By Chrissie Schneider, DVM, MS, DABVP, Merck Animal Health
We all know the importance of vaccinations and routine care for the health and wellbeing of horses in our care. Driving client compliance prevents disease spread, offers better outcomes for patients and supports the financial health of your practice. But with dozens of clients and hundreds of patients across multiple farms—all with different needs and expectations—it can be a logistical nightmare. Some trainers or barn managers struggle to organize their horses’ routine veterinary care (vaccinations, fecals, deworming, dental floats, Coggins, etc.) and rely on us to remind them when care is needed. It can be difficult to keep everyone’s needs top of mind and care can be missed even in the best veterinary practices.
Automatic reminders can be helpful but can also create confusion when sent to horse owners who are not directly involved in the care of the animal. For example, a horse owner will often get confused if the veterinarian contacts them to schedule an appointment if that horse is with a trainer who manages all aspects of the animal’s care.
In an ideal situation, medical records would be reviewed for each patient prior to examinations and farm calls, but when servicing a farm with 70 horses owned by 60 different clients it’s simply impractical and unrealistic. Yet, not knowing the relevant history of the patient can lead to problems when providing wellness care. One size doesn’t fit all. Care needs to be tailored based on history as well as other factors, such as:
- a previous vaccine reaction which requires a different vaccination protocol,
- the situation warrants additional vaccine boosters,
- differing vaccine needs when a horse is traveling to another geographic area or has been exposed to a disease recently, or
- a biannual, rather than annual, dental exam or float is needed.
Consolidate data for optimal outcomes
I have found the simplest and most effective tactic for maximizing client compliance in wellness care, including vaccinations, is a customized spreadsheet for each farm. In it, I include all the horses at a particular facility and display their relevant information in a concise way. Everything is stored clearly and in one place (instead of pulling up each individual horse’s medical record one at a time). The spreadsheet holds high-level patient information and service dates.
- Date of last Coggins test
- Spring/fall vaccines
- Additional vaccines (e.g., botulism, strangles, Flu Avert® I.N.)
- Dental exam/float
- Fecal test results and date
- Date of last deworming and product used
- Endocrine monitoring (insulin, ACTH)
- Microchip placement or number of existing microchip
- Sheath cleaning for geldings and stallions
- Relevant notes (e.g., Banamine® (flunixin meglumine) prior to vaccination, split vaccines, horse is needle shy, etc.)
This document must be updated consistently to remain accurate and useful. Depending on veterinarian preferences or staffing, the form can be updated by the veterinarian, the assistant or technician, office staff or even the farm manager.
Click here for an example template.
When used and updated regularly, the benefits of this organization system are numerous.
- The practice saves time as all horses’ information is easily accessible in one place.
- There are no missed vaccine boosters, meaning fewer sick horses and reduced disease transmission.
- There is increased compliance with recommended follow-up care (e.g., biannual dental care, fecal testing, endocrine monitoring).
- Client relationships improve as personalized, detailed care is highly valued and appreciated.
- Return trips significantly decrease for care that “fell through the cracks.”
- The number of calls for “emergency Coggins” or “emergency vaccinations” significantly decrease.
- And, most importantly, each horse gets the care they need.
In short, while keeping clients on top of vaccination compliance and routine care is a challenge, that care is necessary to reduce disease spread and keep horses healthy. When you take matters into your own hands with a tailored organization system and preemptive approach, it’s a win-win for your patients, practice and clients. Prevention, after all, is the best medicine.
Chrissie Schneider, DVM, MS, DABVP (Equine), is a Senior Equine Professional Services Veterinarian at Merck Animal Health.
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