Shawn Messonnier, DVM, is the owner of Paws and Claws Animal Hospital and Holistic Pet Center in Plano, Texas. His special interests include holistic and functional medicine, exotic pets, dermatology, cancer and internal medicine. Dr. Messonnier is also a well-known speaker and author. He is the former radio host of the award-winning Dr. Shawn The Natural Vet for Martha Stewart Living Radio.Read Articles Written by Shawn Messonnier
When looking at pet wellness plans, I see detailed programs designed to support good health and encourage well-being and then informal programs that integrate preventive care into a veterinary practice’s routine. Let’s start by examining what I do at my hospital and then talk about the programs offered by corporate players.
I never considered offering a formal wellness plan for three reasons:
- It seemed like quite an undertaking.
- I didn’t have the staff to support it.
- I didn’t know where to start.
Years before I opened my practice, I knew I wanted to offer an experience like the one I had when working in the human medical field. That meant exams and laboratory tests — services that people commonly receive from their doctors. My goal also was to make quality veterinary care affordable for most clients, so I customized it to fit a pet’s needs and the owner’s budget. With that in mind, here’s what I did.
First, I accepted that most pets, especially those 5 years and older, need twice-yearly exams to detect and treat problems early. This approach meant that my team and I needed to educate clients through handouts and discussions.
Once a year, the visit includes a complete physical exam, urine and fecal analyses, a heartworm test for dogs, vaccine titers and a blood profile. All are discounted. I do not discount the biannual visit except for the blood test. (The heartworm and titer tests are not performed then.)
We offer on every surgery and dental cleaning fee estimate a discounted arthritis evaluation — a radiograph of the hips and knees. Clients who opt in learn valuable information about their pets’ joints and might start the animal on a supplement regimen.
Most of my clients accept and want this high level of preventive care, and we encourage them to purchase pet health insurance to help pay for it.
Practitioners who want a more centralized process can look at corporate programs such as Idexx’s Petly Plans and Covetrus’ VCP.
A formal plan’s components might include unlimited office visits, routinely recommended vaccines, one or more comprehensive physical exams, early screening for serious illnesses, and discounts on various products and services — perhaps 5% to 20%. An annual dental cleaning, for example, might be provided at no extra charge or a significantly reduced fee.
These plans deliver to clients predictable and reasonable monthly payments. For the practice, the benefits include:
- Another company taking on the administrative responsibilities.
- Greater client loyalty.
- Improved compliance with recommended services and products.
- Consistent monthly income.
So, you have two basic options. The formal one is to sign up with a company that can help you customize and administer the plan. Or if you prefer, you can do as I did and make wellness a daily part of pet care. That approach works well for me and my clients, and we see the results: happier owners and healthier pets. And because it’s tailored to the pet’s needs and the client’s budget, the acceptance is high.
It’s a win-win for everyone.
DID YOU KNOW?
Wellness exams bring in up to 30% of the revenue at small veterinary practices, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s “2020 Economic State of the Veterinary Profession” report.