrich and lengthen the special relationships between people and their pets.
Expanding the Bond
Why are so many of us involved with veterinary medicine - it’s not only to witness the human-animal bond, but also to enhance it. We do so by tapping into our skills, talents and abilities (both intellectual and emotional) and the resources we have available through the practice. As a result, every day we have the opportunity to broaden the human-animal bond into the Family-Pet-Veterinary Team Bond with simple communication with clients.
A person can own a dog or cat for years, and love and care for that animal the best they know how. That, in essence, is the human-animal bond, and people don’t need ‘veterinary medicine’ for the human-animal bond. If that person never brings that animal to a veterinary practice for preventive medicine, the veterinary profession and all involved won’t benefit from that human-animal bond. Even more sadly, the animal and the animal owner won’t benefit by our involvement in helping to ensure that relationship is maximized. Those of us involved in veterinary medicine can add significant value to the health and well-being of pets, and therefore also to pet owners. But, you have to believe you add value and live it out and communicate that message with clients.
One of the most rewarding functions is helping an “Animal Owner” develop into a “Responsible Pet Owner”. This is the essence of the Family-Pet-Veterinary Team Bond.
Responsible Pet Ownership
In looking at the definitions of “animal” and “pet”, one can see dramatic differences. A “pet” is “kept as a companion and cared for affectionately”, while “animal” is difficult to picture as a particular creature. While most people tend to use the words “animal” and “pet” interchangeably, considering each dog or cat as a “pet” may influence how you and other members of your health care team interact with clients.
Animal: Any member of the kingdom Animalia, comprising of multicellular organisms that have a well-defined shape and usually limited growth, can move voluntarily, actively acquire food and digest it internally, and have sensory and nervous systems that allow them to respond rapidly to stimuli.
Pet: Any domesticated or tamed animal that is kept as a companion and cared for affectionately.
When communicating with clients it is helpful to know how a particular client felt as if their dog or cat was indeed a “pet”, and very possibly even thought of as a family member, and not only an animal. People who consider themselves “pet owners” are already, or can become more responsible pet owners, with some education and communication.
Communicate With Clients
Communicate what responsible pet ownership is and what it means for pets. Work with all members of the health care team to develop a core list of responsible ownership and everyone can help owners understand the meaning. In developing your list some specific answers may include:
- Initial pet selection
- Behavior training
- Proper socialization
- Internal/external parasite control
- Necessary vaccinations
- Regular veterinary visits for preventive care
- Compliant with your veterinarian’s recommendations
- Proper pet nutrition
Many answers for responsible pet ownership will involve veterinary medicine. One big area, that is oftentimes overlooked, or at least taken for granted, is proper pet nutrition. When proactively discussed, the team may be surprised at how many responsible pet owners want competent advice on proper pet nutrition. Clients just don’t know to ask or feel funny doing so! Clients may think it too basic a question, may be confused by all the ads and commercials about grocery store products, or may even believe they’re already providing the best food they can. Is nutrition really all that important, especially as it relates to The Bond?
To answer that question, let’s reflect upon the following statement:
“Health and longevity are largely influenced by three factors—genetics, environment and nutrition.”
Which of these three do you and other members of your veterinary health care team have the greatest ability to be involved in?
- Genetics: While veterinarians can correct some abnormalities and defects as a result of a pet’s genetic make up, they are not able to actually alter a pet’s genetics. So, with the first of these three factors; genetics, we cannot do anything but correct what has already occurred genetically, and possibly prevent that particular animal from passing the abnormality on to future generations.
- Environment: In most instances in small animal practice there is not an opportunity to see where a pet actually lives. We may know the neighborhood or general area where the client resides, but rarely see where and with whom a pet spends most of its time. Thus, it is difficult for us to influence the pet’s environment other than to make general recommendations. Inquire with regard to the pet’s environment, including where it stays during the day, where it sleeps at night, the air it breathes, the sanitary conditions, the amount of activity and socialization it receives, the various stresses it might encounter and try to make the best suggestions, but there is very little control.
- Nutrition: This is one area where the health care team and the pet owners have complete control! That being the case, and along with our ability to be an advocate for the pet’s best interest and an obligation to the pets and people we serve regarding proper pet nutrition. Responsible pet owners want the best for their pets, and rely on veterinary health care team members to confidently and competently recommend, with conviction and care the best nutrition is for their pet.
Nutrition and the Bond
As a responsible veterinary health care team member, we have the ability and obligation to help guide clients regarding one of the three factors that greatly influence health and longevity, and therefore, enhance The Bond.
Ideally, it is best to start the new pet owner off right, by not only discussing proper pet nutrition, but by supplying them with product you have confidence in. On subsequent visits, reemphasize the important role proper nutrition plays in the keeping the pet well. For clients that have been feeding a different product than the one you have more knowledge of and utilize within the practice, discuss the benefits of proper nutrition, for both wellness as the pet ages, and for specific disease conditions. As each pet’s lifestage and lifestyle changes, it will be helpful for you to be able to guide the client to the next, more appropriate food. The pet owner wants the pet to live as long and healthy as possible. You do too, so providing nutritional products you believe in, from a company you can trust is paramount to your credibility as an advocate for the pet’s best interest. Having the responsible pet owner visit your practice for nutritional products multiple times a year, allows you and other members of the team to maintain an open, candid dialogue regarding the pet, and to “bond’ more with the client! There is no other product or service you can provide that brings the pet owner as often. Make the most of these interactions.
The Power of Pets
Pets are an integral part of our society, with six out of 10 households owning at least one pet. Pets have an amazing ability to help keep people happy, healthy, and living, even through what would otherwise be trying situations. Dr. Marty Becker’s phenomenal book, The Healing Power of Pets- “Harnessing the amazing ability of pets too make and keep people happy and healthy, (ISBN 0-7868-6808-2), provides substantial data supporting the psychological and physiological benefits of pets to people. Scientific documentation reveals that pets provide a “therapeutic touch”, help lower blood pressure, help people survive heart attacks, help improve the reading ability and empathy of children, help ameliorate chronic pain, keep people more active, protect people from loneliness, assist in safe passage for the physically and emotionally challenged, detect seizures before they occur, bring joy to nursing homes, cancer wards and penal institutions. Where else in our hectic world can we find unconditional, non-judgmental friendship, companionship, and devotion? Oftentimes, that “safe haven” is our pet; a grateful wag of a tail, a soft nuzzle and purr, or just that special look that says, “I’m here for you.”
Being involved in veterinary medicine, you are in a unique position to help not only pets, but also pet owners. By incorporating the notion of the Family-Pet-Veterinary Team Bond into your practice’s approach to products and services, you’ll become an even more beneficial part of your community. Hill’s, through proper pet nutrition, is committed in helping you enhance responsible pet ownership and The Bond, as evidenced by our company, the Hill’s Pet Nutrition mission statement:
“To help enrich and lengthen the special relationships between people and their pets.”
Submitted by: Charles J. Wayner, DVM
Director, Global Veterinary Practice Health
Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc.