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Worm your way into wellness visits


Biannual deworming protects patients and encourages regular wellness visits.

Fleas, ticks, and heartworms—oh my!" The roadside sign said it all for Oxford Animal Hospital in Overland Park, Kan. The hospital owner, Dr. Ross Burd, and his team members—one of whom thought up the April slogan—take internal parasites and itch-producing pests seriously. Therefore, one part of his recommended wellness regimen is a twice-yearly anthelmintic for all his canine and feline patients, indoors and out. Switching from an annual to a biannual schedule has kept Dr. Burd's patients healthier and provided a compelling reason for clients to bring their pets in for six-month wellness exams. He's drummed up 75 percent compliance during regular exams. "The other 25 percent we try to catch in boarding and grooming," he says, as he requires semiannual deworming for boarding and grooming pets.

Surprising results

Dr. Burd and his team tell clients that the potential for intestinal parasites is significant. Dr. Burd knows it's true. A few years ago, he sent some of his patients' fecal samples to an outside lab and found more positive test results than his previous in-house testing had indicated. He'd only been deworming annually. He immediately implemented a twice-yearly deworming protocol. "We tell clients that what's best for the pet is not to get the parasite at all," he says.

Quick facts

No worries with deworming

Oxford Animal Hospital mails clients reminders about the biannual dewormer. What's more, clients who bring in their pets for a wellness or new-patient visit get a pet health report card that includes information about parasites and deworming. A heartworm preventive is also a part of his parasite control program.

Sometimes clients are on the fence about whether their cat or dog should receive a biannual dewormer. When this happens, Dr. Burd or one of his team members whips out a handy pamphlet provided by a pharmaceutical company. It features information from the Centers for Disease Control that explains the zoonotic potential of intestinal worms.

"If clients hadn't been getting regular deworming for their pets, the reason I hear most is, 'Nobody ever told me. My last doctor never mentioned this,'" Dr. Burd says.

Some of Dr. Burd's clients—usually those with indoor cats—opt out of biannual deworming for their pets. But if these clients own another cat or dog that spends time outdoors, he reminds them that indoor animals can get intestinal parasites from outdoor pets.

Educating clients is crucial to Dr. Burd's overall deworming strategy, but the most critical component is educating team members. Their discussions with clients improve compliance. Receptionists, assistants, and veterinary technicians all receive training on 10 important topics, intestinal parasites among them. Biannual deworming is a no-brainer for Dr. Burd and his team. "It's easy for the staff to recommend it when they understand it," he says. "And we tell every client. They can never say I didn't tell them that the biannual deworming is important."

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