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May 29, 2015

It’s an unfortunate reality that, at times, pet reptiles can become sick or injured. Just as we get sick or have accidents, sometimes our animals may follow suit, despite our best precautions or preventative care. Having an expert in veterinary care at arm’s reach provides you with the best possible way to ensure that your animals are the healthiest they can be at the time of sale.

Many of the larger pet store chains have established positive working relationships with both individual veterinarians and veterinary chains; some of the larger chains even have multiple vets on staff. While allying with such a large veterinary chain may be out of your reach, that doesn’t mean that establishing a relationship with a vet is just a pipe dream. In fact, reaching out to a solitary vet or an individual veterinary practice can provide a much more reasonable, cost-effective solution.

First, and most important, your vet needs to have expertise in the animals you carry. Given our particular focus on reptiles, this can prove difficult. The majority of vets have no issues treating cats, dogs and some of the other more typical pets. Reptiles, due to their differences in physiology, can make the job challenging for veterinarians who lack specialized training. When researching vets in your area, look for those with a background in herpetology and experience treating our nonstandard pets.

Just as important as finding a vet that caters to the animals you sell is finding one with whom you can establish a symbiotic working relationship. In an ideal scenario, the relationship between your store and your vet should represent a beneficial feedback loop. As you receive shipments, your vet should be available to provide a standard checkup for the incoming animals and vouch for their health and well-being if required. Reciprocally, when animals and supplies are purchased in your store, you can easily refer your customers to your chosen vet for any post-purchase care they might require.

This mutual feedback loop can even be extended beyond the bounds of your store. If you can stock vitamins and other nonprescription medications that are commonly recommended by your vet, he or she can refer customers back to your store to purchase them. In doing this, you ensure that both you and your vet maintain and grow return business in an ethical and positive manner.

Regardless of which vet you choose, two primary objectives are of paramount importance. First, you must keep the lines of communication open at all times. As you begin working together, try to set aside a day every week or two during which he or she can come in, establish a relationship with your staff members and provide treatment or checkups for your animals. During these visits, you can go over any time-sensitive items that may need to be discussed. Ultimately, your vet should feel as comfortable in your store as you do. If you can provide him or her with a specific treatment area, or even a spot to store supplies and other items, do so. Just a small amount of designated space can help your vet feel at home and welcome.

Second, ensure that both you and your vet establish a set of protocols for standard operating procedure. If your vet visits once a week, how long will each visit last? Is he or she going to check every animal in your inventory? Will animals be taken off-premises for treatment or for normal checkups and vaccinations? All of these are questions you should consider as you negotiate terms with any veterinarian. While the answers may change over time based on how your working relationship evolves, establishing those protocols provides a concrete methodology with which you can both depend.

One final note: Be sure to respect your vet’s expertise. As a pet store owner, you surely know a substantial amount more about animals than the average person out there. You demonstrate that desire for knowledge with each issue and article you read. That said, your vet is a medical doctor, with eight to ten years of school plus post-doctoral practice. While you may be able to identify a disease or malady in one of your animals, a good vet can certainly ascertain a solid plan of treatment that may be beyond your own abilities. Keep mutual lines of communication open and your animals will surely benefit.

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