When it comes down to it, the biggest obstacle in establishing a pet health care plan is client anxiety. On one hand, pets have a hard time dealing with visits, which puts stress on their owners. At the same time, health issues that you may be able to diagnose and treat in a few minutes may have been on the client’s mind for hours, days, or even weeks, putting them in a position where they fear the outcome. However, with the right strategies, you can relieve these sources of tension and stress, helping clients feel more at ease and better able to manage their pet’s care.
Should You Extend House Calls to House Pets?
In a 2013 study by Bayer and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), over half of cat-owning respondents said they avoided regular veterinary care for their cats. Leading reasons included anxiety over visits, and the fear that their pets shared this anxiety. This study led to the start of the AAFP’s “Fear Free” program, targeted at reducing these stressors. While most of the program is aimed at in-clinic problems, they note that house calls can eliminate the most common stress issues for cats. The cat doesn’t have to travel or be around other animals, and both the animal and its owner are in a comfortable environment. Meanwhile, dogs travel better (in a pet carrier of course!), eliminating the need for scheduling and removes a major barrier to canine care.
Employ Active Listening to Give Clients Peace of Mind
We know it’s easy to rush to a conclusion when you’re dealing with a problem that you’ve seen a million times before. However, even if you and your staff know the correct course of action, that doesn’t always assure the client. Listen to what they have to say, ask follow-up questions, and avoid judgment. You may be able to address unrelated worries, relieving the client and improving the care they give to their pet. It also helps you pick up on important details that may change the diagnosis or the course of action, resulting in better health care for the ailing pet.
Establishing an Emotional Support Protocol Before and During Visits
Vet visits aren’t fun for pets, and that makes them stressful for their owners. However, there are ways to work around this, putting everyone at ease. The client can use activities near your area, like park visits, to get the animal used to the drive over. Having a “getting-to-know-you” visit, where the animal isn’t examined, also helps the pet get used to your clinic. You and your client can use services like grooming and boarding to get the animal used to visits at your location.
Consensual touch is critical to the comfort of pets, shifting their view of your staff away from being a threat. Let the animal approach the staff member, and practice petting to gain the animal’s trust. It also helps to work with the client to get the animal used to being touched in sensitive areas, like paws and ears. This makes the animal more open to examination.
Suggest early morning visits for particularly nervous pets. These visits are less likely to start late, since there isn’t time for emergencies and interruptions to extend the schedule. This reduces the total time spent at the clinic.
Make Waiting Easier on Everyone
Look for ways you can address sources of stress in your clinic. Can dogs stay with their owners through their clinic visit? Do you have an area for cats that keeps them separate from other animals? Is there a way you can let pets go outside, contacting the client when it’s time for their visit? Making the wait easier on pets also makes it easier on clients.
What if the clinic visits aren’t the problem, and is actually separation anxiety? If the dog or cat wails and cries as soon as it’s out of sight, it’s hard for clients to feel like their pet is being taken care of. This subject should be broached carefully, so it doesn’t seem like you’re brushing it off lightly or blaming the client.
Make Visits to Your Clinic Feel a Little More Special
Positive Impressions, LLC has worked with veterinary clinics for over a decade, providing them with the products they need to help their businesses stand out. From appointment reminder cards to goodie bags, we have a wide range of items that keep your business on your clients’ minds. We offer custom printing for most of the items we carry, so you can add your clinic’s contact information, as well as unique graphics that fit your practice. See what we offer on our website, and visit our Facebook page to see our latest specials.