Don't poo-poo veterinary clients' diarrhea calls

Don't poo-poo veterinary clients' diarrhea calls

Affected pets might be suffering from more than just upset bowels. For example, they may have a gastrointestinal infection that needs treatment.
Sep 01, 2011

Uncomfortable. That word suits the topic of diarrhea in pets for obvious reasons. The word also fits in a few less obvious ways. Let me explain.

One of my hobbies is calling veterinary practices and asking what I should do about a common pet ailment. I tape these calls and play them to educate the staff at some of the clinics I work with.

Help them relax
My most recent phone query: "I don't come to you guys, but my dog has diarrhea. What should I do?" I could almost see the people squirming on the other end of the line. As such, when our team members listened to the tape, they admonished me for making the people feel uncomfortable.

Answers that stink

But the responses I got to the diarrhea question made me uncomfortable. They ranged from an automated, "You have to come in," to, "Try feeding a bland diet of rice and cooked meat," to, "Pick up some Kaopectate." The common denominator in all the calls (I made almost 40 across the country): There was little to no investigation of what was actually going on with my (fictitious) dog. No one I spoke with called me the next day to see how my pet was doing. In fact, no one even bothered to take down my number.

What's so uncomfortable about this? To begin with, there's a real possibility that by dismissing diarrhea, we're dismissing what could be a serious issue. (See "Medical Concerns of Diarrhea.") Team members who handle client calls about diarrhea should be collecting background information and encouraging pet owners to schedule an appointment. (Visit to download a triage sheet that walks you through a client call about diarrhea.) That's not the let's-make-more-money manager in me talking. It comes from my long career as a veterinary technician who's seen all kinds of diarrhea and gastrointestinal cases.

Why do so many team members talk clients out of coming in? Is it the money? Are we concerned about the hassle clients endure hauling their pets to our practice? Are we ashamed of the service they'll receive when they arrive? Do we have such little faith in our exam skills and diagnostic equipment?