If your clinic doesn’t provide grooming or behavior care, why not? Other practices are making money off the services.
Regardless of whether your practice is growing or you’re trying to fend off a decline in business, you should always explore and execute new revenue streams. The 2020 Well-Managed Practice Revenue Benchmarks Study asked about services introduced in the previous two years or planned for the next two years. The list included acupuncture, hospice care, telehealth, and behavior counseling and training.
The services you implement will depend on your practice team and your clients’ needs, but the WMPB list revealed what your colleagues are considering. In this article, I will look at grooming and behavior services.
Pet grooming is a natural revenue-generating complement to veterinary practice. Professional groomers notice subtle changes in a pet — from skin and coat issues to behavior problems. Working in tandem with a veterinarian, groomers are a valuable connection to the pet and client.
Does running a grooming service within your clinic make sense? Will it attract and retain clients and increase the delivery of medical services? Is the expense justified? A practice owner must consider all those questions first.
Camala Bailey, CPA, CVA, a financial and practice adviser with CPA4Vets, advises veterinarians to investigate the likely demand for grooming services by surveying clients and the practice team. After all, if clients aren’t asking about grooming and the team isn’t on board with promoting it, the chance of failure is considerably high. Next, she recommends setting up a pro forma budget to test the plan based on estimated costs, prices and sales.
“Understanding the costs will enable you to set fees, measure profitability and analyze whether the endeavor is worth the effort,” Bailey said.
After completing the homework, finding the right professional groomer and negotiating the person’s relationship with the veterinary practice are next. For example, will the groomer be classified as an employee or independent contractor? Who will be responsible for scheduling appointments, buying supplies, maintaining the equipment and grooming area, and paying the utility bills and marketing costs? Added points of discussion are the use of the veterinary health care team, including kennel attendants, and a determination of how to handle a medical concern discovered during a grooming session.
“Housing a groomer inside the veterinary practice, whether an independent contractor or employee, can bring in revenue that groomers in most pet stores do not have access to, namely sedated grooming,” said Katherine Dobbs, RVT, CVPM, PHR, the owner of InterFace Veterinary HR Systems.
Before the grooming appointment, the on-site veterinarian would recommend and administer the proper sedation. Many cats and some dogs would benefit from the add-on service.Generally speaking, clients love convenience, so a one-stop grooming and veterinary care location provides peace of mind that the pet will have quick and easy access to pet professionals.
One of the most common topics raised by veterinary clients is pet behavior, said West Palm Beach, Florida, veterinarian Lisa Radosta, DVM, DACVB.
“Behavioral clinical signs are often the first signs seen by pet parents,” Dr. Radosta said. “They are nonspecific and can point to any of many body systems. It is very important to hone in on these early, when they can be resolved completely without lengthy treatment.”
For those reasons, practice owners are showing a greater interest in offering behavior services. The 2020 WMPB query about services introduced in the previous two years or possibly within the next two years showed:
- 10% introduced behavior counseling, and nearly 9% planned to implement it.
- 34% introduced behavior training, and 4% were planning it.
- 23% introduced Fear Free pet-handling methods, and nearly 6% planned to do so.
From educating the team about pet behavior and animal handling to employing a behaviorist, a veterinary hospital has options. Implementing Fear Free is a good starting point. The certification program encourages veterinary teams to acquire new skills and tackle challenging pet behaviors before things get out of control. Certification also has been shown to increase patient visits and revenue.
Sadly, the veterinary team might not be the answer for every behavior issue. What might be needed at times are positive reinforcement trainers, behavior consultants, and certified animal or veterinary behaviorists.
Monique Feyrecilde, CVT, VTS (behavior), recommends that veterinary practices implementing behavior services also have a game plan for more severe cases. She offered these tips:
- Ask behavior questions on every patient’s history form every time.
- Develop a “referral village” that includes in-hospital Fear Free-certified team members, in-home coaches and a certified behaviorist.
- Make behavior coaching a part of all juvenile wellness appointments. Do this by using a topic checklist.
Also, remember that any patient chart carrying the note “Difficult” or “Needs a muzzle” is a signal of the need for behavior services.
“Too many dogs today are afraid of a lot of different things,” said Colorado State University animal behaviorist Temple Grandin, Ph.D. “One reason is that when they are young, they aren’t exposed enough and put in different situations. So, start socializing them as young as possible.”
Implementing a new service takes time and effort. Before jumping into one and hoping it will produce revenue, explore all the options, decide what fits best with your practice’s culture and mission, formulate a strategic plan, and monitor how the pets, your clients and your team respond.
Louise S. Dunn is a speaker, writer and founder of Snowgoose Veterinary Management Consulting. She is Fear Free certified. Learn more at snowgoosevet.com.
The median charge for a pet bath and brushing at veterinary practices surveyed in “The Veterinary Fee Reference, 11th Edition,” published in 2021 by AAHA Press