PHI and the ‘Pet Factor’ - Veterinary Practice
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PHI and the ‘Pet Factor’

PHIL SKETCHLEY reports on recent initiatives by NOAH to encourage responsible pet ownership

WITH quotes in the press that more than a quarter of vets feel vaccination rates are falling because of the credit crunch, practices need all the help they can get to raise the profile of the importance of preventing disease. No doubt, this will be mirrored by reduced worming and other precautionary measures.

In addition, the results of a consumer survey commissioned by NOAH last year showed that many pet owners do not necessarily think of pet health and disease prevention as part of responsible pet ownership.

They love their pets but this is more likely to mean they are allowed to snuggle up beside them on the sofa to watch the latest episode of Eastenders than to have a regular health check from their vet – if indeed they have a vet!

Now that many of the preventable diseases are mostly kept in check by vaccination, people can be forgiven for forgetting why vaccines are needed. But disease is still out there. The press cuttings service taken by NOAH shows pockets of disease all over the country – Scottish Highlands through to south-west England.

Because NOAH’s survey showed that if pet owners did look for advice on pet health, they would either speak to friends and family or search the internet, NOAH last year launched the Pet Health Information website.

Completely unbranded, the site’s philosophy is in contrast to sites such as NHS direct. It does not aim to help owners make their own diagnoses of problems with their pets, but very much to encourage them to talk to veterinary surgeons and other pet care specialists.

Set up to be a “one stop shop” featuring a wealth of animal health information and advice to help owners and potential owners to make decisions about their pets’ healthcare, NOAH is very encouraged that visitor numbers to the site are growing.

In June, for example, over 7,000 people visited the site – with record numbers following the distribution of a PHI “business card” at the Ultimate Pet Show at the NEC in Birmingham over the May Bank Holiday weekend.

The numbers are also partly down to you: NOAH has sent out posters for practice waiting rooms to encourage people to visit the site, and a number of practices link from their own practice website to – we would welcome more!

Do have a look at the back of your free Compendium – that is our poster (top right) and would grace any waiting room wall. It was a winner with children at the Ultimate Pet Show. Put one up yourself in your practice waiting room or even your consulting room – or you can request stocks to give to customers.

Cards for customers

Please also contact NOAH if you would like business cards to give to your customers. If they go to our site, we’ll be encouraging them to go back to you and talk about how to keep their pet in good health.

I am sure you have often seen that blank expression on your clients’ faces when trying to explain to them the condition their pet is suffering from. Sadly, most of what they do understand will be forgotten by the time they leave your practice with even less retained by the time they get their pet home and have to commence treatment.

So, for example, if a pet has just been diagnosed with diabetes, arthritis or epilepsy, just ask the client to visit the site and open up the Pet Health guide and click on the condition and all the information they need is there in an easily understandable language. We hope this will improve compliance with treatment regimens. Far better they go to a website written by veterinary experts rather than Google and get bad advice from another “source”.

We can tell that people do find it useful. Those who go onto our site having been referred from a practice site, explore the PHI site and look at a few pages – perhaps getting background to what they have been told in the practice or gathering information that will lead to them making an appointment.

It’s all very positive for the health of your clients’ pets, and very much in their – and indeed your – interests to get the importance of preventing disease front of mind.

So not only will increase client education and awareness, it will hopefully improve the footfall to your practice but also ATV when your clients ask for further preventive health treatments – and we leave the choice to you as there are no commercial aspects to the site at all, just good, clean, unbiased advice.

NOAH has started a new campaign to raise awareness of the PHI site. This is a viral campaign linked to YouTube at (foot of page).

This is NOAH’s first venture into social media. It trades on the current craze for TV talent shows by showing various pet characters (a dog, a kitten and a hamster) auditioning in front of a tough panel of talent scouts, including the handsome canine chair of the panel, Simon Howl.

Each pet in the series of auditions is, however, hampered in its performance by a common healthcare issue. The video ends with a call to action giving viewers the chance to “pledge to treat their pet like a star”, with a downloadable certificate that they can personalise.

A new audience

With this campaign, NOAH is seeking to reach a new audience, to highlight the PHI website as a resource and to emphasise the core preventive healthcare messages. We think that the pledge element will appeal particularly strongly to children who will be able to download the certificate to show they care about their pet.

Why not help spread the word and e-mail the link to your pet-loving friends and customers?

We always welcome input from the veterinary profession on new areas to be covered and included on the site, so please have a look for yourself and let us know what you think: e-mail

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