Preventive Care Talking Points for Veterinary Teams

Wellness testing is critical to ensuring pets' long-term health and well-being. Preventive care diagnostics as part of the wellness visit help to establish baselines, catch abnormalities, or get ahead of potential issues that could affect a patient's quality of life. But pet owners won't know why these tests are important without the proper communication.

When it comes to wellness testing and recommendations, every member of a veterinary team has a significant role in advising pet owners on preventive care diagnostics. Unfortunately, this conversation can be challenging to have consistently, for several reasons, including a lack of confidence among team members in knowing what to say. One solution is to provide talking points for your team on precisely what to cover with pet owners. This strategy can help team members feel more confident and capable in their role and encourage them to have the necessary conversations with pet owners about these diagnostics.

  Wondering how to talk with clients about preventive care? Learn how to start the conversation in our e-book, 5 Tips for Talking with Clients about Preventive Care

What To Include in Your Preventive Care Script

Start by providing your team with basic talk tracks and add on from there. These five areas of focus can be a good start.

1. The Importance of Preventive Care Diagnostics

First and foremost, your team should emphasize the importance of establishing a baseline for each specific patient as a means of tracking the pet's long-term health. The team should also explain how regular testing can help detect abnormalities sooner even in seemingly healthy pets. An extensive pet owner study in 2023 conducted by IDEXX and Rehavior revealed that the most compelling preventive care message was that diagnostic screening can uncover potential issues in up to 40% of dogs and 60% of cats. In addition to sharing this data, drawing on personal experience and using real patient examples can help.

Script: "We recommend running preventive diagnostic tests for your cat, Fluffy, every 6 to 12 months, as this helps us understand what's normal for your pet and allows us to screen for common conditions like kidney disease, diabetes, or an overactive thyroid. Subtle changes in your pet's test results can signal the presence of disease before any outward signs of illness can be seen. With preventive diagnostic screening we can detect problems earlier, which may lead to better outcomes, essentially helping us look after Fluffy better. For example, my 10-year-old cat had some routine bloodwork recently, and we found early markers of kidney disease. We were able to start her on the appropriate treatment sooner before she became unwell or started losing weight. Studies have shown that routine wellness testing can uncover potential issues in up to 60% of cats!"

2. Customized Recommendations

It's important to customize recommendations based on the pet's age, breed, lifestyle, and medical history. When your team discusses the specific risks and needs associated with the pet's characteristics, they can highlight the relevance of preventive care and make sure pet owners understand why their pet needs wellness testing.

Script: "Because Ringo is an active 9-year-old Border Collie who enjoys walks but is starting to show signs of stiffness, he may benefit from some pain relief for his joints. We can select the most appropriate pain medication for him, and it would be a good idea to do some diagnostic screening to check for any underlying issues. This will also allow us to establish what is normal for him. We'd like to repeat this blood test every 3/6/12 months to monitor how he's doing and check to see if there are any changes so we can continue to provide the best treatment for him."

3. Costs

Cost is always a consideration when it comes to veterinary care. Clients need to be aware of the potential costs of the diagnostics and any payment plan options your practice may offer. This can help ease any financial concerns that pet owners have and ensure that they are fully aware of the potential costs associated with these tests. Team members should offer to provide them with an estimate of test costs. Be clear and transparent with costs, and remind clients that catching issues early can save them money in the long run and give their pet the best chance at a quick and full recovery.

Script: "Kidney disease is one of the most common things we see as cats age. With Charlie entering his senior years, it would be a good idea to ensure we have a complete picture of his health so we can catch things early for him. We recommend running a full diagnostic screening which costs [X amount]. This includes an in-depth blood sample as well as a basic urine test. Depending on the initial results, we may need to run further diagnostics, like checking his blood pressure or for any protein loss in his urine. This would have an additional cost, but it would help us provide the best treatment for him. The sooner we can be aware of any of Charlie's health issues, the better treatment we can offer, saving you on other costs over time. Would you like me to provide you with a breakdown of the cost of the diagnostics?"

4. Answers to Questions

Ensure the team covers some of the most common questions pet owners have about diagnostic screening, including how often tests need to be done, what happens during the test, and if pets need to be sedated. By providing answers to these questions, team members can help alleviate any concerns that pet owners may have and ensure that they feel fully informed about the diagnostic process.

Script: "For a senior cat with hyperthyroidism like Buttons, we recommend a regular blood and urine test every 3 to 6 months, as long as she remains stable and well. For the test, we'll book an appointment with our experienced vet tech to take the sample. Buttons should not eat for 8 hours before the sample is taken. She likely won't need to be sedated as most cats tolerate having a blood sample taken without any problems, however, we can give her a mild sedative if she becomes distressed. She can come home with you from the appointment, and the vet will call to discuss her results with you."

5. What To Say When Clients Say No

In cases where the owner opts not to do any recommended wellness testing or decides not to do the full testing that was recommended, have your team members reiterate why wellness testing is performed, and its benefits.

Script: "During Frankie's next visit, we would like to run full diagnostic screening to make sure we're not missing anything and to establish a baseline. Subtle changes in your pet's test results can often warn of disease before any visible symptoms arise. Taking advantage of preventive diagnostic tests enables us to identify issues earlier, leading to better outcomes, and ultimately, higher quality care for your pet—keeping them healthy and happy for years to come."

Clear and concise talking points and recommended scripts can play a critical role in ensuring that veterinary team members are confident and prepared when it comes to discussing the importance of preventive care diagnostics with pet owners. By including topics such as establishing a baseline, customizing recommendations, discussing costs, and answering common pet owner questions, you can help ensure pet owners are fully informed about the importance of these tests and are equipped to make the best decisions for their pets.

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Laura Sullivan

Laura Sullivan qualified from the Royal Veterinary College in 2009 and is an experienced small animal veterinary surgeon. In practice, she has performed various roles, including associate veterinarian, locum veterinarian, and clinical director. Alongside her clinical work, entrepreneur Laura is on a mission to help veterinary and healthcare professionals become more sustainable. She founded 'All Scrubbed Up Scrub Hats' - a small business creating bespoke eco friendly, reusable scrub hats for the veterinary, dental, and healthcare heroes of the world. The views and opinions in this piece are the authors own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of either The Vetiverse or IDEXX.

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