It’s challenging to have a conversation with Dr. Jill López without hearing the words, “I have a great idea.” Her mind works faster than Elon Musk’s and she has as much energy as one of his rocket ships. Absolutely, Lopez is a veterinarian first, but she is also a natural-born idea machine and marketer.
In March 2015, she was working at an animal health company when she heard about coughing dogs in Chicago—hundreds of them. At first, most assumed it was the canine influenza virus, H3N8, rearing its ugly head again in the Windy City. But López didn’t accept that assumption and was a part of a dedicated team encouraging Chicago-area veterinarians to send dozens of samples to Cornell’s diagnostic laboratory to confirm.
Cornell professor of virology, Dr. Ed Debovi, and others were confounded at first, confirming canine influenza virus, but said “this isn’t H3N8.” And within a few weeks H3N2 was identified for the first time on U.S. soil (somehow arriving from Southeast Asia).
“The H3N2 dog flu outbreak in Chicago was truly a nightmare,” López recalls, “Absolutely no one was prepared for it.”
Straight on, López used her formidable marketing chops to lead an all-out education campaign for veterinary professionals regarding hygiene and in-clinic sanitation, and revealing what was known about H3N2. Nine months later, the first H3N2 canine influenza vaccine became available.
López developed a program called Heroes for Healthy Pets, utilizing top experts in veterinary infectious disease, which includes continuing education modules for veterinary professionals, and a veterinary guide called The Infectious Disease Handbook. The program focused on all infectious diseases of dogs and highlighted the need for strategic vaccination protocols based on American Animal Hospital Association Guidelines.
She was only just beginning. “I realized that educating veterinary professionals alone just wasn’t enough,” López recalls. “So I teamed up with the International Boarding and Pet Services Association, Pet Sitters International, and Barkleigh Publications to help educate pet care professionals.”
As a result, for the first time ever, employees of doggie day cares, boarding facilities, groomers and dog walkers were included in a veterinary education program and certified as “Heroes.”
“While working with the Chicago area veterinary community, we soon realized that most of the affected dogs were social,” she says. “Most had recently visited doggie day cares, groomers or kennels. It made sense to communicate and work with these other professions, and they welcomed it. No one wants to see sick dogs and shut down their business as a result.”
Throughout her career, strategizing to communicate with the public has been an innate skill. She orchestrated media stories on TV/radio, in print, podcasts, videos, blogs and also using social media to effectively spread the facts about dog flu. She facilitated the award-winning website: www.dogflu.com, and the book A Pet Parent’s Guide: Infectious Disease in Dogs. If a veterinarian didn’t suggest the dog flu vaccine, countless pet parents became informed enough to inquire.
There’s no doubt that her marketing savviness and resolve to communicate helped keep thousands of pets healthy, likely limiting and even preventing outbreaks.
As one of her coworkers once told me, “In one meeting with Jill, I counted about an idea a minute. It was a 60-minute meeting. I was exhausted. But Jill just went to her next meeting with more ideas. How do you keep up that?”
This was a path she never would have predicted while attending Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine, when she had planned to eventually become a veterinary practice owner back in her home state of West Virginia.
Following a stint in Knoxville, TN at a low-cost clinic, she heard about an opening at the Animal Poison Control Center in Champaign/Urbana, IL. Answering phone calls from the veterinary community about pets thought to be poisoned was right in her wheelhouse. She also authored or co-authored over 40 scientific articles, including the dangers of permethrin to cats—a topic which at that time wasn’t as well-understood. Other papers included a variety of toxicology-related topics, such as how some dogs actually become hyperactive when swallowing Ambien (Zolpidem).
After leaving a position as the Director of Marketing for Essentials Pet Care, López started her own company, Vet Candy.
“As a mother, business woman, and veterinarian, I know how precious each minute of the day is,” says López. “The goal of Vet Candy is to make our busy lives easier by providing updated news and information that is required in our profession.”
The company delivers world class content, with engaging voices and inspirational messages curated by the veterinary profession’s top influencers and experts.
“Vet Candy is committed to continued development of providing engaging experiences for our veterinary audience,” said López. “Collaborating with our veterinary advisors and lifestyle contributors allowed us to be experimental in our digital development, which opened the door to this innovative way to connecting with our veterinary audience.”
Learn more about Dr. Jill López and Vet Candy, and sign up for the free weekly newsletter by visiting myvetcandy.com. +