Q&A: How can my veterinary team stress the importance of feline heartworm preventives to clients?

Q: How can we stress the importance of feline heartworm preventives to clients?
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Apr 01, 2011
By dvm360.com staff

Worm-free tickers

Q How can we stress the importance of feline heartworm preventives to clients?

Don't tell your veterinary clients their cats should be on heartworm prevention, tell them their cats need to be on heartworm prevention, says Kristen Coe, head technician of Los Robles Animal Hospital in Tallahassee, Fla. Since she and her team members have become more confident in their recommendations, the clinic has seen a 40 percent jump in feline heartworm, flea, and intestinal parasite prevention sales.

Here are six ways to revamp your client communication strategy so you too can get cat owners on board.

1. Find proof in numbers. Contact an industry representative to conduct a compliance audit—or go ahead and do your own audit. "We thought we were doing a good job, but after the audit we realized we weren't promoting heartworm protection like we should," Coe says.

2. Team up. Hold a team meeting so your technicians, doctors, and receptionists can all brainstorm new ways to educate clients about heartworm and parasite prevention. Once you decide on a game plan, make sure every staff member knows it. "Everyone needs to be on the same page so you send a consistent message to your clients," Coe says.

3. Check the charts. Before each feline appointment, do your research and find out whether the patient is already on heartworm prevention. Explain to your clients why it's important to keep their cats on the medicine—or encourage them to get their cats on heartworm prevention today. In both situations, you need to communicate clearly with your clients.

4. Educate your clients. Coe was surprised at how little her clients new about the disease and how much more they wanted to know about heartworm prevention. Explain that feline heartworm disease is life-threatening with no curative treatment. Follow up with a statement like: If you want your cat to live a long, healthy life, then it's best to get him on heartworm prevention today. "We thought it might be a turn-off, but after we presented clients with the facts, they were very open to hearing what we had to say," Coe says.

5. Use real-life examples. Coe tells her more hesitant clients about the two feline patients at her clinic that tested positive for heartworm disease last spring—both cats died shortly after the diagnosis. These types of examples may be heart-breaking, but they help drive the message home.

6. Make no exceptions. Clear up the misconception that only outdoor cats should be on heartworm prevention. Remind your clients that even indoor cats could run out the front door or a mosquito could fly into the house. The more knowledge you share, the more likely they'll trust your recommendation.