As animal lovers, one thing should always be at the heart of everything we do: the health and well-being of our animal friends. Pets deserve to have long, healthy lives filled with joy and love. Naturally, because they are not capable of communicating with us directly — the wag of a tail or a plaintive mew can only go so far — the responsibility for our pets’ health falls upon us, every step of the way.
Of course, that mantle starts with the moment that an animal falls under our care. As an animal enters your store, your priority should immediately be to keep that animal in quarantine until their health can be assured. Doing so prevents animals from spreading pathogens to the animals already within your store. Fostering a symbiotic relationship with a well-trained, reliable vet remains one of your best ways to ensure the continual care of animals within your store. That vet can provide up-to-date information, the best possible care and the potential for additional repeat customers through cross-promotion.
However, what can we do to ensure an animal’s health once they have left our store? Once they are beyond our reach, how can we help to make certain that pet owners keep their new friends in the best of health and wellness?
The easiest methodology to follow comes in the form of care sheets and health care guides. While care sheets can cover basic necessities, like recommended foods, habitat requirements and other daily necessities, health care guides cover other important items that might be specific to a given animal, including common diseases, warning signs to watch out for and care items to help ensure the best possible help for the pet in question. A valuable resource for a new pet owner and family that will have questions about their new friend.
So, where does one go to find these sort of care sheets? A good place to start is the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). This site has peer-reviewed, cogent information available in easy-to-digest pages, easily translated into plain English. Furthermore, the AVMA website contains recommendations on such varied topics as holiday safety (including 4th of July), traveling with pets, common household hazards for pets and even end-of-life care for pets.
Consider printing out these sheets and providing them in easily accessible locations, particularly within areas with more specialized pets, like reptiles, amphibians, birds or fish. When customers purchase a new pet, your crew should be trained to include relevant daily care and health care sheets as part of the purchase. Emphasize this as common best practice and demonstrate how to include these items as part of the pet acquisition. Doing so gives your customers the best possible information as a new friend joins their home.
Another great resource for care guides — both in terms of daily care and health care — is the Pet Advocacy Network (previously known as PIJAC). In addition to providing daily care sheets and information for pet owners, the Pet Advocacy Network offers articles oriented directly towards retailers, such as “Zoonotic Disease Prevention for Retailers,” “Best Management Practices — Feeder Rodents” and “Groomers & Stylists: Standards of Care, Safety & Sanitation.” Better still, Pet Advocacy Network’s resources include things like stickers and posters about safe pet handling, making them easy to place in your store – both in customer-facing areas and in employee-only animal care areas.
These types of articles and stickers go a long way towards both educating your staff on how to care for animals in their care and ensuring that your store uses the best possible practices throughout a pet’s time within your care. And, as you educate your staff, they are then empowered to educate your customers in what a pet truly needs.
While no pet care retinue can account for every ailment that a pet may contract throughout their lives, proper education through informational sheets provides a strong pillar for your store when educating staff and would-be pet owners on how to best treat our animal friends. Following best practices and teaching others how to do the same will ensure the best possible lives for our pets and will maintain their health and happiness throughout their time with us.
In our next article, we will continue our look at health, in terms of the various pet products you can carry to help maintain animal health and how to best provide those items to your customers.
John Mack is the founder and CEO of Reptiles by Mack. He is also the chair of the Pet Advocacy Network board of directors and is on the Pet Advocacy Network’s Zoonosis Committee. His Ohio-based company is widely recognized as one of the largest reptile breeders and suppliers in the U.S.A. today.