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Start pet parents off on the right path


Owning a pet is a lifelong journey. Help set clients' direction by offering strong care recommendations on nine critical topics.

You never want to tell a client his dog has a heartworm infection. And you don't want to take the call from the scared woman who's scouring the city for her lost cat and never heard of permanent microchip identification. How—and how much—you tell clients about their pets' healthcare needs affects the bond they share with their pets. Here's a look at how to broach nine essential topics with clients.

1] Money >> Talk about the expenses clients can expect—including the health predisposition for their pet's breed. Always acknowledge clients' concerns about costs and present all of the financial tools you offer, such as pet insurance, third-party payment plans, and credit programs. This is a great time to explain how investing in behavior training, socialization, exercise, and at-home dental care and grooming can reduce future expenses and prevent serious health problems down the road.

2] Training >> They're thrilled with their new pet today—but will they feel the same way when a full-grown Max jumps up on Grandma or Ginger scratches the neighbor's son? Discuss behavior training and socialization, including house and crate training for dogs and litter box training for cats, frequent handling, and what to expect based on the pet's breed. Use terms like "basic life skills" and "good manners," and recommend training courses and tools.

3] Nutrition and exercise >> Mrs. Smith may not say it, but she's secretly wondering whether Ginger will get bored eating the same food all the time. She also enjoys offering tasty table scraps to tempt Ginger's appetite. Explain you recommend a consistent regimen of premium food because it's easier for pets to digest and offers the essential nutrients pets need to stay healthy. Also remind Mrs. Smith that premium foods cost about the same per portion as other foods and pets produce less waste on a premium diet. Discuss Ginger's exercise requirements and how that fits with the family's lifestyle. And don't let her leave without a reminder that scraps can create a picky eater or lead to fatal food allergies or intolerance.

4] Vaccinations >> In your practice's new puppy or kitten kit, offer a description of each of the vaccines your practice recommends and the diseases the vaccinations protect against. For example, if your practice recommends a leptospirosis vaccine, you'll explain how the pet contracts the disease as well as the symptoms and talk about the disease's zoonotic potential. Also emphasize how adhering to your practice's vaccination schedule protects pets by ensuring vaccines' effectiveness.

5] Reproductive procedures >> If Mrs. Smith seems reluctant to schedule Ginger's ovariohysterectomy, probe to uncover the reason for her resistance. If she's afraid her prized Persian will become slow, fat, and lazy, explain these results are generally mild, and note reducing food portions counteracts weight gains. If she's eager for her children to witness birth, offer helpful books or videos instead and remind her that an ovariohysterectomy will reduce Ginger's risks for mammary cancer, uterine infection, and other reproductive-related illnesses.

6] Parasites >> When you present your practice's parasite product recommendations, flabbergast clients with this startling statistic from the FDA: One flea can bite a pet as many as 400 times a day. Then explain it's often cheaper and easier to prevent parasites than treat them when a pet's infected. Drive home your point with these facts: A prescription heartworm preventive usually costs $5 to $15 a month versus $1,000 or more for treatment. And a flea-infested home or yard requires treatment every three weeks for three months to break fleas' life cycle.

7] Dental care >> Emphasize daily brushing can significantly reduce the risk of serious health concerns, from tooth loss to bacterial infections of the heart, liver, and kidneys. Use a demonstration to increase compliance, then ask Mr. Anderson to practice on Max while you observe and offer tips. Make product suggestions, such as a soft-bristled child's toothbrush or battery-powered pet toothbrush. Explain that using a pet toothpaste may encourage Max to submit to the procedure and the pet formula doesn't contain fluoride—the ingredient in human toothpaste that may be harmful if swallowed.

8] Microchipping >> No one wants to imagine losing a pet, so appeal to Mrs. Smith and Mr. Anderson by reminding them of ways pets can become lost, including house fires, open gates, unlocked doors, and natural disasters. Offer to perform the procedure when the pet's already visiting for a dental cleaning or reproductive surgery to encourage clients' compliance.

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