Dock Dogs: Team O-Dog Makes a Splash

By Karin Krisher

Vetri-Science Sponsored Dock Dogs Team Takes on the World

This is Otis. Otis isn’t your ordinary dog. Sure, his days at home are spent Dock Dogslounging on the couch, and we’ll be the first to admit that he loves to play catch—he just does it a bit differently than the average canine. Otis and his companion, Erika Jones, have been more-than-avid Dock Dog competitors since Otis first took to the public water in August 2010.

Today, Erika is the treasurer and secretary for her local chapter, Rocky Mountain Dock Dogs, and Otis is number 15 in the world rankings. (We’ll get back to that later.) A national organization, Dock Dogs is an aquatic performance sport canine competition of the friendliest kind. Dogs jump off of a platform and into a pool as they participate in events called Big Air (the original and most popular, it’s a long jump for pups), Extreme Vertical, (high jump version), Speed Retrieve, and in Otis’s case, Iron Dog—a combination of all three events.

Dock Dogs are Taking Off

Dock Dogs has a following, and it’s not just at the lake. With over 7500 members (meaning teams with a handler and a dog), the sport is “growing like crazy,” says Jones, and is doing so as both a lifestyle and a one-time dose of spectator fun.

Jones says that Dock Dogs began as a grassroots movement and remains that at its core. While the worldwide organization itself is a for-profit organization, every affiliate club remains non-profit. To this end, RMDD contributes to causes like Chase Away K-9 Cancer. Further, there are no rules about breed, size or experience level of the dog competing. These two facts of the sport make being a part of Dock Dogs much more about being part of a community that is both supportive and competitive than it is about the actual win, says Jones.

That community includes some younger participants that Jones believes are the real future of the sport. Handlers can be as young as seven years, and RMDD has nearly ten youth participants.

“We take a lot of pride in our youth participants,” Jones says. “The level of sportsmanship that I’ve seen in that age group is inspiring.”

Also inspiring is the fact that people like Jones (and dogs like Otis) who simply fall in love with the sport are the ones that make the docks go ‘round, so to speak. Aside from dealing with the logistics of the set-up and safety of an event (which features the construction of a pool with over 30,000 gallons of water, a platform, and plenty of other amenities), organizers must consider the cost. A national event costs roughly three times more to stage than a local event, as local affiliate events recruit volunteer staff for set-up.

Dock Dogs O Dog

But seeing new faces and watching the community grow is the ultimate feeling of reward for all the hard work the organizers do, Jones notes. For her personally, another reward comes in the way of Otis’s happiness.

Otis Takes Mixed Breeds to the top of Dock Dogs’ List

Otis got into the game a little late, but has climbed to the top of the rankings with ease. The mixed-breed rescue, whom Jones adopted when he was just nine weeks old, will be seven this August. He’s special for a lot of reasons, says Jones, including his enthusiastic attitude.

“The dog who’s normally a well-behaved couch potato at home is a complete nutcase when it comes to Dock Dogs events,” Jones says. “Otis will literally be frothing at the mouth with excitement.” As well he should be. Otis placed 15th in the world rankings for Iron Dog in 2011, and he’s one of only five mixed breeds in the top 50.

“What’s interesting about Otis is that he isn’t the best at any one event, but instead is the best in Iron Dog,” says Jones, who has big plans for the future. Otis is working on expanding into televised dock diving circuits, as well as participating in the Super Retriever series.

Otis is a Dock Dogs star!

For now, he’ll focus on staying healthy for the Dock Dogs competitions ahead and on signing pawtographs for fans after events. Otis is always ready for his next adventure with Glyco-Flex II and III, Composure (“for those long car trips,” says Jones) and Vetri-Probiotic Everyday. He’s also become a fan of our Vetri-Repel wipes, for the times when those pests rear their ugly heads in Denver.


Vetri-Science is proud to sponsor the Rocky Mountain Dock Dogs and Team O-Dog.  We’ve always touted the beneficial properties of our products, but it never hurts to have somebody standing behind them, especially if they’re standing on four legs– or a dock.

What Corporate Veterinary Clinics Mean to You and How to Get With the Times

By Karin Krisher

A veterinary clinic might be the last place we expect to find corporate culture, marked by the presence of such concepts and actions as evaluations, business models, reviews, financial goals, and human interest corporate veterinary clinicsand understanding. We’re right not to expect it—most  practices are not corporate veterinary clinics; most focus on medicine and healing, and not on themselves as a business entity. But is this really the best way to stake a name (and a profit) for your practice (or, if you’re a consumer, is this the type of practice you feel best suits your needs)?

The obvious answer is that people want to feel that the culture of healing exists, and need a personal tie to the practice in order to return. However, the obvious answer isn’t always the most correct. The best way to ensure that a practice experience is valuable and successful in creating and maintaining that healing/medicinal culture is to become involved with the business culture, however daunting and counterintuitive it may seem.

Shawn McVey’s recent presentation at the Vermont Veterinarian Medical Association meeting confirmed that veterinary practices spend, on average, more time concerned with medicine than with business. Again, this seems like a good thing—a testament to the value veterinarians place on themselves as healers.  But McVey, owner of McVey Management Solutions and a boon in the world of corporate veterinary guidance, insists that approaching the business elements of the practice is not only helpful in achieving the conceptual goals of the practice, but even necessary to overall success.

McVey noted the importance of recognizing the statistics: In the last 15 years, human medicine has emerged as a corporate entity, and animal medicine has closely followed that lead. In 1999, Veterinary Centers of America owned just 1.5 percent of United States clinics. That number jumped to 4 percent in 2005, and today, VCA owns 9 percent of all veterinary clinic practices in the US.  VCA emphasizes educational outreach, information exchange, and the value of established and enacted techniques and procedures, and is a growing force as a corporate entity in the world of veterinary medicine.

Why the success of corporate veterinary clinics, and how can individual practices achieve similar success without losing their personal values?

VCA has recognized and reacted to some of the most obvious conflicts facing veterinary practices today: veterinarians, by default, spend time working in the business rather than on the business, and practices attempt to function like private medical firms, but do so in a retail space. The retail environment demands more corporate-esque concepts and actions, such as better customer service, the inclusion of salespeople, and attention to details like office hours reflective of retailers’.

VCA has also recognized that it can be difficult to motivate individuals to enter that space, and even more difficult to implement the ideals on the ground level. McVey’s tips for success in implementation span several categories, but all focus on creating a learning culture. Here, we’ll focus on just three categorical ways to foster that culture: finance, employees and education.

Financially, veterinary practices fall behind because of limited knowledge and reaction to their goals (if goals exist). Profit goals are necessary to the measurement of success, and so is an understanding of how finance affects the day-to-day business. This is not to say that we can only measure success based on revenue streams or expenditures, but instead that we have a better opportunity to understand financial success if these types of goals and evaluations are in place.  Improving the ability to discuss money with clients also benefits the financial structure of the practice.

Similarly, understanding employee compensation is necessary to attaining these goals.  How employees are compensated for their work is reflective of the practice’s financial goals. Many practices offer compensation based on longevity or seniority, or even revenue stream associated with the employee, while many practices do not participate in evaluating employees by any standardized system, instead focusing on subjective observance. When leaders focus on individual and team success, and compensation based on this, changes occur.

Specifically, when review exists, learning occurs—and the learning culture is the most important facet of this discussion. If a practice has no system for review of actions, little learning can take place. However, when leaders are active in questioning and listening to dialogue and debate about the business’ success, practice employees feel a sense of encouragement. This sense is carried over into the entire educational environment of the practice.

Becoming educated is no easy task, and learning itself is something that is notoriously difficult to monitor. However, there are steps toward education that any practice manager can take to improve employee understanding and practice function. For example, encouraging discussion and after-action reviews with proper terminology (instead of error or investigation, use terms like incident and analysis) can promote employee confidence and willingness to improve for the success of the practice.

Learning most often occurs when people are exposed to new knowledge in a safe space that encourages reflection. Knowledge within the practice, therefore, must flow both laterally and vertically, with respect to each individual employee and leader. A working flow of information can have a huge impact on the ease of daily operations, and on the ability to review and learn.

These types of fundamental changes may seem impossible to implement at a small practice, but there are tools to help. Researching and incorporating a successful model (like HBR online) is necessary for overall success. Customers (and patients) will be more satisfied with any service that treats them like a valued customer (and that they can identify as a business, first and foremost), and employees will be more satisfied with a position in which success is valued, encouraged and evident.

Changes are imminent in the world of veterinary medicine. As corporations grow and buy, and small practices fall by the wayside due to a simple lack of awareness of their own business model, it can be vital to the health of those small practices to take steps toward acting like businesses, too.

The first step is analysis—stepping back to work on the business instead of in it can be crucial to moving forward. Perhaps discussing the business model with a consultant would save the analysis from falling victim to total subjectivity, which can present roadblocks to change.

Whatever each practice chooses, it is most important that their leaders are aware of a changing animal health environment and make a decision to somehow adjust the practice in the appropriate direction. Veterinary medicine is no longer a totally individualized space—instead, there are standards falling into place that are reflective of both the practice’s and the customers’ needs.

These standards, of course, can be individually applicable to the practice. After all, personal touch has always spoken volumes in the world of animal medicine, and with this new outlook and strategy, so too will organization, communication and efficiency.

Have you noted the struggle between corporate veterinary clinics and small practices? Do you have any plans in place for focusing on the business? Share some tips in our comments section!

A Bite Out Of Health: Dental Care for Pets

By Karin Krisher

Despite the fact that there are thousands of proponents of the myth that dental care for petsdogs’ mouths are cleaner than humans’, it remains a myth. Veterinarian Marty Becker, author of Chicken Soup for the Dog Owner’s Soul, notes that the myth probably stems from the fact that dogs do lick their wounds, causing them to heal quickly; however, this healing process is merely accelerated by dead tissue removal, not by some powerful antiseptic located in the dog’s saliva. While some dog owners might want to believe the myth in order to remain in control of their sanity when they receive a smooch from their pooch, others are as mortified as they probably should be.

Even more upsetting? Dental health isn’t a matter we can leave up to feeling. In fact, According to the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS), 80 percent of domesticated dogs and 70 percent of cats have periodontal disease by three years of age, meaning dental care for pets is a must.

Periodontal disease is serious stuff. Not only does it make the owners’ kissing fears that much worse, it can also have serious adverse effects on cats’ and dogs’ bodily systems aside from the mouth. Caused by bacteria overgrowth, periodontal disease can ravage the gums and teeth and move on to the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and even the brain without proper attention.

February is National Pet Dental Health Month. That’s right, there’s a whole month devoted to that slobbering, meowing, licking, chomping, snarling, smiling orifice. And rightly so—dental health is an area of your patients’ or pets’ physiology that should never be ignored.

Of course, dental health is simpler to achieve with the help of a veterinarian, who can perform services like analytical radiographs and sealant procedures and recommend ingredients that are sure to keep tails wagging and kisses coming. Outside of the office, what are the best ways to keep pets’ free of periodontal disease?

Dental Care for Pets: The Clean They Need

We can start with examining our own habits. First, we eat. Then, we brush. What happens when Fido eats? He licks his lips and takes a nap, letting the lovely grime of doggy food seep into his teeth and gums for hours at a time. Brushing and flossing a dog’s or cat’s teeth is the first step to maintaining dental health and one of the most simple and important ways to ensure general wellbeing.

While home care is necessary, the American Animal Hospital Association has set out strict guidelines that detail what type of dental care for pets is necessary. The AAHA recommends annual (at least) veterinarian-performed oral examinations and dental cleanings, under general anesthesia. This guideline applies to all adult dogs and cats– starting at age one for cats and small-breed dogs, and at age two for large-breed dogs.

Expect a lot of questions this month about the bite and the bark, the meow and the lick. Perhaps suggest a bit of training on how to properly brush and floss pets’ teeth at home, or offer an in-office training featuring a seasoned Labrador flosser.

Your patients’ and pets’ teeth, tongue, cheeks, lips, stomach, liver, heart, and brain will thank you.

And so will your nose.

The Ubiquitous Nature of Dogs

By Karin Krisher

Dogs are taking their places amongst the likes of presidents, angels and criminal justice students. They’re popping up in luxury hotels in California, military vehicles in Afghanistan, and robotics laboratories in Japan. They’re getting love from wealthy executives with a whole lot to guard, and Yale law students with a whole lot to study.

We love dogs, but for anyone who isn’t as smitten, it’s time to wake up and smell the sweet aroma of ubiquity. Dogs are here to stay. With the recent fervor about human-grade intelligence in canines (dogs are as adept as a one year old human in some areas, research shows), it’s no wonder that dogs are cropping up in places we might not have expected them. So, just how involved are they? And what do dogs offer to our societal structure on a larger-than-familial scale?

After all, dog is God spelled backwards!

To examine just how involved in the fabric of humanity dogs have become over thousands of years of domestication, perhaps it is fitting to start with their place in the church.

Animals have been crucial to Christianity since the religion began, with stories about companionship with humans abounding. But over the last few centuries, we’ve lost sight of their role in the story of Christianity, focusing more on domestication and utility than meaning. Now, according to a New York Times’ assessment of the religious role of animals, those stories are being reclaimed.

With that comes action. The Humane Society of the United States has just developed an online directory for affiliate ministries, reflecting the growing trend toward animal-inspired sermons and services (like not-for-profit medical care) that many religious organizations currently espouse.  (It should be noted that in religions like Christianity, caring for pets as you care for humans raises all sorts of questions. Is proposed dominion over other animals necessarily a go-ahead to mistreat or ignore them, or is treating animals as if they hold intrinsic value an acceptable practice?)

The popular response to growing Bible interpretations that applaud animal rights is, appropriately, political debate and action. Of course, political debate regarding dogs is not reserved for religious matters. Pet health care, pet retirement, and general animal welfare frequently bark their way onto the ballot. This campaign year, it’s becoming ever more clear that dogs have a strong influence on these and other political debates, and that they have irreversibly woven themselves into our American political fabric.

Puppy Politics

It’s 2012, and the pups are yapping. Newt has a campaign site dedicated to pets, while pets have a campaign site dedicated to attacking Mitt. Barack has political buttons featuring Bo barking for his daddy’s cause, and America Herself has September 23rd—Dogs in Politics Day. What’s all the bark about?

Obviously, dogs have some sway. While they might not choose their partisanship directly, they are, of course, guilty by association. Perhaps the soothing sounds of debate in the home pull that schnauzer’s ears one way or the other, and tickle his pleasure center just so, telling him that Barking for Barack is in fact the best type of political action his vocal cords could possibly take.

Or perhaps the candidates, like so many businesses and individuals worldwide, have had a real stroke of genius (though they aren’t the first- FDR enlisted Fala’s name to gain political leverage ages ago). Perhaps they’re just getting in line for the support of the huge groups of people that listen to their pets, treat them like a part of a family, and believe that animal rights are not only inalienable, but also votable. They’re not wrong—last year the house passed the Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act, while state congresses across the nation passed over 35 other new animal protection laws.

Some argue that every politician in American history has used their pet’s appeal to gain public respect and trust—they’re votegetters, no question about it. People love pets, and politicians need people, and thus, a political role for a dog seems no far leap. It should come as no surprise, then, that other careers are also starting to feature pawed executives with a lot of influence.

Out from under the table

Dogs have long been lauded for their application to human therapy and companionship, and for their general positive effect on stress. The phrase “man’s best friend” has rung true for millions (of people and pups) since its inception. Today, business-minded canines are taking their role to a new level, and entering the world of service with an open heart.

Kelly Shimoda for The New York Times

While service dogs have been allowed in courtrooms for decades, 2003 marked the first time a pooch was enlisted as a witness aid. Now, nine years later in New York, a fierce legal battle is raging over the presence of Rosie the golden retriever as a comfort to a rape victim during her testimony. Some argue that Rosie is as instrumental for the victim as a teddy bear for a child, while some argue that the dog elicits natural empathy and influences a juror’s judgment.

Rosie’s on the up-and-up: even as the prosecution prepared an appeal, she was slated to take the stand with two more young victims of abuse. Her actions during the trial in question make sense: she’d nudge the alleged victim in a moment of hesitation, lick her or cuddle her when she spoke about difficult topics.  A study  published this month in Current Biology indicates that dogs should be able to respond to human emotions with such accuracy—implying that Rosie’s actions, whether influential or not, were, at the very least, authentic.

“The report states that dogs, like infants, are able to study minor details in human communication and correctly interpret intent,” and further notes the value in the finding: If dogs can understand our body language, tones, and other cues, then presumably, it’s totally normal and even probably advised that we treat our dogs like we would an infant or young toddler—as part of the family.

At Yale, a therapy dog named Monty is now a part of a program for law students, helping them to de-stress. Students can stop by a circulation desk and spend 30 minutes with the pup, just petting him and relaxing with a temporary companion. Here, proponents of the program cite hard data that tell us that yes, owning a dog really can have a positive effect on attitude, and accordingly, on blood pressure.

Career-driven canines

As much as dogs like Rosie and Monty tempt us to think that the jobs of a service dog should and mostly do involve therapeutic elements, there’s another type of career that recruits dogs of various temperaments. Much like the diverse crew of humans that make up the ranks of the U.S. military, the 2700 dogs that take to battle today are from any one of a multitude of backgrounds, with genetics and stories that can be a world away from their peers’.

But military pups have a few things more in common with their human counterparts than background diversity. They fill different roles, specializing through education. They can be attackers, guards, seekers. And one emerging theory postulates that the perils of war can be as damaging for dogs as they are for human soldiers, even causing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder–again confirming that maybe dogs are a little bit more like us (and a bit more influenced by our societal skirmishes) than we used to be comfortable admitting.

And more

Other dog jobs include cancer, bomb, or HIV sniffer, actor, athlete, iPhone app tester, old-school shepherd, police officer, and of course, model. Careers aren’t the canines’ only contributions to our human-heavy world, though. They also participate in job creation, through acting as audience members for several endeavors, from creative (like the symphony that composer Laurie Anderson penned for pups) to medicinal to practical. They have their own hotels, like the Barkley, and their own fashion shows, their own skydiving training schools and their own playgroups.

There’s no real question on the matter: dogs are here to stay. They have their paws in everything, shedding light on difficult concepts in religion, politics, and medicine while simultaneously remaining loyal to human desires. They teach us and help us, bring down killers and cancers, and even provide government services.

Dogs, it might be said, have a society all their own. It would be simple to say that it is a microcosm of human society, but that doesn’t quite capture its pervasiveness in the proposed macrocosm. Instead, dog society is merely another society, so much like ours  (and so involved with it) that it’s difficult to pinpoint where one ends and the other begins.

Maybe that’s the trick: we’ve so heavily influenced the canine population that we have, by default, created an indistinguishable connection between our society and theirs. Much like audience responds to media influence and, in a wonderful, hidden symbiotic dance, media responds to audience desires, we respond to dogs and dogs respond to us. Whether either group is in control remains to be seen.

And remains unimportant. Canines and humans work well together—and we always have. We’ll let the dogs have their day, every day, and they’ll let us have ours. While we put their food in a bowl, they bring us a sense of peace. While we “walk them,” they walk us. And together we move forward, in a barking, talking, feeding, living frenzy—a mesh of two societies woven into one another with a little bit of slobber and a whole lotta love.

NAVC 2012 Recap

The North American Veterinary Conference this year was an outstanding experience.  With two large, stand-alone exhibit halls, we certainly had the right location. Our booth, located not far from the entrance of the Gaylord Palms, experienced heavy foot traffic as attendees stepped off their charter buses to enjoy their time at the conference. With the great turnout, it was clear that more of our practitioners are searching for natural alternatives to support their patients.

NAVC Stars

Many of the seminar offerings based their lectures around a nutritional and supplemental support program. Some of the hot topics included renal support, probiotics, and companion animal behavior. These topics generated a large amount of interest in our Renal Essentials Chews, Composure, and probiotic products, particularly the Mega Probiotic.

While we had a small amount of our new Vetri-ENSED in the booth, we elected to talk about this to select clients. Everyone exposed to this new option in joint comfort support seemed very interested, and is anxiously awaiting additional information and the release of trials.

Private label options were mentioned a few times, as some of our clients expressed an interest in branding their own hospital name. However, we left the VPS line alone until we have further information and product details to discuss.

There was great response to our current detailers on the composure field trial, our Renal Essentials feline literature, and the Mega Probiotic sell sheet. Perio-Support detailers also generated some interest, and it was one of the first samples gone!

A big thank you goes out to all who worked the booth this year: TJ, Jill, Lauri, Vonda, Pam, and Tim.  Also, thank you to Danielle Bremner and Sara Phillips for joining us this year, and adding their support to the Vetri-Science line from a corporate perspective.

Last, but certainly not least, thank you to Dale Metz for joining us at the conference; your energy and insight on the Vetri-Science line were greatly appreciated!

                                                            Vonda Ellinger, RVT