How to discuss declawing without isolating cat owners


Whatever your view, keep clients in mind.

Debate continues over whether feline declawing should be banned. Regardless of whether you support the ban, your practice needs to present a united front. Otherwise you'll send your clients mixed messages. This causes mistrust and mistrust loses clients.

As a veterinary consultant, I make mystery-shopper phone calls to many practices. During one of these recent calls, I posed as a potential new client with questions about having my cat declawed. The client service team member was friendly, but she spent three or four minutes telling me what a terrible procedure declaw surgery was, how much pain my cat would be in, and the long-term negative effect it might have on my cat. When she described the procedure she said, “It's like having your fingers cut off at the second knuckle.” Even after more than 15 years in the veterinary field, I cringed and felt like a terrible pet owner because both of my cats have been declawed.

Still, I'm sure the practice owner is not vehemently opposed to declawing cats. Why? Because the practice performs the surgery. The simple fact of offering a service gives the unspoken message that you are not opposed to it. In conjunction with the receptionist's talking points, this confuses clients and might turn them off to your practice altogether.

So how do you handle client questions about declawing? First you must be crystal-clear on the practice owner's beliefs. If veterinarians at the practice perform declaw surgeries, then every team member must discuss the service with clients in a manner that makes them feel comfortable and helps them understand their pet will receive excellent care. Be sure to ask your practice owner or manager about whether team members should present less invasive, less expensive options to clients asking about feline declaws.

If clients ask about declawing, some practice owners expect team members to educate them about the procedure and your standards of care, including pain management. Other practice owners prefer clients always be educated about alternatives such as nail covers and scratching-post training. If the latter is the case, you must be careful. Pushing too hard for the alternatives when your practice offers the procedure could send that mixed message I mentioned before.

If you feel passionately about feline declawing and your views conflict with the practice owner's, then you should look for work at a veterinary hospital with values more in line with yours. This way, regardless of what side of the debate you're on, you can be sure you and your team members are sharing the same information with clients-and bonding them to your practice.

Donna Bauman, CVPM

Owner of Visions Veterinary Consulting

Practice manager, Ottawa Animal Hospital

Holland, Mich.
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