Now here is some interesting news. Vets are worried that veterinary visits are in decline. In fact, they are so worried, that a task force has been initiated, the Partnership for Preventive Pet Healthcare. They say that the decline in veterinary visits in the United States is posing a risk to pet health.

The AVMA, American Animal Hospital Association, and 14 other organizations announced the pet health partnership with a press conference and an educational session the morning of July 18 at the AVMA Annual Convention.

The new partnership is planning a multi-year initiative to promote preventive care for pets within the veterinary community and to pet owners. The AVMA and AAHA have started by developing Preventive Healthcare Guidelines for cats and dogs, available on page 625 of this issue of the JAVMA.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? There are, however, a couple of problems that should have you scratching your head.

Veterinary Visits On Decline, Preventable Diseases On The Rise

Earlier this year, Banfield Pet Hospitals released a major study showing a rise in preventable diseases in cats and dogs. Read more here. “We’re seeing some evidence in some data sets of increasing disease prevalence, and these diseases are the kind of things that are very easily prevented,” said Dr. Michael R. Moyer, AAHA president, during a presentation at the press conference.

The Banfield Pet Hospital’s State of Pet Health 2011 Report indicated increases in certain preventable conditions—including dental disease, otitis externa, and flea infestation—among Banfield’s canine and feline patients from 2006-2010.

Here’s the thing – the mean number of veterinary visits per dog and cat per year remained nearly the same between 2006 and 2010, the duration of the study. Veterinary visits remained the same, yet the number of preventable diseases rose – significantly. How are declining veterinary visits to blame for the increase in preventable disease when it appear that quite the opposite is true?

It is true that veterinary visits are down for most vets in the US. Data indicate a decline starting before the recession. According to the AVMA’s 2007 U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, dogs averaged 1.5 veterinary visits in 2006, down from a mean of 1.9 visits in 2001. Cats averaged 0.7 veterinary visits in 2006, down from a mean of one visit in 2001.

Maybe, pet owners are waking up to the fact that yearly and even triennial vaccines cause more disease than they protect against.

Dr. Patricia Jordan DVM says: “What has the veterinary professional been doing all this time? Making vaccine induced disease from unsafe and unnecessary vaccine over-servicing. The companion animal owners are having their pocketbooks raided for a package of worthless goods. Well, not worthless to the vets and the drug companies.”

Prevention

Bayer Animal Health, Brakke Consulting Inc., and the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues released the results of the second phase of the study at the AVMA Annual Convention. The study found that 24 percent of pet owners think routine checkups are unnecessary. Yet, 59 percent of dog owners and 53 percent of cat owners say they would take their pet to the veterinarian more often if they believed that doing so would help their pet live longer.

“We know that we have tremendous value to offer our patients, but we have more to do as a profession to communicate that value, the importance of those preventive care visits, to pet owners,” Dr. Moyer said after the convention.

A coalition of veterinary associations, industry, and academia met in November 2010 to discuss the trends. A number of the organizations pledged funds to hire a consultant and public relations firm. In January 2011, the AVMA Executive Board approved honoring the pledge with $25,000 in seed money from the AVMA.

The coalition has become the Partnership for Preventive Pet Healthcare. In addition to the AVMA and AAHA, the partnership currently consists of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and 13 animal health companies. Who are these companies?

Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges
Abbott Animal Health
Banfield Pet Hospital
Bayer HealthCare
Boehringer Ingelheim
Butler Schein Animal Health
Elanco
Hill’s
Merck Animal Health
Merial
MWI Veterinary Supply
Novartis Animal Health
Pfizer Animal Health
VPI Pet Insurance

Surprise! The heavy backers for this ‘ disease prevention’ initiative are the manufacturers of the vaccines, flea and tick medications, dewormers, drugs and kibbles. Which begs the question, “what will this disease prevention consist of?” Hopefully, the answer is not more vaccines, more flea and tick medications, more heartworm preventives and more kibble.

We as dog owners have a voice and the AVMA and veterinarians are listening because we have lightened their pocketbooks. As a whole, we can continue pressuring them to move toward more natural methods of disease prevention instead of drug and chemical laden disease prevention – which the Banfield study shows only leads to more disease.  Dr. Jordan summarizes:  “Here we have a cry from the industry……”where are my customers”?  Perhaps they are WAKING UP!”

Information about the partnership is available at www.pethealthpartnership.org.

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