Beta fish

As part of my brief series detailing the top trends, topics and products in vet medicine in 2013, I offer you this entry on what I see as my profession’s 10 hottest topics. Pay attention, since they might just have a big impact on you and your pets’ lifestyle and health care.

But, as always, remember that these ideas represent my personal take on vet med and, as such, might not jibe with what you or your veterinarian considers salient or salubrious where your pet’s health care is concerned. So take these for what they are: one industry watcher’s informed opinion.

Hot Topics

1. Feline care takes a front seat. Over the past decade, the state of feline affairs has become an increasingly evident source of consternation within our profession. Despite their role as the No. 1 pet in the nation, population-wise, it’s clear our cats aren’t enjoying the benefits our dogs do. Vet visits are down, compliance is low relative to that afforded their canine cousins, and, to make matters worse, the indoor vs. outdoor debate rages on with recent reviews dissing trap-neuter-return policies.

2. Obesity chatter gains volume. If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that our pets are fat and getting fatter. What’s not so certain is what we’re supposed to do about it. Which is probably why there’s so much talk on the subject but precious few real-world answers on offer. Aside from direct veterinary consultation, restricted-calorie foods and software solutions offer the only assistance on this new front in the battle of the bulge.

3. Niche pets rise in popularity. Turns out birds and fish are especially ramping up in sales — a trend definitely evident at this year’s Global Pet Expo in Orlando. Reptiles and pocket pets are trending, too. Which, of course, means vet medicine is making way for more niche vets. (Coming soon to a neighborhood near you!)

Current Trends

4. Financial products for pets come of age. In case you hadn’t noticed, the price of veterinary care isn’t getting any lower. The expense of drugs, fuel and supplies means we’ve got bigger bills to pay. This, along with an increasingly devoted customer base (you!), means more services at higher standards of care than ever before. All of which means we can offer you better care (a good thing) — albeit at a higher price (not a good thing). Hence the need to find new ways for responsible pet owners to pay their burgeoning vet bills. Enter the pet health insurance industry and its expanded product lines and services — not to mention the growing popularity of pet health insurance among pet owners. Could 2013 be the year of the pet health insurance industry’s tipping point?

5. Specialty services make a comeback. Though it never completely went stale, one trend that tapered off during the recession is picking up steam. The use of specialists and specialty services is again on the rise. This includes everyone from microbiologists and histopathologists to ophthalmologists, dermatologists, surgeons and internists. The specialists making the biggest gains, however, are those who can be accessed remotely for convenient in-one-hospital care. That includes radiologists and cardiologists. What’s even newer is the employment of nutritionists for custom diet formulation.

6. Drug delivery methods get a makeover. It’s a perennial problem in veterinary circles. Giving drugs and supplements to pets will always prove problematic as long as the ability to reason eludes them. That’s why novel ways to medicate our patients are always a hot topic. Compounding pharmacies to mix up meds to match our patients’ needs, yummier drugs, and longer-acting antibiotics are among the options this trend delivers.

Cool Products

7. Vet services go high-tech. Veterinarians love their toys. Which is why the past decade saw us adopt digital technology in droves — digital X-rays, in particular. This decade is shaping up a little differently, though. Equipment that complements more traditional care is taking off. Underwater treadmills, lasers and even hyperbaric chambers are making impressive headway in what I felt was an already cluttered market of high-end vet services. Cool stuff, but will you bite?

8. Handheld technology comes into the examining room. This year has seen more handheld device technology than ever before. In large part, that’s because of the rise of the smartphone and mobile application technology. Though their gain is modest compared to that in other industries, mobile applications have exploded in veterinary medicine, too. In fact, I now use a mobile app and a custom iPhone case to perform EKGs in the exam room. What’s more, with one tap, I can have a cardiologist review it within minutes.

9. Nutrition goes natural. Though there are more trends in the pet food industry than I can squeeze into this post, let it suffice to say that “natural” is again a buzzword. This year, however, the companies are going to greater lengths to prove it with clearer labeling and greater transparency on where the ingredients come from. Veterinarians, for our part, are still mostly skeptical. Our schools, however, are churning out more nutritionists than ever before. And, impressively, more of these are choosing lower-paying careers in academia and even private practice.  

10. Vaccines get innovative. Our clients are increasingly clamoring for safety, reduced vaccine frequency and even lower-volume vaccines. The biologicals industry is responding.