Chareles J. Wayner, DVM
Director, Global Veterinary Practice Health, Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc.
Topeka, KS, USA
The human-animal bond, (The Bond)--the intimate, symbiotic relationship created and cultivated between a person and (for our purposes here) a dog or cat, is definitely one of the delights of living. People who are responsible pet owners (responsible pet companions, pet parents, care givers), realize the prominent role pets play in their lives and in the lives of their families. They truly have an "affection connection" with their pet, with most saying that their pet is an integral part of the family. Our role as a veterinary health care team member and advocate for the pet's best interest, is to facilitate the mutual enjoyment between pets and pet owners, for as long as possible. One of our main roles in veterinary medicine is to be an advocate for the pet's best interest.
EXPANDING THE BOND
Most of us are involved with veterinary medicine, to not only witness the human-animal bond, but also to enhance it. We do so by tapping into our skills, talents and abilities (both intellectual and emotional) and the resources we have available through the practice. As a result, every day we have the opportunity to broaden the human-animal bond into the Family-Pet-Veterinary Team Bond.
A person can own a dog or cat for years, and love and care for that animal the best they know how. That, in essence, is the human-animal bond. If that person never brings that animal to a veterinary practice for preventive medicine, the veterinary profession and all involved won't benefit from that human-animal bond. Even more sadly, the animal and the animal owner won't benefit by our involvement in helping to ensure that relationship is maximized. Veterinary medicine can add significant value to the health and well-being of pets, and therefore indirectly, pet owners.
In playing an active role in your community, one or more members of your veterinary health care team should ideally be involved in promoting the benefits of veterinary care and your practice's "connectivity" with The Bond. This can be accomplished, oftentimes in schools or at other social activities, with people who already own a pet, as well as with people thinking about pet ownership. This can also be accomplished within your practice with many of the clients that visit every day. One of the most rewarding functions you can be involved with is helping an "Animal Owner" develop into a "Responsible Pet Owner". This is the essence of the Family-Pet-Veterinary Team Bond!
"Pets add years to our life and life to our years." Marty Becker, DVM.
Animal: Any member of the kingdom Animalia, comprising of multicellular organisms that have a well-defined shape and usually limited growth, can move voluntarily, actively acquire food and digest it internally, and have sensory and nervous systems that allow them to respond rapidly to stimuli.
Pet: Any domesticated or tamed animal that is kept as a companion and cared for affectionately.
In looking at both definitions, one can see dramatic differences. A "pet" is "kept as a companion and cared for affectionately", while "animal" is difficult to picture as a particular creature. While most people tend to use the words "animal" and "pet" interchangeably, considering each dog or cat as a "pet" may influence how you and other members of your health care team interact with clients. It would be helpful to you if you knew a particular client felt as if her dog or cat was indeed a pet to her (and very possibly even thought of as a family member), and not only an animal. People who consider themselves "pet owners" are already, or can become (with some education and communication on your part) more responsible pet owners.
What is "responsible pet ownership?" This would be a good question to pose to your own health care team during a meeting. In developing your list, you'll probably come up with answers such as:
Initial pet selection
Internal/external parasite control
Regular veterinary visits for preventive care
Compliant with your veterinarian's recommendations
Proper pet nutrition...
THE POWER OF PETS
Pets are an integral part of our society, with six out of 10 households in the US owning at least one pet. Pets have an amazing ability to help keep people happy, healthy, and living, even through what would otherwise be trying situations. Dr. Marty Becker's phenomenal book, The Healing Power of Pets--"Harnessing the amazing ability of pets to make and keep people happy and healthy," (ISBN 0-7868-6808-2), provides substantial data supporting the psychological and physiological benefits of pets to people. Scientific documentation reveals that pets provide a "therapeutic touch," help lower blood pressure, help people survive heart attacks, help improve the reading ability and empathy of children, help ameliorate chronic pain, keep people more active, protect people from loneliness, assist in safe passage for the physically and emotionally challenged, detect seizures before they occur, bring joy to nursing homes, cancer wards and penal institutions. Where else in our hectic world can we find unconditional, non-judgmental friendship, companionship, and devotion? Oftentimes, that "safe haven" is our pet: a grateful wag of a tail, a soft nuzzle and purr, or just that special look that says, "I'm here for you."
Pets provide people with unconditional, non-judgmental friendship, companionship and devotion.
Being involved in veterinary medicine, you are in a unique position to help not only pets, but also pet owners. By incorporating the notion of the Family-Pet-Veterinary Team Bond into your practice's approach to products and services, you'll become an even more beneficial part of your community.
"There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood, lead on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyages in their life
Is bound in the shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea we are now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves us,
Or lose our ventures."
Brutus, Julius Caesar, Act IV, Scene 3
The Bond is the veterinary profession's "full sea," touching every shore, every continent. All of us involved in veterinary medicine are influenced by The Bond, and need to be good stewards of such a gift.
Many pet owner's have a strong bond with their pet-an "affection connection." They want validation from us that this relationship is valuable. Unfortunately, in the fluid, fast-paced environment of practice, we oftentimes neglect the right-brained emotional side for the managerial, logistical left-brained side. It is critical to not lose sight of our "emotional intelligence," and in doing so, we can conscientiously charge for what's in our head, (knowledge and skill as a veterinarian) while at the same time, giving endless amounts of our heart, (compassion, caring, empathy) away for free! This ability to appreciate a pet owner and his or her pet is a special one, it is the powerful force that bonds all of us involved in small animal practice around the world. The Bond is, in fact, a common thread that runs through the various cultures and countries of the world--Our "Global Glue!"