Telling the truth about ticks

Telling the truth about ticks

Your clients know these bloodsuckers are gross, but do they know how to protect their pets? Become a tick expert and educate your veterinary practice clients.
Apr 01, 2011

There is no such thing as a safe tick—they all can carry diseases, says Dr. Matt Eberts, owner of Lakeland Veterinary Hospital in Baxter, Minn. That’s why it’s vital to explain the importance of tick-control products to your clients. However, you can’t help your clients before you’ve done your research. “Veterinarians need to be experts on what’s going on in their backyards,” Dr. Eberts says. “If they aren’t, they need to do research.” He suggests keeping informational pamphlets, specific to the ticks in your region, in your practice’s waiting room. Or hand a pamphlet to your clients and go through it with them.

If you find a tick on one of your patients, that’s the prime time to bring up the subject. In fact, Dr. Eberts uses the “gross factor” to his advantage. He pulls off the tick—while the pet owner watches—and places the tick in an empty pill file filled with rubbing alcohol. What makes this “in-your-face” example even more powerful? He rarely cleans out the pill file. When clients see dozens and dozens of dead ticks with their own eyes, they become more moti- vated to protect their pets.

Tick talk
Once you have your clients’ attention, the next step is to talk about tick prevention. “Too often the tendency is to hand the client a box of tick control product and say, ‘Thanks, we’ll see you later,’” Dr. Eberts says. He sees this as a huge opportunity wasted. Clients can buy that box cheaper at Walmart or Target, so if you want to keep them coming back to your practice, you must give them the expertise that the big box stores can’t offer. So anytime you dispense a tick medication, educate your clients. Show them how to properly administer the product while explaining what you expect the product to do and why they should use it.

It’s essential to test every one of your patients for tickborne diseases, even the healthy pets. “If you’re only screening animals that are sick, you’re missing the boat and doing the pets a disservice,” Dr. Eberts says. “There are many veterinarians in practice who don’t run the tests because they rarely come back positive. They forget that we want the tests to come back negative—it means we’re doing our jobs right.”

Show and tell
Dr. Fred Metzger, DABVP, owner of Metzger Animal Hospital in State College, Pa., runs an in-clinic ELISA to detect ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, borreliosis, and heartworm infection in dogs. He tests his patients once a year. The test only requires a couple of drops of blood and then the results show up in minutes. Dr. Metzger shows his clients the results on the test device. “You have to show your clients where their money is going,” Dr. Metzger says.

If the results come back negative, he explains, “This is great, but this is why your pet needs to stay on preventive measures.” If the results are positive, it will reinforce your recommendation for tick control.