Breed of the Month

Last fall at the Central Veterinary Conference in Kansas City, I was given a great big notebook as a thank you gift for serving on the Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board.  (Thank you!)  When I got back to Omaha, I held out the notebook to show our office manager and boss.  “You got THAT?!  Ours is in the mail and won’t be here for TWO DAYS.”

“You can read mine…” I said, now hugging it tight, “after I read it.”

Intriged, I opened the notebook.  “Benchmarks 2012:  A Study of Well-Managed Practices.”  One section caught my eye – “Breed Specific Healthcare.”

“Well, that’d be depressing!” I thought, and read on.

After I had read the entire Benchmarks 2012 cover to cover – yes it was as good as they said – I handed it over.  Angie called me that day and said, “We NEED to do this breed thing!”

I love specific dog and cat breeds as much as the next rescue-loving domestic shorthair and mutt-adopting veterinary professional, but focusing on the medical concerns of each breed for clients who love the breed because of their awesomeness?  It just sounded like a bad idea – You love Labs?  Have you thought about HIP DYSPLASIA?  Boxers?  Yes they are sweet and their faces are cute, but also cancer.  Bulldogs?  Liquidate your assets.  Oh, and congratulations on your new puppy.

Of course we cover breed-related medical issues during wellness care appointments, but focusing on it MORE?

“No,”  I said, “too depressing!”

“Yes!”  Angie said.  And so we did.  And it has been awesome – one of the most enjoyable projects I have done.

January 2013:  Bernese Mountain Dogs (and Mixes!)

February 2013:  Dobermans

March 2013:  Russian Blue Cats

April 2013:  Portuguese Water Dogs

May 2013:  Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

June 2013:  Sphynx Cats

Here is what I have learned this year:

Breeds are fun, and worth celebrating.

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Your clients and team will be your biggest supporters.  I have e-mailed, called or sent hand written notes, depending on the patient base size, and have gotten cute pictures in piles!  Always get permission before you use pictures, but it will not be a snag.  People know their pets are cute, and having their medical team confirm that?  Awesome.

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Clients and online friends appreciate learning about breed-related medical concerns, even of breeds they do not have.  Balance it with fun facts, breed history and pictures, and a month of focusing on one breed will be rewarding, NOT depressing.

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Putting fun facts out there – we do Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest – takes A LOT of behind the scenes work, but it is the kind of work I love most.  If you have someone in your practice who loves learning, reading and assimilating information (And you do, you are a medical team for heaven’s sake!) put that person in charge of gathering info.

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The team will love helping – Our receptionist Amanda gathers client names for me every month.  Vet tech Allison, Dr. Stokes and Dr. Kanne have provided tons of cute pictures of their own pets.  Angie manages the Pinterest page.  Everyone has supported us on Facebook by commenting, liking and sharing posts.

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Clients will love it.  Most of the rest of our pictures are from clients who have gotten behind our breed celebrations.

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Online friends will love it.  When we do not have a picture within our team or client base, online friends have always stepped up.  See the Twitter follower number go up with every monthly screen shot?

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The fancy-pants picture changing is easy.  If you decide to do a similar project, I will help you with all of that if you would like.

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The only thing that would make this more fun is if more vet teams were doing it with us!  We could share background breed information, cover the same breeds some months and share what is working and what is not.

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Choosing breeds is easy.  So far Angie and I have chosen them like this:  “Do you like ___?”  “Yes!”  “Me too!”  Next…  We started with Beagles and Huskies (before we were doing monthly Twitter pictures to show you!) because those are breeds of two local rescue groups we love.

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I have learned so much about specific breeds.  When I am gathering information in order to help clients, I can swallow my pride about thinking I should already know everything about every pet, and secretly (until now) think things like “Sphynx cats tend to be healthy?!  Who’d have thought?”

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I know we have succeeded if I get near the end of a month and have fallen more in love with the breed.  So far, YES on every count.  SO fun.

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Who would like to play Breed of the Month with us?

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