Unfortunately, unplanned litters make up a sizeable proportion of total annual births of small animals, kittens especially, putting pressure on pets, rehoming centres and the owners of the pregnant pet themselves. So, what can your practice do to help reduce the numbers of accidental births, and for those that do happen, support owners and their pets through an unplanned pregnancy and birth?
1. Early education
Many owners are simply unaware that their new puppy or kitten can get pregnant at just a few months old, so discussing early neutering with an owner when they bring their pet in for vaccinations is essential. It is also important to dispel the myth that it is beneficial for a cat or dog to have one litter, or that it is a good educational experience for the family.
2. Ongoing reinforcement
Of course, you don’t meet all owners when their pets are very young. For this reason, it can be incredibly helpful to permanently display information in your waiting room about the importance of neutering and the consequences of not doing so. Make it the norm to discuss it with owners of unneutered pets in consultation too. This message can’t be driven home enough, so use every opportunity you have.
3. Special offers
Do you run any special offers or schemes to help with the cost of neutering? Whether it’s part of a health plan or ad hoc reduced priced neutering, offering procedures at a lower price can have a big impact on uptake. Make sure this is clear in all practice communications – from waiting room posters to flyers and social media.
4. Advising owners
For owners that do come in with an accidental pregnancy, there are many ways in which you can support them to ensure a positive outcome for the pet and litter. Owners often feel worried and unprepared, so helping them know what to expect is very valuable. Also, make owners aware of signs that indicate an emergency that would require your help, and how soon they can have the mum neutered after her litter is born.
5. Insurance and free policies
Having the right insurance at the right time can make a significant difference to the veterinary care a pet receives during its whole life. You can help the litter by alerting the owner of the pregnant mum to the availability of free insurance policies for the young.
One way is by joining the Agria Breeder Club – it is free and enables breeders (even of just one accidental litter) to set up 5 Weeks Free policies for puppies and kittens as they leave for their new home.
By continuing this cover without a break onto a full lifetime policy, new owners will avoid the risk of their pet becoming ill while uninsured and subsequently having pre-existing conditions that would be excluded from cover in the future.
As an Agria practice, you can also offer 4 Weeks or 5 Weeks Free policies for puppies and kittens when they come in for first vaccinations, at which point you can advise the new owner about neutering.