Ask Amy: How to handle know-it-all clients

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How to address overconfident pet owners.

Q: I'm not a pediatrician and I wouldn't walk into a doctor's office and assume I know how to treat my child. But we get some clients—especially physicians—who try to diagnose and treat their own pets. Unfortunately, the patients suffer. How do we address these clients?

—MS. MANNERS

DEAR MS. MANNERS:

As the old joke goes, physicians are just doctors who can work only on one species. And, in some cases, applying that human medical information can have disastrous effects on pet patients. But saying so might alienate a client, and that's another problem altogether. So you must muster up a generous amount of diplomacy.

Point out species' differences in a neutral manner. Say something like, "Dr. Jones, it's amazing the advancements in drugs to treat these types of maladies in humans. Sadly, in cats, that category of medication is toxic. We've found that this medication works with the unique pain receptors in cats." It's important to maintain a position that doesn't dispel what the client tells you, but also politely identifies that you know this patient's distinctive species requirements.

Also try gently reminding physician pet owners that they brought their dog or cat to you for a consultation. They would want their patient to follow the referral doctor's directions, and, in the same way, you know they want to follow the veterinarian's treatment plan.

Remember, you do have something in common with these physicians—and other overconfident clients: You all want the pet to get better. Stress this mutual desire by saying, "I'm glad you agree that controlling pain is essential in this case. Now, let's discuss what options are available in cats." —AMY

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Angela Elia, BS, LVT, CVT, VTS (ECC)
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