Client education is the single-most important tool for maintaining a relationship that draws clients back to your veterinary
practice for information on parasite prevention and treatment products. In the past, many parasite prevention and treatment
products have been sold only through licensed veterinary practices. But in the near future, more of these products will be
available over the counter. While consumers may find this an attractive way to purchase products, it may not be best for the
client, patient, and veterinarian in the prevention of zoonotic parasitic diseases.
Jay Stewart, DVM
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 PROGRAM
Veterinarians 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
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.