An article in the November 2016 edition of Veterinary Practice News highlights the findings of a recent collaborative study between the HABRI Foundation (Human- Animal Bond Research Initiative) and the Cohen Research Group entitled “Pet Owners and the Human-Animal Bond.” In brief, the survey of 2,000 pet owners found that, “Pet owners who understand the health benefits of keeping a dog or cat are more apt to return the favor by providing better veterinary care.”
So how can a veterinary practice use this information to improve compliance and quality of care? For starters, by educating doctors and team members on existing scientific research of the human health benefits that pets provide and teaching them how to include this in their conversations with clients.
Team members should feel free to share personal stories to demonstrate their knowledge as well. For example, when I was in practice I would often share with clients the story of my first dog Elijah, a Great Pyrenees puppy I acquired in my mid-twenties. To this day, I not only credit him with being able to get through a bad breakup in record time, but with helping me gain confidence in my abilities and finding an entirely new career path (I had never even considered working in the veterinary field before he came into my life).
Consider offering handouts or informational pieces on the role pets can play in improving human health in areas such as depression, long-term illness, blood pressure, and weight management. Even if a client hasn’t outwardly shared their personal health conditions or concerns with you, there are ways to bring up these benefits in discussion that may very well help them enhance the relationship they already have with their pet, which ultimately may lead to improved veterinary care.
For practices offering wellness plans, understanding the importance of the data from this study is just one more way to educate clients on the value of your plans and increase enrollments. Consider that 89% of the study’s respondents said they would be more inclined to maintain their pet’s health, including regular exams, after learning how their own health is intertwined with having a pet. Nearly as many said they would be more likely to provide their pet with higher quality nutrition.
Given this, providing education on the personal health benefits of pet ownership can directly correlate with increased enrollments. We already know from our own data that one of the top reasons pet owners purchase a wellness plan is because they want to make sure they are providing the best care possible for their pets. The benefits of the human-animal bond further enhance this opportunity.