Veterinary dermatology dos and don'ts


Lisa Petty, BS, RVT, a technician at Animal Dermatology Clinic in Indianapolis, offers these tips to keep communication lines open when you're guiding clients through their pet's dermatology diagnosis.

DON'T guarantee a specific timeline for a response to treatment or a specific outcome. For example, "His hair will grow back in six weeks and it will look beautiful" or "After he goes on allergy medicine he'll never scratch again. He'll never need another steroid or he'll never have another flare."

DO give clients an idea of what you hope will happen and give them the success rates of different therapies.

DON'T make a client feel bad for choosing a less expensive treatment protocol. "Our job is to give clients all of the options that we have available and let them choose what suits their budget and lifestyle," Petty says. "So we don't want to make people feel guilty if they don't choose the most expensive treatment option."

DO follow what's best for clients and what's best for their pets within the scope of what pet owners tell you they can do.

DON'T assume that people aren't taking good care of their pets or that they don't care about their pets based on what their pet's skin looks like. "Sometimes people will see an animal walking across the street that doesn't have any hair and they assume it's been abused," Petty says. "I tell our new team members that it doesn't mean that they haven't been well cared for. It means they really do need to see us. So we can't assume they're being neglected just because their skin and hair coat don't look good."

DO make yourself available to clients. Make sure clients know that they can call at any time with a question or problem. "We want their pets to get better as much as they do, and we want to know if their pet is having a problem. If their pet is vomiting because of a medication or doesn't like the new food that we put them on for a dietary trial, we want to know that, because it's crucial to their compliance," Petty says.

To make sure clients feel connected to you and your practice, follow these steps:

> Introduce yourself.

> Wear a name tag.

> Offer a business card with your name, phone number, and email, so clients know who to contact when they're struggling with a problem. Let clients know when they can expect a response if they send an email or leave a message.

Petty says at her practice, technicians follow cases so clients see the same team members each time. It's less confusing for pet owners who know they have someone to talk to when they have problems.

"The worst thing that could happen is we send them home with medication, the pet starts to vomit or has diarrhea, and they stop the medication and don't call us—and we don't see them for a month. So they don't give anything that whole time between visits and they never call to let us know," Petty says.

DO follow up with phone updates. "Our software is set up so we can put in reminders to call clients," she says. "And we print that list daily to call and check to find out how pets are doing. If the client prefers email, we use email. And email actually works really well, because there's nothing lost in translation with the message, and we can copy and paste it right into the medical record. The important thing is, we want clients to feel comfortable contacting us with any concerns they might have."

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