Vector-Borne Disease Testing: How Educational Materials Empower Pet Parents

Among the web of responsibilities that come with being a pet owner, staying informed about potential health risks to our furry companions is paramount. Among these risks, vector-borne disease (VBD) stands out as a significant threat to both pets and humans alike. Pet owner information handouts serve as indispensable tools in educating owners about the importance of regular screening for VBDs and empowering them to safeguard their pets' well-being.

Why Create Pet Owner Materials?

You may feel like you don't have time for creating handouts, but they can improve pet owner communication and make a big difference for both your clients and their pets.

  Clinical decision support resources to support you when testing, treating, and managing vector-borne diseases

Awareness and Prevention

Many pet owners are unaware of the prevalence and severity of vector-borne diseases. Client handouts can enlighten them about the risks associated with these diseases and the importance of proactive measures, such as regular screenings and preventive treatments.

Early Detection

Timely detection is key to managing VBDs effectively. Informative handouts can educate pet owners about the early signs and symptoms of such diseases, empowering them to seek veterinary care promptly.

Pet Owner Risks

Ticks bite both people and pets. By educating pet owners about the diseases that ticks carry and reminding them to check their pets and family for ticks after being outside, handouts play a crucial role in preventing infection and protecting both pets and their human families.

Comprehensive Care

Incorporating information about vector-borne disease screening into pet care routines ensures a more comprehensive approach to pet health. It underscores the importance of regular veterinary visits and encourages proactive discussions between pet owners and veterinarians.

When Should We Share Handouts with Owners?

There are several suitable occasions that handouts can be utilized with owners. Annual health checks or vaccination appointments are convenient times to share client handouts, as we're often discussing and reviewing their preventive health care anyway. Email campaigns or newsletters are another great way to reach clients, as well as utilizing your practice website and social media pages to share handouts. You could also use handouts for other health concerns affecting pets, such as feline immunodeficiency virus, feline leukemia virus, and feline heartworm.

Tips for Creating Effective Pet Owner Materials

Follow these handout tips to effectively share information about the kinds of vector-borne diseases that exist and can affect pets in your region:

  • Use clear and concise language and avoid technical jargon to ensure pet owners of all backgrounds can fully understand the content. Keep the information simple and easy to understand. Share symptoms to watch for when a dog is unwell with tick-borne or heartworm disease.

  • Visual aids, like infographics or diagrams, can convey information about VBDs, preventive measures, and the screening process.

  • Include actionable advice. Provide practical tips and actionable steps that pet owners can take to protect their family and pets from vector-borne diseases. This may include advice on tick prevention methods, such as using anti-parasiticides, regular tick checks, and a reminder to come back next year to test again.

  • Emphasize the benefits of VBD screening for pets, including early detection and effective treatment options. Highlighting the positive outcomes of screening can motivate pet owners to prioritize this aspect of their pets' health care.

  • Include references to additional accessible resources, such as reputable websites, where pet owners can find more information about vector-borne diseases and screening options.

  • Customize and tailor the handouts to address the specific needs and concerns of pet owners in your local community. Consider the local prevalence of heartworm and tick-borne diseases and common outdoor activities in your region that may increase pets' exposure to ticks.

VBD Information Examples

Below is some information you might include in pet owner materials.

  • General Information: Tick-borne diseases can include Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis. These illnesses occur when infected ticks bite a dog and the pathogen is transmitted to your dog.<share about="" area="""" current="" disease="" from="" in="" information="" prevalence="" your=""></share>
  • Clinical Signs: Symptoms of vector-borne disease can include a bloody nose, fever, lack of energy, lameness and painful joints, pale gums, and a loss of appetite. However, sometimes your dog may not show any signs of disease, which is why annual testing is important.
  • Protect Your Family and Pet: Keep your dog on preventive medication for heartworm and ticks (available from your veterinarian). Ticks bite pets and people, so check your dog and family for ticks after being outdoors and remove any ticks immediately.
  • Results and Your Next Visit: Celebrate the fact that the pet parent brought their pet in for routine screening and share the results. For negative findings, reiterate why it is important to keep the pet on preventive medication and come back for regular blood tests. With positive results, explain what the pet owner needs to know about the disease and any possible next steps.

How Pet Owner Materials Help

Pet owner information plays a crucial role in raising awareness about the importance of regular screening for vector-borne diseases in pets. By providing clear, concise information and actionable advice, these handouts empower pet owners to take proactive steps to protect their pets' health.

Through education and collaboration between pet owners and us, as veterinarians, we can work toward ensuring the well-being of our beloved companions in the face of tick-borne disease threats.

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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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