When veterinary clients diss their dogs

Q: Sometimes when we mention a pet needs to lose weight, clients blame the animals. How do we keep these conversations positive?
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Jun 01, 2013
By dvm360.com staff

Q: Sometimes when we mention a pet needs to lose weight, clients blame the animals. How do we keep these conversations positive?

Pet owners can be pretty sensitive about their pets' weight, especially if they recognize they feed too many cookies or dish up too many desserts for their furry friends, says Dr. Ernie Ward, founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Instead of trying to curb these doggy disses and feline smack downs, think of this as a conversation opener. Consider this example:

Mrs. Jones: "Scooter, you garbage gut! You ate too many cookies, and now you've got me in trouble."

You: "Mrs. Jones, that's one of the things I want to talk to you about Scooter. Like most dogs, he likes to eat. Maybe we can find some healthier snacks to keep him happy."

While it may be challenging to convince Mrs. Jones to stop giving treats, offering an alternative—giving a piece of carrot as a snack instead—is a much easier change in the beginning. If you can get pet owners talking, you're likely to find common ground. So whatever pet owners say, listen and offer first steps, Dr. Ward says.

Keep your message fresh

Being creative about how you deliver your message is important, Dr. Ward says. His practice has used seasonal themes, such as holding off holiday weight gain and springing forward into fitness, to give a fresh spin on weight loss programs.

It's important to stay positive, he says. Maybe only 30 of your 3,000 active clients participated in your program this time around. Just remember these people are involved—and they're probably on social media sites, where they just might brag about Mittens' success on the scale.

Offer food advice

"Clients' No. 1 question is, 'What should I feed my pet?' and everyone should have a good answer to this question," Dr. Ward advises. "The most important decision pet owners make each day is what they choose to feed their pets, so we have to give good answers."

Catch Dr. Ward live Aug. 23 at CVC Kansas City, where he'll offer tips to stay positive, ditch the practice drama and improve your client communication. Visit http://thecvc.com/ to learn more.