Navigating the World of Pet Parenthood


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The influx of new pet parents presents an opportunity for veterinary practices to get more pets on parasite prevention.

Long-time pet owners aren’t the only ones needing education and reminders from veterinarians this spring. Judging by industry research, there has been a massive influx of new pet owners who need help navigating preventive medicine for their pets.

Nicole Sinclair-Torre, VMD, MBA, and a member of the professional services veterinarian team at Merck Animal Health USA said communicating the importance of year-round parasite prevention to pet owners is critically important. Many veterinary clinics are still able to do this effectively, even with curbside services.

“As many in our industry can attest, we saw an influx of pet adoptions and shelter success stories coming out of the pandemic,” she said. “However, with the changing landscape of many veterinary clinics only accepting curbside visits or virtual appointments, we were curious how this shift impacted pet owners who might be navigating the world of pet parenthood for the first time. With veterinarians reportedly being overbooked and stretched thin, were they able to find a new veterinarian, schedule a visit, and get the proper medications and vaccines dogs needed to begin the path to a long and healthy life?”

Throughout the pandemic, it was clear that owners and pets both benefitted emotionally from spending more time together, but there was still that underlying question about all the new pets and whether they were receiving the appropriate care and treatments from their veterinarian, said Sinclair-Torre.

Results from the “Embracing Pet Care for Life” survey revealed that taking care of a new pet, especially during a pandemic, may not be as simple as one might think. While many people found comfort during the COVID-19 pandemic by bringing home new dogs for companionship, the survey found that 73% of those who became dog owners for the first time had considered re-homing once the pandemic ends.

Other findings included:

  • One in four (25%) also claim they don’t have enough
    information to properly care for their dog.
  • Among new dog owners who brought home puppies, more
    than half (58%) say they wish taking care of their pet’s
    health didn’t take so much time, and 33% were surprised
    to find out how much it costs to care for their pet.
  • Survey results indicated that 70% of all dog owners said
    they would like to learn new ways to keep their dog
    healthy, whether a puppy or fully grown.
  • More than one-third (38%) of pandemic puppy owners
    say they were surprised by how much attention their
    pet requires.


Specific to parasite prevention, one-third (35%) of pandemic first-time dog owners say giving their dog flea and tick preventative treatments have been an unexpected hurdle, ranking this responsibility as even more difficult than housebreaking. Nearly one-third (29%) of all pandemic puppy owners, including experienced and first-time dog owners, said they were surprised to learn how much parasites can impact their dogs’ health.

“Ultimately, it might simply come down to a lack of knowledge from new pet owners who think their dog isn’t exposed to fleas and ticks because they are mostly indoors or on a leash, or they’ll skip the monthly preventative application and treat the dog when and if a problem arises,” said Sinclair-Torre.

Knowing when to give flea and tick medicine is extremely important for many reasons to protect dogs of any lifestyle, whether a puppy or adult. “First, it frankly is much easier, and in many instances, financially better to protect your dog from tick-borne diseases or flea infestations with flea and tick preventatives than it is to treat the disease or infestation after the fact,” said Sinclair-Torre. “For this reason, most veterinarians will recommend having dogs be on a flea and tick prevention, and heartworm prevention, program year-round.”

For first-time puppy owners, Merck Animal Health recommends its Bravecto® (fluralaner) 1-Month Chews to protect dogs 8 weeks of age or older from fleas and ticks; and once they reach 6 months or older, the process remains effective and easy – dogs can then transition to Bravecto® (fluralaner) Chews which is a single dose that provides extended duration protection for dogs for a total of 12 weeks of flea and tick protection. Additionally, both puppies and adult dogs can be exposed to internal parasites, so it’s just as important for owners to pair up their flea and tick medication with a complementary product, Sinclair-Torre said, such as Sentinel® Spectrum® Chews (milbemycin oxime, lufenuron, and praziquantel), which offer broadspectrum, internal, and external parasite protection.

Overall, the message of the need for year-round prevention has not changed for at-risk dogs. “However, what has changed is pet owners being more in tune with their dog’s lifestyle,” said Sinclair-Torre. “Now, pet owners realize that their non-social, non-active dog is, all of a sudden, a social, active dog since many pet owners are finding the necessity to engage in new socially distanced activities, which in many cases involve their pets.

Whether pet owners are exploring new areas to hike or playing in their well-manicured backyard, veterinarians are recommending that dogs be proactively protected with a preventative to ensure that these new activities are enjoyable for everyone.”

Passing on savings

What will the generic market look like in the coming years? In an interview with Veterinary Advantage, Norbrook Inc. provided insights into the generic market, as well as how distributor reps can discuss these products with their
veterinary clinic customers.

Veterinary Advantage: What was 2020 like for your company compared to previous years?
Norbrook: 2020 was a challenging year in the industry due to the effects of the pandemic and a change in the way
veterinary services were delivered. We had to adapt and scale up our digital capabilities. In spite of the initial disruption, however, there continues to be strong growth in the business due to continued demand for veterinary care.

Veterinary Advantage: What about your work with distributors? How did it change? Do you expect those changes to continue?
Norbrook: Like other pharmaceutical manufacturers, we have had to pivot to virtual platforms for communication,
training, and product launches. We have been impressed with how quickly and efficiently this transition has occurred,
and as a result, our distributor relationships remain strong.

Veterinary Advantage: What have you heard from distributor reps as far as the demand for low-cost options for
preventive products?
Norbrook: There continues to be a demand for high-quality, bioequivalent, generic alternatives to pioneer products
that provide significant opportunities for increased profit to practitioners and savings for their customers. Any factors
that create economic downturns tend to increase this demand.

Veterinary Advantage: How do you see that playing out in the next few years?
Norbrook: We anticipate the generic market to continue to experience significant growth. Compared to the human business, animal generics have not even scratched the surface.

Veterinary Advantage: What questions should distributor reps ask veterinarians in regard to these products and whether they’re a fit for the clinic?
Norbrook: In discussing product choice with veterinarians, it is important to emphasize that generic options provide the same safety and efficacy as the pioneer, at significant savings to the clinic. They also allow the clinic to pass on savings to the client while increasing profitability to the practice. Distributor reps would benefit from having the annualized savings and profitability discussions with regard to clinic financial health instead of focusing on
only the savings comparison per unit of product.