Dial down the drama of a diabetes diagnosis


Your clients are confused and anxious and they want answers. Use this free team training to take the trauma out of the talk.


Download these handouts and tools before your team meeting: 

Meeting guide: Explains the thinking behind the meeting and activities

Trainer's script:Step-by-step meeting dialogue 

Team tool: Diabetes discussions

• Team tool: 3 mistakes clients with diabetic pets make

Special thanks to Ann K. Johnson, LVT, Chen Gilor, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, and Lauren E. Demos, BVMS, HonsBSc, resident ABVP (feline) for their contributions. 

Welcome to the Team Meeting in a Box on how to dial down the drama of a diabetes diagnosis with pet owners. When you hear “diabetes” you know exactly what to do and what to look for. You understand the ins and outs of the disease and its causes. You even know that it can be transient in non-spayed females (fun fact, if you didn't!). But many pet owners don't know these things. And when pet owners hear that their beloved pet has the Big D, images of insulin needles, hospitalization and even a foot amputation come to mind.

But your team can assuage their fears with some simple steps. Let's get started. (Download the meeting guide and script.)

7-minute activity:Take the “scary” out of the diagnosis

First it's important to remember that most clients know little about the disease itself, and they'll jump straight to conclusions based on things they've heard-not things they know. It's up to us to explain that diabetes is a manageable disease and that we don't see the same side effects as people. You may explain that for many pets, once the owner gets used to the injections and the changes in the pet's diet, the cat or dog can do well.

Watch Chen Gilor, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, explain how talking saves diabetic cats and dogs with the video below or at dvm360.com/talkingdiabetes.

Ask team members to share the toughest questions clients ask about the diabetes diagnosis and discuss how you might answer. Allow two minutes for discussion. Thank your team for sharing their thoughts.

5-minute activity: Discuss treatment options

Talking treatment options is often an in-depth discussion, catered to the pet owners in front of you. For example, some pet owners may fear the process of giving insulin injections. So it's important to show and tell how to draw up the medication, read the dosage and administer the medication.

Your hospital should have a couple of team members who can teach pet owners how to give insulin. Demonstrating the technique and then asking pet owners to repeat the process in front of you on a stuffed animal is a nice way to practice and offer guidance and pointers in the moment.

If you have already identified your diabetes advocates in your practice, recognize them now. You may also invite them to show how they demonstrate giving insulin injections or offer tips for their peers.

If you do not have diabetes advocates yet, invite team members to volunteer for this valuable leadership position in your practice. Then follow up after the meeting to discuss the core responsibilities you'll review in this team meeting as well as other steps you might take to improve the lives of your diabetic patients and their pet parents.

When your team teaches how to give insulin injections, it's important for them to stress to pet owners this process does not hurt their pet. Remind pet owners they will be using a small needle or an injection pen, so it's nearly impossible to hurt their pet with the needle.

Your diabetes advocates need to be available for clients-over the phone or in person-to answer questions and address concerns (clients will have both!). Clients need to know that you're an advocate for their pet. It can take a long time to get a pet well-regulated, and it can be frustrating for owners to bring their pets in over and over for curves and fructosamine testing. They need to know they have someone they can share their concerns with as well as someone who has seen the disease get better.

Pass out the worksheet, “Dial down the drama of a diabetes diagnosis.” Divide into groups of two and ask team members to come up with their best answers for the four discussion points. Allow two minutes to complete. Then ask each group to share their answers with the group. Choose your preferred answers so the whole team can communicate the same message about a diabetes diagnosis.

3-minute activity: Talk about home monitoring

It's also easy for clients to now do monitoring from the comfort of home. Your diabetes advocate needs to be comfortable with the recommended monitoring equipment and be able to teach clients how to use it and troubleshoot. It takes a load off of clients when they know they can reach out to you for help.

Pass out the handout, “3 common mistakes owners of diabetic pets often make.” Take two minutes to review and discuss each of these points as a team.

Thank your team today for their time. Remind them that pet owners may be nervous about their pet's diagnosis, but you can help preserve the bond between pets and their owners and smooth the transition and offer a longer, healthier life for the pet with the right client education and support.

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