Screen out parasites

Screen out parasites

Fleas and ticks are so preventable—and yet so many pets still suffer from these pests, despite the fact that infestations can lead to serious health problems. Here's how to educate clients about the risks of parasites.
Nov 01, 2006

Most clients would be pretty grossed out to find a flea or tick on their pets. But they don't always take all the steps to protect their pets from infestations. That's where you come in. You want to start pet owners off on the right paw, so begin discussing parasite control the first day clients visit with their new pets.

Fleas and ticks can be a sensitive subject, and some clients may be offended if you find parasites on their pets during an exam. "Be gentle," says Carol Schubert, MBA, RVT, CVPM, a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and co-owner of

When you discuss a product with clients, show them how to apply the product and talk about when, how often, and where to reapply, says Pam Stevenson, CVPM, owner of Veterinary Results Management in Durham, N.C. She recommends explaining to clients whether the product can be applied right after a bath or if it requires oils from the pet's hair to work and needs to be applied at a later time. Also make sure the clients understand how much to use to keep their pets safe.

Guard against zoonoses
If you can, give an example from your own experience with a product. "All of us here believe in and use the products we recommend," says Jessica Janowski, a receptionist at Merrimack Veterinary Hospital in Merrimack, N.H. "Personal experience with a product makes us able to advise clients better."

Sometimes a visual is your strongest communication device. For example, flea combs are a great way to show clients their pets have fleas. Teach clients how to use a comb and show them what flea dirt looks like so they can check their pets at home. To educate pet owners about ticks, the team at Merrimack Veterinary Hospital keeps a jar in each exam room. Janowski says if they find a tick during an exam, they put it in the jar to show clients what they look like and to identify whether that species carries Lyme disease.

Some pet owners may waffle over parasite prevention because they're nervous about the cost. This is when you'll talk value. Explain how over-the-counter products differ from the products your hospital sells. For example, you might create a chart to compare different brands, how they work, and how long they work.

"When you show them the effectiveness of store-bought products versus what they can buy at a veterinary hospital, the value is clear," Schubert says.

Clients are more likely to listen when they see that you're trying to help them and not just selling a product. And when they see the difference your recommendations make, they'll trust you more. The result: healthier pets.