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5 Questions you should never ask pet owners, Vet Student

Posted by Cari Wise on Mar 2, 2016 8:28:12 AM


Communicating effectively with veterinary clients is a skill all of its own.

When working to obtain an accurate patient history, avoiding certain questions will not only provide you with more accurate information, but also create an opportunity for discussion.

Here are five questions for the veterinarian or vet tech to avoid when speaking with pet owners.

1.  Don’t Ask:  Do you feed your pet any table food or scraps?

Obviously, this information is very important when trying to determine the relevant history of a patient. However, when asked in this manner, the answer is likely to be inaccurate.

A question that can be answered with a simple Yes or No will often be answered with the most acceptable answer, and not necessarily the truth.  Pet owners may feel guilty about treating their pets with food items not meant for them, and so they may answer No when the answer is really Yes.

Ask this instead:  What type of table food and scraps do you feed your pet?  This approach encourages the pet owner to answer honestly, and if they don't feed table food or scraps, they will tell you so!

2.  Don’t Ask:  Do you have your pet on heartworm prevention?

Once again, this is vitally important information. But as above, left in Yes or No format, you will likely not get the accurate answer, or all of the information you need.

Ask this instead: What type of heartworm prevention are you using for your pet?   The answer requires the pet owner to come up with a product name, or reveal they are not using heartworm prevention.

Both answers provide the opportunity to discuss heartworm disease risks and prevention options. You will likely find some pet owners using products that don’t protect against heartworms at all. If you had asked a Yes or No question, you would have missed that!

3.  Don’t Ask: Do you have your pet on flea/tick prevention?

questions-tick.pngJust like the heartworm prevention question, an accurate answer is important for the well being of your patient.

Ask this instead: What type of flea/tick prevention are you using for your pet?  The answer will provide you with the opportunity to determine if adequate prevention is in place, or if better options exist. 

4.  Don’t Ask: Do you want your dog to have a kennel cough vaccine?

Pet owners often answer No to this question because they believe their dog is not at risk for kennel cough if they never take the dog to a kennel. As you know, this is not the case.

Ask this question instead: In order to determine if your pet needs a kennel cough vaccine, can you tell me if you take your dog to the groomer, dog parks, day care, training classes, pet stores, or boarding facilities?

The response provides an opportunity for the DVM to discuss all the potential health risks, not just kennel cough, associated with a variety of settings. The more information you have, the better job you will do creating a preventive care plan tailor made to your patient!

5.  Don’t Ask: Are you planning to use your pet for breeding purposes?

We all know there is a lot of controversy over purposeful breeding of companion animals. And the odds are the majority of the pets you see will see in practice are mixed breeds, and the choice to breed these animals is questionable. Therefore, why introduce the idea of breeding at all?

Ask this question instead: When would you like to schedule your pet for its spay/neuter procedure?   This approach can begin one of the most important conversations any veterinary professional will have with a pet owner. Not only can you dispel myths about the “best time” to spay/neuter, but you can also educate your client on the medical benefits of such procedures.

But what if the pet owner expresses an interest in breeding? A judgment-free conversation about their motivations may reveal opportunity to provide information that could result in them choosing differently. If not,use the opportunity to discuss the best breeding plan for the pet.

Regardless of the topic, the most important thing to remember is to phrase your questions so the responses you receive are likely to be accurate. When pet owners feel judged, or are afraid they will disappoint you with an answer, the responses they provide may not be truthful. Vet Student, if you intentionally work to make your practice a safe place for pet owners, your patients will benefit from your efforts!

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Topics: Client Situations, Communication, Vet Student, Career, Clients

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