The Balanced Diet Myth And The Case For Offering Pet Supplements To Your Clients

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In our book we talk about making the transition from Veterinary Practice Owner to Veterinary Entrepreneur.

To recap:

For the typical veterinary practice owner, the business looks identical now to the way it looked when it opened. Perhaps you have more clients by now, you may have more veterinarians and other team members, and you may even have better equipment so you can offer more modern procedures than when you began. You may have expanded, relocated to new premises, or even opened a second clinic. Fundamentally, however, you are probably still operating the same business and offering the same services to the same sort of clients.

An entrepreneurial veterinarian’s business, on the other hand, will look very different from the way it looked when it began. For instance, she isn’t relying on just one business activity; she has several other pet-related satellite businesses that orbit around her core veterinary business. She may be offering pet training classes, pet nutrition classes, concierge services, and a pet grooming service. She has several Websites promoting products or services related to veterinary medicine, such as dentistry, or related to pet care, such as dog beds and bowls or grooming and boarding. She might also have pet-related membership clubs and any of several other pet-related ventures.

This does not mean that the entrepreneurial veterinarian has stopped caring about animal health or even stopped practicing veterinary medicine. What it does mean is that he is making the most of his clientele and doing the most for his clients by offering pet-related products and services that they would otherwise have to buy elsewhere, and he is bringing more new clients to his veterinary business by attracting them with non-veterinary goods and services.

For years veterinarians have relied on sales of flea, tick and heartworm preventatives and markups on vaccines to supplement the income of their veterinary services. However, as we have discussed previously, there is now huge and increasing competition for this business from businesses outside veterinary who can afford to offer these products at much lower prices than you can.

As we showed in a previous post you can compete because you can show up in your clients mail boxes and email boxes at the times they need these products. But, even so, making that transition to Veterinary Entrepreneur is even more important than ever.

Despite reports that veterinary visits continue to be on the decline, the good news is that..

Spending on Pets continues to rise!

In fact, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), pet spending in 2012 increased by 4% from the previous year to nearly $53 Billion. So, if pet spending is on the rise, where are pet owners splashing their cash?

Well according to the 2011-2012 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, basic annual expenses for dog owners included:

Annual Expense


Surgical Vet Visits


Routine Vet Visit




Kennel Boarding




Travel Expenses


Groomer/Grooming Aids


Food Treats




There are some very interesting numbers here. Some of them may surprise and some of them not so much.

First let’s quickly discuss the amount spent on food. As you well know, most veterinary clinics fill up most of their retail space with pet food. On the face of it, food appears to be a great revenue stream for your practice.

We don’t disagree that selling food can be a good way to get clients to visit your practice more often. However, for most vets the profit margins on food are terrible. In fact, when you factor in the cost of the space those bags and cans take up there’s not a lot of margin left. Not to mention the staff costs in handling the inventory.

Then, of course, there’s the capital you have tied up in all that food until it gets sold. All in all, pet food isn’t the great profit center that the pet food reps would have you believe.

The Case For Pet Supplements

But what about Pet Vitamins? Now that’s an expense that may come as a surprise to you. On average, dog owners are spending 30% more on vitamins than grooming! And over twice as much on vitamins than toys!

Yet, despite these statistics, many veterinary businesses do not offer vitamins. Those that do tend to give them less shelf space than treats and toys. And how many vets who offer grooming services would believe that dog owners spend more on vitamins than grooming?

One piece of info that they probably don’t know was that market research firm Packaged Facts estimated…

the total U.S. retail sales of pet supplements and nutraceutical treats was $1.3 billion in 2012!

So pet owners are now demanding health supplements for their pets as much as they are for themselves! The unfortunate statistic is that this demand is not being filled by veterinary clinics. Why?

The Balanced Diet Myth

Well, the argument most veterinarians give for not offering supplements is…

“if you feed your dog a good quality dog food then it should be getting a balanced diet and shouldn’t need a dietary supplement.”

And, of course, they’re right.

However, the keywords in that statement are ‘if’ and ‘good’. And the word often missing from that statement is ‘only’. In other words the statement should be “If you only feed your dog a good quality dog food then it should be getting a balanced diet and shouldn’t need a dietary supplement”

The problem is that most dog owners do not just feed their dog with dog food never mind good quality dog food! To prove the point we commissioned an independent survey of over five hundred dog owners.

In the survey the dog owners were asked if they ever fed their dog with human food. Only 23.36% of the dog owners surveyed said that they “never fed their dog any human food.” So over three quarters (76.64%) of the respondents gave their dog human food as either part or all of their diet!

Of course, of the 23.36% who are just feeding their dog with dog food, we cannot be sure how many are buying ‘good quality’ food. So the percentage of owners feeding their dogs only good quality dog food may be even less.

This raises the question…

If over 76% of your clients are not feeding their dog with good quality dog food alone, how many dogs are actually getting a good balanced diet?

And this leads to the follow up question…

And are you doing them a disservice by not offering them a dietary supplement?

The facts are that many of your clients are going to buy dietary supplements for their pet whether you offer them or not. However, the one person they would trust more than any other to help them decide what supplement to give their pet is you.

Veterinarians often forget the powerful position they hold in terms of advising their clients what products and services are best for their pets. Even when a pet owner just sees a product in your practice they assume that you think it is good for their pet. So there is a good case for offering vitamins and supplements to your clients.

Of course, the big challenge is…

How can you offer supplements in your practice without competing on price with the big box pet stores?

Well the answer is to offer something different and we believe we have come with something that your clients (and bank manager) will love.

A Different Kind Of Pet Supplement

You see we are just about to launch the first and only range of Breed Specific supplements for the most common breeds of dog.

Why Breed Specific?

Well first of all, you’d be surprised at just how many of the dogs in your practice are represented by just a few breeds.

We analyzed the data of some of our private clients and found that the top three represented breeds of dog in their practice actually accounted for around 22% of the dogs in their practice! The top 10 breeds accounted for around 50%! The top 20 breeds for around 68% and the top 25 breeds for around 76%!

In 2011 Banfield published their ‘State of Pet Health’ Report. Although they only published breed trends for the top 10 represented breeds in their practices the results were almost identical. Their top 3 breeds accounting for 23.9% and their top 10 accounting for 50.4% of the dogs in their practices during 2010.

You should be able to get your breed totals from within your practice management system very easily. We would expect you will see similar results. The actual breeds in your top 10, with the exception of the ‘usual suspects’ (e.g. Labradors, Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Yorkshire Terriers and Shih Tzus) may differ from that of Banfield and our private clients. That’s not important.

The important thing is that you can offer breed specific products and services to just a few breeds yet cover the majority of dogs in your practice and ultimately your area.

Our My Healthy Pooch™ range of breed specific supplements includes Multi-Vitamins as well as Hip & Joint and Skin & Coat supplements. So what makes them breed specific?

Breed Specific Formula – each breed formula contains vitamins and minerals that have been shown to help with the predispositions of that particular breed. That means no two breed formulas will be exactly the same.

Breed Specific Dosage – we often see supplements with instructions which tell the owner to give the same dosage to all dogs under 20lbs. And then a different dosage for dogs up to 40lbs and so on. But doesn’t it make sense that a 5lb Chihuahua would require different amounts of vitamins and minerals to say that of a 20lb Highland Terrier? That’s why the amounts of each vitamin and mineral in our formula are measured specifically for each breed.

Breed Specific Size – our supplements come in soft chew form, a bit like fudge. These chews are made in sizes appropriate to each breed. Most supplement manufacturers seem oblivious to the fact that smaller breeds like Chihuahuas have smaller mouths than larger breeds like Labrador Retrievers!

The first breed specific supplement we are introducing to the market from the My Healthy Pooch™ range is…

My Healthy Chihuahua™ is a complete Multi-Vitamin and Mineral Supplement developed specifically for Chihuahuas.

A Premium Quality Multi-Vitamin Supplement

You’ll be pleased to hear that My Healthy Chihuahua™ is manufactured right here in the USA from the highest quality ingredients. Our supplement manufacturer has been making animal supplements for nearly thirty years and is a founding member of the National Animal Supplement Council. My Healthy Chihuahua™ meets all AAFCO regulations and is labeled accordingly.

Our extensive Palatability Testing shows that Chihuahuas absolutely love the taste of My Healthy Chihuahua™. So much so that your clients will enjoy seeing just how happy their Chihuahuas are when they’re given them. There are no worries about this supplement being left unused in the kitchen pantry!

As one Chihuahua owning veterinarian put it “the palatability of this chew is off the charts!”

Make Money Whether You Sell It Or Not!

As we discussed earlier, one of the problems associated with selling pet food within your practice is that it takes up a lot of space in both your front and back office. The margins are generally small when you consider the work involved.

We don’t want veterinary practice owners to have to deal with these same problems with our new range of supplements. So we’ve come up with a new model which is unlike anything you may have seen elsewhere. You see we’re going to let you have your cake and eat it!

If you want to sell it within your practice then you can buy it in cases of twelve packets for half the retail price (e.g. 100% markup.) You need only buy the supplements for your most popular breeds. We chose Chihuahuas as our first breed because they are on just about every veterinary practices top five list and we wanted to do something other than the obvious, which would have been Labradors.

However, you don’t have to actually buy or sell a single packet to make money with our supplements. When you join our special My Healthy Pooch™ Partner Program you have the option of us marketing to your clients for free and also providing you with a special website address (unique to your practice) to give to your clients. When your client uses this address to get to our site they are automatically flagged as being a client of yours.

From this point on your practice will receive a commission for any sales of our supplements that are made to your client. This includes if they sign up for monthly auto-ship. Just imagine being paid every month for a product you didn’t even have to buy, stock or even sell!

If you’re interested in joining our partner program and offering My Healthy Chihuahua™ to your Chihuahua owning clients then visit our special partner website at the address below:

Whether or not you consider selling our vitamins and supplement range in your practice, supplements can be a good way to replace some of the income being lost to those profit centers being taken away by businesses outside of the veterinary industry. Now more than ever you need to be a Veterinary Entrepreneur..

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