Is paying the mortgage a priority over paying for a much-needed pet surgery? Unfortunately, that’s the dilemma many pet owners face in this economy, and it’s a question you’ve probably dealt with frequently in your veterinary clinic.
“The same thing that’s happening to people who can’t afford healthcare is happening to pets, only with pets it’s worse,” says Dr. Lori Pasternak of Helping Hands Affordable Veterinary Surgery and Dental Care in Richmond, Va. Dr. Pasternak says that when people can’t afford healthcare, they self-treat seemingly minor illnesses and ignore serious symptoms until they eventually land in the emergency room. It’s the same with pets, but in many cases, the pet ends up needing expensive treatments or surgical procedures that the owners can’t afford, Dr. Pasternak says. Often the result is euthanasia. Here are three ways to help clients avoid this difficult decision.
1. Offer pet healthcare plans. Many clinics offer some variation of a pet healthcare plan in which the client pays a nominal monthly fee of $20 to $30. This entitles them to a number of free checkups and wellness visits for their pets. Some plans include a limited or discounted selection of prescriptions and diagnostic tests. Routine checkups can catch some illnesses before they become serious and help prevent a situation in which the client can’t afford treatment.
2. Educate clients about the benefits of preventive dental cleanings. The most common way for pets to get infections is through their mouths, so keeping their teeth and mouth clean is a great way to prevent disease. Plus, it can help prevent expensive dental work. Explain that pets don’t know how to complain, so clients won’t know how bad the teeth are until after the pet stops eating. Dogs especially tend to eat until they can’t stand the pain anymore, and then it may be too late to avoid extensive care. Routine dental cleanings go a long way toward improving pet health.
3. Encourage clients to get touchy-feely. Clients should pet and rub their furry friend often and all over. Not only will the pet enjoy the attention, it will enable the client to easily determine if the pet has any bumps or lumps that could be indicators of infection or disease. These growths are much easier and less costly to remove if detected early.
Encouraging your clients to follow these preventive steps will help keep your patients healthy and establish your role as an important presence in their lives. It may even save a life or two.