Q&A: How do I explain EHV-1 to clients?


Dr. Jim Guenther offers guidelines for discussing equine herpesvirus with clients.

For a veterinarian, understanding equine illness is the easy part. Communicating the details to clients is where your job can get tricky. Handling questions about such problems as equine herpesvirus (EHV-1), equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), and West Nile virus is all about being proactive, says Dr. James Guenther, MBA, CVPM. In this Q&A with Dr. Guenther, co-owner of Strategic Veterinary Consulting in Asheville, N.C., we explore the best way to communicate with clients about EHV-1 and other equine viruses.

How concerned about EHV-1 are most clients?

“Almost everyone is talking about EHV-1,” Dr. Guenther says. “Horse owners always wonder, have my horses been exposed? If so, what can we do about it? And how can we prevent it?”

In the case of EHV-1, Dr. Guenther says that the virus has been around long enough that most owners are familiar with the disease’s effects and are most concerned about prevention. Unfortunately, unlike West Nile and other conditions for which veterinarians can recommend vaccines, there is no vaccine for EHV-1 yet.

If there is an outbreak, how should I respond to clients’ worried calls?

“Take the initiative,” says Dr. Guenther. “Put social media and technology to work by sending an e-bulletin, a blog post, and a Facebook message explaining what’s happening before you get the calls.” Talking about EHV-1 early quells fears.

What’s the best way to explain EHV-1 to clients?

Speak to the client on his or her level, Dr. Guenther says. “While you may be comfortable with technical terms, your clients may not,” he says. “It’s your job to determine how much they know and explain the disease in simple terms. Be practical, not technical.”

Can I combat the rumor mill?

Anytime horse owners fear for their animals’ health, the rumor mill starts churning. Set yourself up quickly as the go-to source for reliable information, says Dr. Guenther.

“Do your research, then show clients you’ve done so,” he says. “Be the first to send out a series of articles that you respect on the topic, offer links to appropriate informative websites, and be available to answer questions by phone or e-mail. Make yourself the authority, and your clients will be more likely to come to you—instead of to other misinformed horse owners.”

Click here for a list of EHV-1 resources, including a brochure you can download to share with clients. And see the related links below for more on client communication.

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