Pet skin sagas: Managing emotional veterinary clients for better dermatology examinations
Dermatology cases can be frustrating: there's usually no quick fix, they can require considerable time and attention during the examination and talking to clients, and, perhaps worst of all, a cure is often rare. But as difficult as these cases can be for veterinarians, they’re equally hard on the pet owners, who can feel helpless and ill-prepared to deal with their pet's itchy, painful skin. This is exactly why excellent communication and a thorough approach to obtaining a diagnosis is key.
Dr. Ian Spiegel, DACVD, a board-certified dermatologist who practices in veterinary specialty centers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, stresses the importance of gathering the most information possible by asking veterinary clients open-ended questions about:
> Type and duration of clinical signs
> Whether they occur year-round or seasonally
> Whether other pets or people in the house are affected
> Whether the pet has been responsive to treatment.
Need more structure than that? No problem. Download this free dermatology history form, to be completed in advance by the client (in the waiting room or perhaps even at home). The big advantage of a history form is that you now have all the information for every patient all in the same location in the record. Months later, if you need to look back to see how the client rated the dog’s pruritus or whether other diets were tried, you’ll know exactly where to find the information.
Dr. Andy Rollo, a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and an associate at Madison Veterinary Hospital in Madison Heights, Michigan, follows these important steps when making a diagnosis and focuses on communicating openly with the owners. “There are so many possible differentials—parasites, atopy, food allergies,” he says. “It’s important to discuss the differences in signs with the owners and really enlist their help to get to a diagnosis.”
But how do you get clients to assist you in the diagnostic process? Easy! Have them read through this helpful handout prior to their next dermatology exam. Here Dr. Rollo offers his tried-and-true tips to pet owners on how they can be best prepared to answer your questions.
Pets' skin conditions can turn into an emotional thing—see "It happened to me," right—and have the potential to drive an entire household a little crazy. If you have a pet owner who's on edge over a diagnosis or worried about managing a condition, point them to this handout with advice on keeping calm about pet's skin, plus Dr. Rollo's top four things owners should know about dermatology.
Taking time to work with pet owners on dermatology cases can be your ticket to a lifetime of compliance—as was the case with dvm360.com Content Manager Adrienne Wagner. "I was so impressed by my veterinarian's commitment to my dog during the worst of his skin problems. She was exhaustive and relentless in her approach, and when it finally cleared, she was as I excited as I was, which made me feel as though he got the best care possible."