DISCUSS THE BENEFITS OF BUYING FROM A VETERINARIAN
Veterinarians must educate clients on the advantages of buying products from their practices. The fact that grocery stores
are selling these products may increase their availability but may decrease the overall effectiveness of parasite control
because clients may only administer the product to treat an infestation rather than to prevent parasitism. Additionally, clients
may not read and follow the manufacturer's instructions, reducing the product's efficacy. For example, some products require
administration with food for optimal effect, while others may be affected by bathing. Without additional guidance, clients
may not receive any value from a product that they purchase over the counter. They could inadvertently purchase the wrong
dose for their pets based on weight, or try to apply a product cross-species, which could reduce the product's efficacy or
harm a pet.
Other factors to consider are local conditions and parasite prevalence in a given area. Clients might be unaware of parasitic
conditions in their region, leading to the purchase of products that are not suited to the individual needs of their animals.
Whereas some regions have a higher prevalence of heartworm infection or flea and tick infestation, other areas may not be
affected to such a degree. Additionally, some areas could be more susceptible to seasonal fluctuations in parasite infestation.
Other factors that could be overlooked by clients purchasing products over the counter include the origin of the pet, travel,
and the age and nutritional status of the pet. All of these are factors that could influence the safety and efficacy of a
product purchased over the counter. In short, veterinarians are the best educated to provide information on parasites, pet
health, and prevention of parasitic infection and zoonoses. It is only through careful evaluation of the total environment
and health of the animal that the proper product can be selected.
INCLUDE ALL STAFF MEMBERS IN THE PROCESS
Be sure to involve all of your practice staff, including technicians and receptionists, in the client education process. These
team members have lots of contact with clients and can initiate conversations about parasite prevention. Then you can follow
up by making recommendations for parasite prevention for each patient. The key is to be consistent with the message being
presented to clients, to simplify the message, and to ensure that clients realize the value of using you as an information
center for decisions about pet care.
To motivate team members to participate in this endeavor, be sure that they are fully trained to discuss parasite prevention
and treatment products and that they understand their role in the process. They should support the practice philosophy as
much as you do.
Measuring success is an important element in the client education process. This will help demonstrate how well your entire
practice is doing with making recommendations and selling products. These measurements could include the number of recommendations
that result in product sales, the number of conversions to parasite prevention products, the number of 12-month parasite prevention
product packages sold, and the number of fecal examinations performed monthly. Post these results for your staff to review,
and reward them for achieving goals.
MAINTAIN THE MOMENTUM
Fostering a practice philosophy and culture that engage clients and staff in the parasite prevention and treatment process
takes time and energy. To reap rewards from such a culture, each practice must commit to maintaining the momentum. Revisit
protocols annually or semi-annually to determine whether they are effective. If a program is implemented, consider making
it a regular program (e.g. annual or monthly). Set aside time for staff training on new developments in parasite prevention and treatment. The goal
is to keep parasite prevention and treatment as an ongoing talking point for the entire practice.
The outcomes of this process will be smarter clients, healthier pets, a stronger veterinarian-client relationship, and a reduced
threat from over-the-counter sales at retail establishments. Great strides have been made in increasing client awareness of
zoonoses through the efforts of organizations such as CAPC. Veterinarians should not let over-the-counter sales derail this
Jay Stewart, DVM
Aumsville Animal Clinic
295 Main St.
Aumsville, OR 97325