Step-by-step guide to talking to clients about wellness programs


Use this guide to keep wellness top of mind for clients and get pets the care they need.

It seems that many practices are making much ado about wellness these days, and with good reason. Measure for measure, a wellness program can make a big impact on a pet's health. Dr. Michelle Chappell, CVA, owner of Mariposa Veterinary Center in Lenexa, Kan., says she recommends annual wellness protocols for all stable patients the first time they visit her practice.

Wellness well done

So what's in a wellness plan? It depends on your practice philosophy, but it usually starts with your recommendations for how often you see the pet, the preventives you offer, and the diagnostic tests your patients will receive. At Mariposa Veterinary Center, younger pets receive an annual exam, a fecal exam, and heartworm testing, while older pets also undergo annual or semi-annual blood work and urinalysis.

This can feel like a big change from 10 years ago, when clients were much more likely to expect just vaccinations. "Now we focus on health issues like weight, nutrition, and supplements that will keep pets healthier," Dr. Chappell says.

When they won't budge an inch

You've probably met some clients who protest too much about their pets' care. For example, Dr. Chappell says she most often meets with resistance when she recommends heartworm testing. To overcome objections, she says she explains that they're testing for more than heartworm infection. The test also helps screen for two tick diseases that occur in the area. (For more on strong heartworm recommendations, see Tough talk: Have heartfelt heartworm discussions.)

While it's true that the economy has seen better days, it's still possible to find success with a wellness program. "We offer people options to help the pet as well as stay within their budget," Dr. Chappell says. "We tailor to what the client wants for their pet, and they appreciate it."

She says this process starts with an open dialogue so that clients know they can bring up concerns and not feel embarrassed or ashamed. "Then when the big things need to happen, such as surgery or dental care, they trust that we're taking good care of them and their pet," she says.

Some practices also give new clients handouts about lifetime wellness recommendations. See related links below for sample pet-wellness client handouts with examples for dogs and cats.

Remember, delays have dangerous ends. So use your recommendations to remind clients of the care their companions need to lead a long and healthy life. "An ounce of prevention, or, in this case, wellness, is worth a pound of cure," says Dr. Chappell. "It helps head off serious conditions, including obesity, dental extractions, and cancer. The result is a much more fulfilling quality of life for pets and their people."

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