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3 tips for talking about parasites
Is your message about the risks of parasites reaching clients?
Is your message about the risks of parasites reaching clients? Use these tips—and download the client education form posted at www.vetecon.com—to minimize static.
here's nothing glamorous about parasites. Nevertheless, you know keeping these creepy crawlies away is an important part of keeping pets and people healthy. Yet it's a struggle to provide clients with all the information they need. If you'd like to provide more complete information about parasites, but don't know where to start, consider tapping manufacturers and associations for tools like posters, handouts, and even Web-based resources. For example, the National Pet Wellness Month Campaign offers useful information for pet owners about zoonotic diseases at www.npwm.com.
Of course, you need to reinforce every message more than once before you can expect a pet owner to take action—and send the message in a variety of ways. Use these three tips to send a clear message.
1. Get them when they're young
Dr. Karen Blakeley, a practitioner at All Pets Veterinary Clinic in Macomb, Ill., opens communication about parasites when clients start new puppy and kitten visits."Unfortunately," she says, "when a puppy's bouncing around the room, the owner's paying attention to the puppy, not the doctor. Add the fact that they're both in a hurry to go, and the parasite messages gets lost." So the team at All Pets Veterinary Clinic follows up with puppy and kitten handouts about parasites.
Dr. Blakeley also reinforces the importance of regular exams to improve parasite control. And, she says, when she talks to clients, she tries to remember to cover issues that seem obvious to her but may not be clear to an average pet owner. For example, do your clients know where parasites come from and why their pets need a fecal exam each year?
2. Reinforce good hygiene
"Hygiene is one of the biggest issues when it comes to zoonotic diseases," says Dr. Blakeley, who holds a master's in public health. "I always tell clients to wash their hands after contact with their pet or its feces. If you have a healthy immune system, basic hygiene keeps your risk low."
Dr. Blakeley says children are often at higher risk because their hands frequently end up in their mouths. "Kids won't think twice about playing in the dirt and then eating a sandwich," she says. "So it's important to talk to clients with kids about the problems that can occur with children's frequent lapses in personal hygiene."
3. Take the guesswork out of products
If you're already making complete recommendations to clients about parasite preventives, you can still take client education a step further. For example, consider developing a chart that shows common parasites and products that prevent or kill them. This chart could even aid client compliance. For example, heartworm medicine kills some parasites that are zoonotic, even though heartworms aren't, says Dr. Blakeley. And you may be recommending heartworm preventive without even talking about this other benefit. "A chart will help you clear up any confusion about which medications do what," she says.