The end of heartworm season

   Every year when we discuss vacations my wife brings up Spring Break, and I inevitably respond, "sorry babe, I am not aloud take vacation then, that is our busy season." For those of us in the midwest and east spring brings warmer weather, tax returns and those pesky mosquitos leading up to heartworm season. This financial boom time was when veterinary practices were utilizing their staff to the fullest, having to make sure to stay on time in appointments and if all goes well pay out the bonus checks. The premise used to be that pets only needed to be on heartworm prevention for part of the year (6 months worked out well because that is how many pills came in a box) and that there were no worries in the winter. So we asked our clients to come in the Spring, make sure their pet was heartworm negative, get updated on vaccinations, discuss the changes to the 4th of July parade this year and send them home with 6 months of prevention. It was a busy few months, but then fall and winter came and the reminders sent out to clients dwindled and the rush turned into a dribble. This setup was convenient for a veterinarian who hunts or is a faithful alumni following their school to away football games because there was not a lot of business being missed during these times of years.

   But then something happened, in the north a few of our dogs were testing positive for heartworm disease, despite following our seasonal recommendations. So as the winters warmed our part time prevention methods were putting some pets in danger. This also coincided with the advent of multi modal prevention covering more than just heartworm disease. So the paradigm shift of year round heartworm prevention took hold and changed the business model forever. It was not immediate, but over the years more and more pets in a given practice come in for their scheduled vaccines or heartworm test throughout the year, regardless of temperature.

   Practices have been recommeding year round heartworm prevention and thus year round heartworm testing/wellness exams for a generation of pets. The spectacular numbers from the spring months have declined (certainly the economy has played a role of late) but the downtime months have been steady and in some cases improved. In my practice our October numbers were better than April's this past year. Our winter months are usually within 10% of the supposed heartworm season numbers. The motivation for a hearworm bonus to staff may be no longer, but now a steady business flow throughout the year can be counted on. This should help a practice owner develop a more predictable budget. There may always be a slight increase in business in the spring months due to the weather warming up, owners getting their pets checked out before going on summer vacation, owners who still insist on seasonal protection or wanting medication for those anxiety ridden thunderstorms. Owner's wallets are not as strapped for cash in the Spring. The flowers they got for Mother's Day may not come cheap, but it pales in comparison to the money unloaded at the malls during the holiday season.

   But the numbers are leveling off and will continue to do so. So if your practice has been recommending year round heartworm prevention for the last 10 to 15 years or longer then it is time to throw the mere idea of heartworm season out the window. This is a good thing, to have a consistent level of staff, persistent revenue and better prevention thus medicine for the pet. The rule of not allowing vacation in the Spring may need to be revised, it is as outdated as giving students the summers off so they can go back and help on the farm (if any of the females in my family (all teachers) read that I would not hear the end of it). I think I will finally take some time off and head down to the Kentucky Derby next Spring.

Comments




  • Be the first to comment.

Inappropriate Flag

Flagging notifies the Veterinary Community webmaster of inappropriate content. Please flag any messages that violate the Terms of Service or Rules of Engagement. Please include a short explanation why you're flagging this message. Thank you!

If you believe this content violates the Terms of Service or Rules of Engagement, please write a short description why. Thank you.

Inappropriate Comment Flag

Flagging notifies the Veterinary Community webmaster of inappropriate content. Please flag any messages that violate the Terms of Service or Rules of Engagement. Please include a short explanation why you're flagging this message. Thank you!

Email Friends

Your First Name (optional)

Email Addresses (comma separated)

Import friends

Message to Friends (optional)

Are you human?

Or, you can forward this blog with your own email application.

Terms of Service