5 steps to lock in a lifetime of care


It's easy to ooh and ahh over adorable new puppies and kittens. But it's also important to prepare pet owners to meet their little fuzzball's future healthcare needs.

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Waiting for you in the exam room is Mrs. Collins, who has brought in a new four-footed family member. There is no better time to bond clients to your veterinary clinic than when they get a new puppy or kitten. You see puppies and kittens frequently for wellness visits and vaccines, so this is the ideal time to develop a deep, trusting relationship and ensure all of your patients live long, healthy lives.

1. Get personal

Everyone wants to feel special when they come into the office. Greeting a client and patient by name makes them feel expected and welcome. Several clinics I have visited have whiteboards in the lobby that have “Welcome to our clinic” with the names of all patients that have appointments that day. Adding pictures of the pet to your electronic medical records will allow the photo to print on the invoice. Also consider jotting down information about the client that will allow you to engage in conversation at future visits. Several software programs have space to add notes if you are not using paper charts.

2. Stick around and chat

Clients love to talk about the new addition to their family. Taking a few extra minutes in the exam room to allow them to share stories makes them feel heard and appreciated. This is also a great time to pick up on any concerns or issues they're having at home that they may forget to mention to the doctor.

3. Give dependable direction

If a client isn't able to see the same doctor in your practice at each visit, asking the doctors to be consistent with medical recommendations will develop trust with the client. If your doctors aren't on the same page, it can deliver a confusing message to the client and could lead to distrust. Try not to offer too many options for clients. For example, offer one or two heartworm preventives that all of your doctors support. All of your doctors should recommend the same vaccines on the same schedule. Have a team meeting so all of your team can deliver the same message.

4. Be proactive

Make sure you book the next preventive care visit. This will ensure clients are returning to the clinic and pets are receiving preventive care services in a timely manner. It also allows clients to receive their preferred doctor and appointment time. Clients are more likely to respond positively to a reminder call a day or two out from the appointment than to an overdue reminder call.

5. Help them maneuver money matters

Having a discussion about accidents and illness while the pet is young and healthy can plant a seed in a client's mind that pet care can be expensive. Mentioning pet insurance or a savings account to budget for future issues can allow a client to budget better. It will also allow for better medicine in the event of an emergency.

Several clinics have implemented wellness plans successfully that allow clients to pay a set amount monthly and for their pets to receive all wellness services on time. And there are, of course, several pet insurance companies out there and policies can be confusing. I recommend a team meeting to discuss options and choose one company you feel comfortable recommending. 

Stephanie Brand, DVM, is the medical director of Smoky Hill Veterinary Clinic in Aurora, Colorado.

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