When the pet owner thinks heartworms are #FakeNews

March 13, 2018
Erika Ervin, MBA, CVPM, CVT

Erika Ervin, MBA, CVPM, CVT is practice manager at Toms River Animal Hospital in Toms River, New Jersey. 

Your veterinary client thinks that heartworms are nothing more than a made up scam for money. Here's how I like to steer them straight.

Photo: Shutterstock.comQ: “Sometimes I face clients who think heartworms don't really exist. How do I respond when they insist heartworms are just a scam to help vets make money?”

A: When I'm faced with a client who doesn't believe heartworms exist, first I try to determine their source of information. This helps me tailor my approach and understand how their sources convinced them so well. This is important, because you wouldn't want to offend someone if they're receiving information from a friend or family member.

One of the best ways I educate clients on the topic of heartworms and the threat they pose to dogs and cats is to share my personal experiences. This approach is more genuine than just giving clients facts about heartworms-something they can just claim you've made up. With personal stories, I'm able to connect with clients and gain their trust. Once we've established trust, I can start to ask about their views on heartworm and dispel any myths they may have heard or false information they've received.

Maybe money is important to them. In that case, I'd explain how prevention is always more affordable than treatment. And in cats especially, where there is no treatment, it becomes a matter of life and death.

Or maybe they place high value on science and facts. For those clients, I'd explain to them how heartworm is found in all 50 states today. I'd explain how Hurricane Katrina impacted heartworm prevalence in different areas around the country and why, now more than ever, it's important to protect our pets against heartworm. There's a chance many other pet owners aren't protecting their pets, and that poses a risk for transmission to our pets.

At the end of the day, the only way to gain credibility with pet owners is to discover what they value most and use that to formulate the best response. This way you'll resonate with what they find important and they'll be more likely to trust and buy into your message.