'Lemme tell ya': A client convo on parasites


Are you nailing the jargon-free, informative conversation about parasite preventives, parasite-related disease and the options to buy preventives in stores and online? Don't miss a chance to offer veterinary clients the reasons to buy the stuff from your hospital or internet pharmacy.

"My mom's a vet. Here's what you need to keep the bugs away ... " (Kimberly Reinick/stock.adobe.com)

While a lot of parasite preventive sales have walked from veterinary practice shelves to online pharmacies and over-the-counter alternatives in big-box stores, preventive care is so important that it's still worth regular check-ins and educational conversations between clients and veterinarians or veterinary technicians. It doesn't mean every client will take your recommendations or buy the preventives from you, which you know makes it easier to get a better picture of the pet's health and the pet owner's compliance. But it does mean your clients are making informed decisions about what preventives they buy and from where.

Are you answering clients' parasite questions thoroughly? Here's how a typical conversation might go:

Veterinarian or veterinary technician: OK, so now that we've covered your pet's lifestyle, let's go over the preventives your dog needs. They're the ones I give to my own dog, because I know they work.

Veterinary client: Wait—is there a concern about some of this stuff not working?

Veterinarian or technician: There can be, yes. There are so many different types of preventives and drug claims on boxes that it can be hard for folks to know which drugs are most effective for your pet. We look at the overall health of your pet, your pet's lifestyle, drugs and treatments, and medical history when considering these things. Sometimes when people buy ineffective or the wrong preventives, some of their pets come in here with parasites.

Client: Well, can you just recommend the ones that work and I'll get those later?

Veterinarian or technician: Absolutely. And if you buy from us or our online pharmacy, we'll guarantee the efficacy and safety of these products. If you choose to get them somewhere else, we'll have you sign a form acknowledging you understand we can't guarantee products bought elsewhere.

When you buy from a reputable source, such as the veterinary clinic, we know that the products were stored properly, that the source is a reputable company and that the preventives are within the safety margins outlined by the company. There have been issues with fraudulent products designed to look like the original but are actually fakes.

Client: Hmm, that's scary. What about trusted companies like Walgreens or Costco?

Veterinarian or technician: I do feel a bit better about using larger companies such as those. However, we still can't guarantee the products are stored properly or that you're getting the best advice from pharmacists who aren't veterinary professionals and may not be trained to understand how these drugs work.

The other issue is that we can't keep track of the products you're using and how often, so we may miss reminders for refilling the drugs and doing recommended testing such as fecal checks and heartworm tests. If we know what you're buying and how often, it helps us to assess your dog's health for any possible parasite-related illnesses.

Client: Why are the fecal tests and heartworm tests important?

Veterinarian or technician: Great question. They are! The heartworm test, if completed yearly with heartworm preventive given monthly, helps us make sure the drug is working properly and that there's no resistance developing.

Also, many drug companies will actually pay for treatment of heartworm disease for your dog or cat if we have a consistent record at the veterinary clinic that shows you've been purchasing the medications as recommended and getting tested yearly and still contracts heartworm disease. This is often the same for gastrointestinal infections for gastrointestinal worm prevention, and that's why we recommend checking the feces yearly at the annual exam. Heartworm disease especially can cost thousands of dollars to treat.

Client: Wow, I didn't know any of that. So, if I buy it here, you can send me reminders to give it to my dog and get refills, and it can help me if my pet gets a parasite-related illness?

Veterinarian or technician: Yes. These things sometimes get missed by other companies who aren't veterinary clinics.

Client: But when I checked online there was such a huge price difference. I don't think I can afford to pay more right now and would prefer to fill online. Thank you for all the information.

Veterinarian or technician: Sure thing. The important thing is that you know the pros and cons. We still need you to sign this form to confirm that you understand the risks. Let me print out a list of the parasite preventives I use for my dog and that I recommend you get for yours.

Client: Thank you. I really do appreciate all the information.

Frequent Fetch dvm360 speaker Hilal Dogan, BVSc, CCTP, practices medicine in Denver, Colorado. She started the Veterinary Confessionals Project as a senior veterinary student at Massey University in New Zealand.

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