Bring new life to parasite prevention

Your preventive pitch may be perfect, but some new veterinary client education tools could press more pet owners to do the right thing and keep up with your recommendations.
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May 01, 2013

Educating pet owners about parasites and making recommendations about preventives can be tricky. It's hard to know exactly what your clients will respond to. Should you scare them into a parasite-preventive submission with a formaldehyde-filled jar of heartworms or is there a better technique?

We suspect you're already using visual aids—and because there as many good approaches as there are practitioners, we've got a few more to really drive home the point about how important parasite control and prevention is.

It's what's inside that counts

Dr. Andy Rollo, a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and associate veterinarian at Madison Veterinary Hospital in Madison Heights, Mich., says that when he's educating pet owners about parasites, he often focuses on the ones they don't even see—but should be most aware of. He reminds clients that some of the peskiest parasitic infections can be passed on to humans.


Ewww ... you saw what?
"A lot of people still aren't aware of zoonosis—and sometimes we as veterinarians forget to mention it," Dr. Rollo says. "Communicating that is the most important thing."

Dr. Rollo and his staff recommend twice-yearly fecal exams, as advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to make sure that everyone in the house is protected as much as the pet. "Those parasites are often hidden, so pet owners don't see them and aren't as aware," Dr. Rollo says. But once pet owners understand the risk to their families, they're much more willing to comply, he says.

Whether a pet has been diagnosed with an intestinal parasite on a fecal exam or you just want to remind clients of the dangers of zoonotic disease when recommending a preventive, an informational client handout might be the missing piece to your parasite awareness message. Head over to http://dvm360.com/parasites to download one and put it to work in your practice today.

The follies of fleas and ticks

Chances are, your clients are pretty familiar with fleas and ticks, but do they know the importance of year-round prevention? Do they know which ticks are commonly found in their area? And what about the signs of flea allergy dermatitis? Pet owners are constantly bombarded with information about these parasites, and it's up to you and your staff to filter fact from fiction. So why not take the first step in the exam room?

An easy way to get the conversation started is to use a flea comb, says Dr. Rollo. "More often than not, the pet doesn't have fleas," he says. "But on occasion you do catch evidence and people are shocked. It drives the point home."

Even if you don't find evidence of fleas on the pet, it's a good time to start the discussion about prevention for both fleas and ticks. And you can back up your recommendations by citing the Companion Animal Parasite Council's call for year-round parasite control for dogs and cats.

Still need fuel to fan the flames of the flea and tick talks with clients? If your practice has an iPad, visit http://dvm360.com/ipadapp to download the free app. Just flip to the Client Education tab and let clients check out the modules on fleas and ticks in the exam room. Packed with interactive features, such as a tick identifier and videos about why parasite control really matters, you can leave it with pet owners while they wait or walk through the modules with them, interjecting your own recommendations as you go.

At the heart of it all ...

It's rare to encounter a pet owner these days who hasn't heard about heartworm disease—and that's definitely a good thing. Clients are more likely to get behind your recommendations if they're already somewhat informed about the disease, says Dr. Shawn Finch, a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and associate veterinarian at Gentle Doctor Animal Hospitals in Omaha, Neb.

One of Dr. Finch's favorite topics to discuss with clients is preventive care—and heartworm disease is at the top of that list. She and her staff members take heartworm disease very seriously and recommend annual testing and year-round prevention for dogs, cats, and even ferrets.

In order to keep pet owners on top of prevention, the team sends clients monthly reminder texts and tweets to encourage consistency and timeliness with the administration of heartworm preventives. On top of that, Dr. Finch keeps pet owners motivated by telling them that giving monthly preventives shouldn't be considered a boring monthly chore or a mundane task, but a life-saving step toward their pet's long-term health and wellness.

Has your practice embraced the power of social media? Spread the word about heartworm disease prevention and other pet-related topics with our prewritten tweets and Facebook posts, tailored specifically for pet owners. Head over to http://dvm360.com/postnow to get started today.