Summer Season for Veterinarians
What does the summer season mean for veterinary clinics? Vet-Advantage asked.
Holland Veterinary Care gets started on summer season preparations early. They’re the busiest months of the year for the Pennsylvania-based clinic, so they boost their workforce with students in anticipation of the uptick in client visits.
Summer fun also brings more outdoor time, putting pets at higher risk for exposure to fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. “We certainly see an increase in demand for flea, tick, and heartworm preventions in the summer months,” said Dr. Carey Guise, owner of Holland Veterinary Care.
Indeed, among the several veterinary clinics, Vet-Advantage reached out to, lots of prep work, advanced planning, and inventory considerations go into making the summer months successful.
In the following stories, these veterinary clinics share what’s top of mind and what they need from their supplier partners to make the summer season flow smoothly.
Holland Veterinary Care Anticipates a ‘Busy Season’
Dr. Carey Guise and her team at Pennsylvania-based Holland Veterinary Care get started on summer season preparations in April. The busiest months of the year tend to be June, July, and August. Then it starts to slow slightly as clients go away on vacation and prepare for back to school. For instance, June of 2022, the busiest month, had 20% more patient visits than February 2022, the slowest month). “We try to offset this variability in seasonal workload by employing students in the summer months.”
With more people vacationing in summer months, pets must be current on immunizations to stay at boarding facilities, Dr. Guise recommended. In addition to core vaccinations, most boarding facilities require kennel cough and influenza vaccinations. Influenza vaccines have recently been in limited distribution. News stories of localized flu outbreaks have made these vaccines a hot commodity. “As of March, we were already seeing an increase in demand for immunizations.”
Summer fun brings more outdoor time, putting pets at higher risk for exposure to fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. When owners find these ectoparasites on their pets, it heightens their awareness of the necessity for prevention. “We certainly see an increase in demand for flea, tick, and heartworm preventions in the summer months.”
The summer months also bring more gastrointestinal illnesses. Pets are outside eating inappropriate things or being boarded and exposed to parasites or infectious diseases. “We go through more probiotics and gastro diets during the summer.”
Close contact in boarding facilities and at dog parks brings an increase in respiratory illness, Dr. Guise said. It’s essential to have a good supply of appropriate antibiotics and cough medications.
During the summer, Holland Veterinary Care treats many ear and skin infections secondary to allergies or in dogs that swim frequently. Shampoos, topical therapies, and newer allergy drugs are in high demand throughout the season.
Distributor reps can help during the busy season by providing access to essential vaccinations and medications. “Backorders and shipping delays can be detrimental to the high-volume workflow in the summer months.”
Easy access to client educational materials is also very helpful when high patient volumes necessitate technicians to be more efficient with their time. Providing resources for clients to read after their visit frees technicians to provide other more urgent care in the office.
“It is difficult to find time to meet with reps during these months, as drop-off/fit-in appointments tend to creep into previously scheduled breaks in appointments. Promotional materials and new products would ideally be introduced before April when the clinician’s time doesn’t allow activities outside of managing a higher patient caseload.”
Danville Family Vets Focuses on High-Demand Services
Dr. Jeff Smith, medical director at Virginia-based Danville Family Vet (powered by Galaxy Vets), said summer season can begin as early as late April in their state. “This is when we start seeing an increase in cases of flea infestation, tick-borne illnesses, and other seasonal conditions, such as allergies and skin infections.”
Three services are in high demand during the summer season: vaccinations, parasite prevention, and dental cleaning.
Vaccinations are essential to protect pets from infectious diseases such as rabies, leptospirosis, and Lyme disease, Dr. Smith said. With warmer weather, pets are exposed to fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes, which elevates the risk of heartworm disease, Lyme disease, and other parasitic infections. Sought-after treatments are various parasite preventive, such as topical or oral medications.
“We can also see a spike in pet dental care appointments along with a summertime increase in client visits, which leads to diagnosis and treatment of dental and periodontal disease.”
Another popular service Danville Family Vet offers is boarding and daycare. With summer vacations and travel, pet owners seek a fear-free, safe, and comfortable environment for their furry companions when they are away. “Of course, boarding and daycare pets need to be protected through vaccination for contagious diseases like Bordetella and Canine Influenza.”
In the summer, Danville Family Vet sees an increase in some types of cases related to seasonal changes and activities. Some of the most common types of cases Dr. Smith noted include:
- Heatstroke. Pets can quickly become overheated during the summer months, mainly if they are left in a car, or a hot room or are over-exercised.
- Allergies. Many pets experience seasonal allergies during the summer months, which can cause itching, sneezing, and respiratory problems. Common allergens include grasses, pollen, and dust.
- Parasites. Fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes are more active during the summer months, which can lead to an increased risk of heartworm disease, Lyme disease, and other tick-borne illnesses.
- Skin problems. The warmer temperatures and increased humidity can exacerbate skin conditions such as hot spots, skin infections, and allergic dermatitis.
- Gastrointestinal problems. Pets are more likely to consume foreign objects or ingest toxic substances during the summer months, leading to gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea.
- Trauma. Pets are more active in the summer, leading to an increased risk of trauma, such as fractures and lacerations.
Summer is probably the busiest time, along with the Christmas season, Dr. Smith said. “The combination of increased outdoor activity, more frequent contact with other animals and subsequent risk of injuries or bites, heat-related illnesses, and elevated exposure to parasites are the reasons for the surge in the caseload.”
When working with suppliers, Danville Family Vet’s team pays special attention to client education, which is critical in preventing diseases and reducing healthcare costs over the long term. Vendors can offer educational materials on how to prevent and treat common summer-related issues in pets, such as heatstroke and dehydration.
“Distributor reps and vendors can also provide cooling products such as mats or vests and offer a range of flea and tick preventives to help protect pets from these common summertime pests,” Dr. Smith said. “Additionally, they can offer special promotions or discounts on products in high demand during the summer, such as flea and tick preventatives or grooming supplies.”
Distributor reps and vendors can relieve some of the stress on busy hospital teams in the summer with a cool treat like an impromptu ice cream social or a lunch and learn on the human side of the business. “Offer tips on stress management, communication, and burnout prevention.”
Animal Care Center Navigates a Fluctuating Population Base
For the Animal Care Center of Green Valley, the summer season in southeastern Arizona is typically the reverse of what you would consider in the more northerly states. It typically starts around April and May, with a decline in summertime residents due to pet parents (aka “snowbirds”) migrating back to their cooler summer home states, said Otto Siegler, practice manager.
“There is a roughly a 5% to 10% drop in patient volume during the summer,” he said. “Our summer season used to be far less busy due to the winter-only residents heading back to their other residences in cooler climate states. Over the past five years, there has been less variance between our client/patient count during the summer months.”
Heartworm prevention and yearly preventive health exams are at the top of the list for preventive services. “Our clients are very compliant with the recommended yearly exams as the main tool for preventive care,” he said. “This way, we can catch any problem early on. We have a lot of concerns about preventing valley fever, so many clients do ask when the vaccine will be available.”
The diseases and types of cases the Animal Care Center team sees in the summer do not vary much from what they see year-round. “Since we do not have drastic climate changes/seasons, we don’t see much variation,” Siegler said.
One big difference in southeastern Arizona from other areas of the country would be snake bites, toad intoxications, and heat stroke. Rattlesnake bites are the most prevalent of those three.
When working with suppliers, vendor special pricing offers and rebates help to keep client engagement and improve compliance by owners to take the best care possible of their pets, Siegler said. “Free CE (Continuing Education) offerings to help staff with CE requirements and morale are helpful,” he said. “Especially beneficial are in-person/ dinner CEs.”
Photo credit: istockphoto.com/al_louc
Photo credit: istockphoto.com/xavierarnau