Promoting the value of your veterinary expertise in parasite prevention
Many veterinarians rely on these products to 1) generate additional revenue for their practices; 2) build relationships with clients; and 3) improve their patients' overall health. As these products become available in retail stores, veterinarians will need to convince clients of the value-added benefits of using a veterinarian as a source of information and a vendor of parasite treatment and prevention products. So we must shift our focus from the retail aspect of the products to the veterinarian-client relationship and the overall health of pets. Many sales may be retained through a good relationship, which includes education and guidance from you and your staff.
DEVELOP AN EDUCATION PROTOCOL AND PROGRAMVeterinarians need to use their expertise to help clients realize the value-added benefit of their veterinary care in parasite control. This expert guidance is the greatest benefit clients miss out on when purchasing products over the counter. Some practices may choose to reduce their emphasis on parasite control, but if we are to prevent zoonoses and improve animal health, we must instead improve communication between pet owners and veterinarians and their staffs.
At check-in and in the exam room
Routine examinations or vaccinations are a good time to initiate client education about parasite prevention products and begin fostering a veterinarian-client relationship. Veterinary practices should allocate time to discuss the benefits of routine fecal examinations and annual heartworm testing and to answer questions about parasite prevention and treatment. Use this opportunity to also make recommendations on products and treatment schedules. The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) ( http://www.capcvet.org/) provides clear recommendations for the prevention of internal and external parasites. The CAPC guidelines can be used to help in the process of client education.
Remember that young children and immunocompromised individuals are at increased risk for zoonoses. Be careful not to prejudge which clients may have friends or family members who fall into these categories. Some clients and their pets may interact with at-risk individuals, such as grandchildren or neighbors, who do not live with them. Therefore, be sure to instruct all clients about the importance of parasite prevention to reduce the threat of zoonotic infection. Distributing literature on parasite prevention products at check-in and discussing the topic in the exam room are ideal opportunities for broaching the subject and answering client questions.
In-clinic promotions that encourage client education on parasite treatment and prevention also can strengthen the veterinarian-client relationship and may increase sales. These promotions can be used to bolster pet owner and community education on parasitic infection, prevention and treatment, and environmental control of parasite transmission. Such promotions may be a good opportunity to increase awareness of potential exposure of both pets and people to zoonoses in places of high animal concentration, such as dog parks.
Consider promoting sales of 6- or 12-month supplies of products to help defray the costs for clients and to encourage year-round treatment. It may surprise you how many clients will purchase larger quantities with the incentive of a discount. In addition, use these types of programs to encourage regular fecal examinations and to get patients on a routine wellness examination schedule.
Reminder cards are another excellent way to increase client compliance and to provide a value-added service that will help drive clients into your clinic, rather than to the supermarket. The cards also can be used as a marketing tool to reinforce the importance of parasite prevention. Whatever the delivery method, the ultimate goal of the education process is to integrate parasite prevention and treatment into the overall philosophy of the practice.