Q&A: Explaining vaccinations to clients


After explaining core vaccines, ask questions about the pet's and client's lifestyle.

Q: Core vaccines are required at our practice, but other vaccines aren't. How do I explain the difference to clients?

Explaining vaccines to clients is gaining importance as more and more vaccines become available, says Melanie Yurczak, LVT, VDT, head veterinary technician and staff supervisor at Creekside Veterinary Clinic in Goose Creek, S.C. Yurczak's practice follows the AVMA guidelines for the core vaccines and their frequency. But after explaining the guidelines to clients, Yurczak suggests following up with questions about the pet and client's lifestyle.

Why? Not all vaccines make sense in all situations. Take Yurczak's example: "I personally don't vaccinate my cat for FeLV every year. She's had multiple years of the vaccine, which is no longer a core vaccine, and she's not exposed to unknown felines. No risk, no yearly vaccine."

Telling clients that vaccines are based on the pet's needs illustrates your practice's quality medicine. "Your patient is adequately protected for the risk they face, and the owner feels that you've provided them what they need," Yurczak says.

Key risk-assessment questions to ask include whether the pet will travel to the mountains or the woods, and whether the pet lives in an apartment complex. Clients who have moved to your area might not understand why their pet used to need certain vaccines but doesn't need them now. So be sure to explain if the doctor suggests different vaccines for a new patient.

If clients ask why your recommendations or standards have changed or why they're different from another practice's, you may feel inclined to back pedal. Instead, just go back to discussing the guidelines, such as the research behind a vaccine and its usage guidelines, why the vaccine is important, what the benefits are to clients' pets and pocketbooks (remind them that prevention is less expensive than treatment), and what makes sense for pets from a risk-assessment standpoint.

Finally, some pet owners just can't afford everything at once. "That's fine," Yurczak says. "If they don't mind coming back and making this a two-trip visit, we can work with whatever helps their pocketbook and doesn't jeopardize the patient's health."

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