Pet families want to do what is best for their pets, but they may not always know what that is. In an effort to improve pet health and support the human-animal bond, veterinarians can help educate clients on the importance of preventive care, the costs of veterinary care, and options for emergency financial planning, such as pet insurance.
Table of Contents:
Veterinarians are well aware of why we make preventive care recommendations, but multiple surveys have found that clients often need help understanding the value of routine veterinary care. In fact, a recent survey conducted by dvm360 found that 78% of pet owners interviewed report not visiting the vet due to low perceived value.1
78% of pet owners
do not visit the vet due to low perceived value
This means we as veterinary professionals need to ensure that we explain the why behind our recommendations — from both the perspective of how they benefit the health and well-being of our patients and their families, in addition to the potential for financial savings through disease prevention and early detection. It is imperative that every member of the veterinary team understands these recommendations and can communicate them.
Clinics should develop a preventive care protocol and train the entire team on the what and the why of each recommendation. This is different from a wellness package that clients may buy into. It is a written plan that covers all aspects of preventive care, including physical examinations, vaccination recommendations, parasite screening and prevention, routine screening laboratory testing, and more. Your clinic can customize recommendations based on species, age, and breed, depending on how detailed you want to be.
The more times a client hears a recommendation, especially if they are hearing it from multiple team members, the more likely they are to buy into the importance of what you are saying. But we must be sure that clients not only hear the recommendations but understand them. Invite your clients to ask questions and have resources prepared that you can send home with your clients if they need to think about things a bit more.
Be sure that all team members are able to communicate the why behind your recommendations and how it benefits the patient's health, well-being, and longevity. Being able to connect to the client’s feelings about their pet and desire to keep them healthy is essential when making recommendations.
For instance, instead of saying: “Your puppy is due to start their parvovirus vaccine today,” you could say, “Parvovirus is a potentially deadly canine virus that causes severe gastrointestinal disease. It is easily prevented by vaccination, which we will start today at your puppy's first visit."
Veterinarians can also communicate the value of their recommendations to owners from a financial perspective. Combining this with the emotional appeal of how following through with the recommendation can benefit the pet can be a powerful way to gain compliance.
Compare the cost of diagnosing and treating a disease like parvovirus, pyometra, or Lyme disease to the cost of prevention. This can be a great topic for a social media campaign or bulletin boards in your clinic.
Unfortunately, some pets will develop chronic conditions, such as Diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, or osteoarthritis. An important conversation to have with the clients early on is related to the finances of disease management.
When discussing diagnostics and treatment options with clients, it is essential that we are transparent about what the cost of managing the disease will be. For some conditions like diabetes, significant monitoring is required, especially in the early days of the disease, and the costs of this monitoring, combined with insulin therapy and diet changes can add up quickly.
One of the worst things we can do for a client and patient is to invest all of the client’s money upfront and find out a few months into therapy they can no longer afford medications or the costs of monitoring. Having a conversation early on will set expectations of what is feasible for the client. Sometimes, we can adjust monitoring strategies. Other times, it may not be in the pet’s best interest to pursue treatment if it cannot be continued long-term.
While these conversations can be emotional, most clients would prefer to make their decision about treatment having all the facts–including the financial picture and long-term prognosis. Ensuring that clients go into treatment with realistic expectations can also head off some of the frustrations later on over the costs of repeated visits and testing.
Despite the best preventive care and emergency preparedness, some accidents and illnesses simply cannot be prevented. While it may be difficult for a pet family to think about what would happen if Penny were attacked by another dog at the park, ingested a toxin, or developed cancer, these things do happen. It’s better for pet owners to prepare a plan for how they would manage an emergency situation before it happens, especially since one in three pets will have an emergency each year.2
1 in 3 pets
will require emergency care each year
Financial Planning for pet health will look different for different clients. Pet insurance can be a great option for some clients, and veterinary teams should be sure to educate clients about the existence of pet insurance and then turn the conversation over to the experts, like Pawlicy Advisor, to determine what plan is the best fit for their individual circumstances. For other clients, setting aside an emergency fund or having an accessible line of credit can be preferred options.
Ultimately, the best thing veterinary teams can do for clients is to help them to have an understanding of what care they can provide to their pets to try to prevent emergencies and how to prepare financially for them in the event they do occur.
A Team Approach to Financial Conversations in Clinical Practice
Over the next several months, Dr. Boatright will explore ways to help reduce the stress of financial conversations and help to prepare pet owners for the costs of pet ownership — both expected and unexpected.
Let's analyze your pet's breed, age, and location to find the right coverage and the best savings. Ready?Analyze My Pet
The pet insurance marketplace endorsed by veterinarians, at Pawlicy Advisor we make buying the best pet insurance easier. By comparing personalized coverage and pricing differences we can save you a ton of money, up to 83% in some instances!
Dr. Kate Boatright, VMD, works as a small animal general practitioner, freelance speaker, and author in western Pennsylvania. Since graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with her veterinary degree in 2013, she has worked throughout Pennsylvania as both a general practice and emergency veterinarian. Both in the clinic and outside of it, Dr. Boatright enjoys building relationships with her clients and educating pet owners on how they can keep their pets as healthy as possible. She loves being a veterinarian and educating students and colleagues on wellness, communication, and the unique challenges facing recent graduates. Outside of the clinic, she is active in many veterinary organizations, enjoys running, watching movies, and playing games with her husband, son, and cats.