Top veterinary news trends in 2013

Top veterinary news trends in 2013

A look to what we'll be talking about in 2013.
Dec 18, 2012
By staff

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What will this year be known for when we look back 20 years from now? Here at dvm360 we dusted off our Rasputin hats and gazed into our crystal ball, and these are the predictions we came up with.


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The rise of the almighty pet owner

They’re more knowledgeable, influential and demanding than ever before.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has reported that there are approximately 70 million dogs in the United States and about 74 million cats. Although that’s a 3 and 9 percent decline, respectively, over the last five years, spending on pets is at an all-time high: almost $53 billion in 2012, according to an estimate by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). You’d think that with all that cash flying around on behalf pets—which shows no signs of tapering off anytime soon—veterinarians would have no worries to speak of.

Such is not the case. Spending on veterinary care is just a fraction of that total, and the amount is flat from year to year or even declining, depending on which organization you refer to.

These days, many veterinarians are being left out in the cold, thanks to the likes of Dr. Google and other “experts” in the fields of pet nutrition, behavior and so on. Pet owners have a wealth of convenient resources at their fingertips: They’re consulting the groomer for guidance on how to clean Tanner’s teeth or the sales associate at the pet food store for advice on which diet might help Shadow’s pesky skin problem. The fact is, veterinarians are playing a complementary role in the healthcare needs of our nation’s pets, and it’s a trend that shows no signs of slowing anytime soon.

So where does that leave the profession? Veterinarians must adapt or continue to feel the chill of exclusion. Those who succeed will appeal to what works for their clients—engaging with and educating them on social media, giving them the convenience of an online store, providing them with competitive pricing, being willing to provide prescriptions so clients can exercise choice, and educating them about trusted websites for information on pet care. Most of all, veterinarians who succeed will figure out innovative ways to reclaim their role as the primary expert in all areas of their clients’ pet healthcare needs.

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An increasingly digital world

Increased use of mobile technology in the exam room.

Did you have to teach your staff how to turn an iPad on last year—or have them teach you? Some early-adopter veterinarians jumped on the mobile train in 2012, but we predict that exam rooms in 2013 will be chock-full of tablets, phones and clients getting information in new, innovative ways.

One veterinarian who’s been using technology to communicate with clients in his exam room is Jan Bellows, DVM, DAVDC, DABVP, owner of All Pets Dental Clinic in Weston, Fla. His staff takes photos with a digital camera equipped with an Eye-Fi memory card that uses a wireless Internet signal to send the photos to a computer in the room. Once the photos and radiographs are on the computer, they’re dumped into Dropbox, an online storage server. Bellows brings out his iPad, opens the files from Dropbox and displays the photos and radiographs for the client.

“The beautiful part of the iPad is that you can enlarge pictures with your fingers,” Bellows says. “If the client isn’t present we e-mail them the PDF and we do the meeting over the phone. But it’s all done through Dropbox.”

Bellows also says clients are e-mailing pictures of their pets’ problems so he can get a jump start on the diagnosis before they even walk in the door.

With all of the advances taking place in mobile technology, people expect to receive information instantly and conveniently—and there’s no exception when they visit the veterinarian. We foresee information being transferred between client and doctor in a multitude of different ways, all to the benefit of pets and their owners.

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The search for balance

The next generation says... “We can be successful and have a life!”

Can veterinarians have it all? A rewarding career, enough money to pay down the debt, and time for, well, whatever they want time for—watching Sesame Street with a 2-year-old, learning to cook sesame chicken, perfecting their chicken dance? More and more veterinarians—especially the generation of millennials joining the workforce—are making work-life balance a top priority.

dvm360’s 2012 State of the Profession Survey found that a lack of balance in career and personal life was respondents’ greatest professional fear. The feeling seems to translate into an awareness that practice ownership could put that balance at risk—70 percent of respondents said they did not aspire to own a practice. The era of being on call 24 hours a day, ready to jump into action, may be over.

The implications for the profession are legion. With fewer veterinarians who see practice ownership as a viable option, consolidation and the continued rise of corporate practice seems inevitable—there will simply be fewer veterinary hospitals and more veterinarians at each hospital. Plus, the new normal will continue to involve flexible schedules, job-sharing and alternative career models such as relief work, hospice care and mobile practice.

As individual doctors find the non­traditional path that works for them, maybe 2013 will bring less frustration—and a better chicken dance.