Timmins: You made a really good point in that availability of information to us throws the responsibility on veterinarians in making
sure we take the lead in having those standards and guidelines available on veterinary Web sites. That does become the standard
as opposed to the standard somebody decides to come up with in Southern California.
Wilson: I would maintain that there are a lot of veterinarians who don't even know those guidelines exist. There's a fair number
who don't go to CE on a regular basis. We deal with this a lot in the Paw and Order program and the Companion Animal Parasite
Council and some of those recommendations. There was a lot of ignorance about standards. It's going to behoove us to assure
veterinarians that, "Hey, maybe you ought to post these on your Web site." Or certainly you ought to be aware of what those
Rubin: I'll bring us back to Dan's original question. Has the profession responded well to changing expectations? There's been terrific
movement. Not only do we talk about guidelines, as has been addressed here by the panel, but also expectations around communication
skills. It's not just an education for veterinarians who are in school or as part of their continuing education once they're
in practice or on a career path. It's a combination of skills that are important in order to be effective no matter what you
do. We've seen changes with that.
We've seen the veterinary schools begin to recognize that great veterinarians know how to balance great life skills, communication
skills, leadership skills, as well as science and technology so that we can deliver what's being expected from our consumer
base. We've made some progress. We have a long way to go. I think there's been a lot of recognition over the last five to
seven years with balancing of technical guidelines, skill sets and other factors to drive meeting the needs of our clients.
Verdon: There's been a longstanding tenet as long as I've been observing this market that companion-animal medicine has been recession-proof.
I wonder if each of the panelists could comment on the state of the economy and whether that may potentially impact the amount
of care provided?
Wilson: It's fascinating right now. I've got clients all over the country. When I'm not teaching, I'm consulting, and they're calling
and asking how veterinarians are doing. A whole bunch of veterinarians are saying business is down. But it's very easy to
look at the recession as a big cop-out on why things aren't going so well. I'd be curious to hear whether any of you think
there are weather-related downturns, too.
Flanigan: Fleishmann-Hillard, a public-relations firm, did a small study of a few hundred pet owners at the end of last year. The survey
talked about recession but we may not have felt the full effects of it. Consumers were asked to identify where they would
cut back during a recession. Not surprisingly, the top things were spontaneous purchases and luxury items. Eighty-three percent
were likely to cut back on pet supplies. People were more likely to cut their grocery bill, household goods and clothing than
they were for pet supplies. When you dig down deeper, they're more likely to go without pet toys and pet fashion, thankfully.
Veterinary visits and preventive medications were least likely to be cut. Twenty-five percent of consumers said they're likely
to cut back on those things.
In the case of companion-animal medicine being recession-proof, I think in the larger picture, probably yes. But for the 20
percent or so of the public that is price-sensitive or somebody who is not able to make their mortgage payment, or somebody
who's out of a job, certainly, that's going to be one of those things they're going to cut back on. But it's also likely to
be on regular care, preventive care as opposed to something that's acute or needs to be addressed in the short term, because
they don't want to lose the bond they have with that pet.