Give clients real recommendations


Don't dump veterinary healthcare choices in clients' laps. You're the expert, so don't be afraid to tell them what's medically necessary.

Picture this: You get home from a long day at work and immediately ask your spouse, "Honey, do you want to go out for dinner?"

"I'd love to. Sounds great," your spouse says. "Where do you want to go?"

"I don't care," you reply. "Where do you want to go?"

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"Do you want Chinese?"

"I don't care. Mmmm, how about a steak?"

"That sounds OK, but what about some sushi?"

"Ehhh, just not in the mood. Burgers?"

This exchange can easily last a good 15 minutes while you and your spouse dismiss 10 different restaurants and cuisines. In the end, you'll probably wind up eating at the same restaurant you've been eating at for the past 10 years.

Here's the point of this little story. Sometimes we can't even decide where we want to go for dinner, yet we ask our clients to quickly and correctly make major healthcare decisions about their pets. Our clients, however, don't want to make the ultimate decisions. We're the experts. They want us to decide.

Change "recommend" to "need"

The key here is to use a bit stronger language, so don't tell your clients, "I recommend a complete blood count, a blood chemistry panel, and radiographs." Instead tell them, "We need a CBC, a blood chemistry panel, and radiographs to reach an accurate diagnosis."

When you use words such as "recommend," you ask the client to make the decision. On the other hand, when you use words such as "need," you make the decision for them.

The same holds true for giving options. When you list out the options, your client will ask for your advice about which to pick. This is not a time to be unbiased. If you think the patient needs option A, tell the client his or her pet needs option A. If a leg needs to be plated instead of pinned, don't give the client the pinning option just because it's less expensive. Tell the client that pinning won't work and explain why plating is necessary. Otherwise, the pinned leg may not heal correctly and the dog could walk with a limp for the rest of its life.

You need to own your exam room. You need to be confident and consistent when you discuss patient care. The client is coming to you for expert advice. Be that expert.

Dennis Cloud, DVM

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Dennis F. Cloud owns several veterinary practices in the St. Louis area. Please send questions or comments to

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