I am coming to realize–and this is up for debate–that the future of bread-and-butter income for small animal practice lies not with elective spays and neuters, but with dentistry. Unless a practice has a steady stream of new puppies from breeders or pet stores (and the significance of the latter will hopefully wane in the coming years due to heavy and unrelenting pressure on puppy mills), then most new puppies coming into a practice will already be spayed and neutered by shelters and low-cost spay/neuter clinics. Some general practices continue to offer orthopedic surgeries, such as ACL and patellar luxation repair and FHO’s, but increasingly orthopedic surgeries are referred to specialty practices that limit their services to these types of procedures (and other surgeries).
One area of service that still very much belongs in general practice is dentistry. Sure, there are veterinary dentistry specialists who perform root canals and other endodontic and orthodontic procedures not suitable for general practice, but the opportunity for small animal dentistry in general practice is huge. Our own hospital is a perfect example. It used to be that every week, we performed 10-12+ spays/neuters (and maybe 8 dental procedures) per week. After our relationship with a local pet store came to an end, those (already low) numbers dropped drastically. Now we do 1-4 spays/neuters per week, and 11-16 or so dental procedures per week. With each dental procedure averaging about $500, considerably more than our spays and neuters, dentistry is clearly an important component of a successful veterinary practice.
Considering how little dentistry I was taught in vet school (uh, none), I experienced a steep learning curve in the real world of veterinary dentistry. Fortunately, I had a great mentor (who now has her own dentistry practice), and I managed to do okay. But dentistry is one area where I always welcome new info (ok, you already know all of veterinary medicine is like that for me), which is why, without further adieu, I highly recommend the following veterinary dentistry resources:
Veterinary Dentistry Today (make sure you subscribe to the email newsletter AND the blog!!)
(VIN membership required to access this last one. Make sure to check out the “Dental Morph Videos by Dr. Bellows” under the “Slideshows, Images and Videos” section!)
Dr. Brett Beckman, the man behind the first two listed resources, has quite an impressive background (from his website: “Dr Beckman is immediate past president of the American Veterinary Dental Society. Dr Beckman is the sole veterinarian in the world who has completed extensive training to become regarded as a Fellow in the Academy of Veterinary Dentistry, a Diplomate in the American Veterinary Dental College and a Diplomate in the American Academy of Pain Management. He has published numerous peer-reviewed articles in the field of veterinary dentistry, oral surgery and pain management. He has been honored as a candidate for the American Veterinary Medical Association/Delta Society national award for Veterinarian of the Year for 2004. In 2007 Dr. Beckman was honored as Alumnus of the Year by the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine.”) He clearly loves learning and teaching, as he does a phenomenal job of disseminating information about veterinary dentistry to the entire world. I think all TLV readers will get a lot out of his postings!