Today's Veterinary Business

AUG 2018

Today’s Veterinary Business provides information and resources designed to help veterinarians and office management improve the financial performance of their practices, allowing them to increase the level of patient care and client service.

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Page 47 of 75

40 Today's Veterinary Business Communication Socially Acceptable columnist Eric D. Garcia is an IT and digital consultant who works exclusively with veterinary practices and speaks at veterinary conferences around the world. Learn more at Don't Make Assumptions Of course, one approach is not necessarily better than the other. What's important to note is that some of our basic assumptions, like the idea that everybody knows how to use an iPhone to book an appointment online, shouldn't be asserted across demographics. Your only surefire way to satisfy pet owners at each end of the spectrum is to offer more choices and let them choose what's best. For instance, booking appoint- ments with your veterinary practice through an iPhone or Android app might be just what a 26-year-old new pet owner is looking for. The functionality might align perfectly with their preferences and every- day way of doing business. The same app, however, might not de- light a 55-year-old dog owner who has filled out paperwork in person for the last 20 years. That said, the baby boomer might be eager to try a new ap- proach. You never know. So, why not offer both options to both demographics and not make any assumptions? If you do that, you're more likely to please both. Practical Advice Let's look closer at a few approach- es that can help your veterinary practice delight pet owners across every generation. Remember that even baby boomers and older demo- graphics are adapting to digital. Don't assume a baby boomer won't want to use your app or be interest- ed in your new tech-related features or rollouts. In the same vein, don't assume a millennial won't want to talk to you by phone or in person and will favor online options. If your next client is a baby boomer, consider spending extra time with her and seeing if she has questions. If your practice has an app, ask the client if she is in- terested in using it, but be prepared to provide tips to get her started. For both millennials and baby boomers, make sure your website (and app, if ap- plicable) is clear, aesthetically balanced and not overwhelming. For pet owners of both genera- tions, it's important to emphasize all the information clearly and methodically. This might mean a clear explanation of how to request an online booking or pre- scription refill to make life a little easier for everyone. Try not to assume that millennial pet owners won't want to chat about their pet in person. Even if they've booked an appointment online and are browsing their phone while in the waiting room, there's a good chance they'll have questions for you, and they'll appreciate the gesture of an extra few moments with you after the appointment. Customize your approach. The best thing you can do is listen closely to the needs of each client and the pet. Each interaction is different, and you'd be surprised at the details you can pick up if you spend extra time listening to questions or concerns and pro- viding tips to ensure a long-term approach to providing veterinary care for their pet. The demographics will shift as time goes on. Younger generations will enter the spotlight as a larger proportion of pet owners, and they might prefer communication tech- niques or technologies that aren't used today. Keep a close eye on emerging trends, but don't forget to keep implementing proven techniques that work time and time again. A warm smile and a handshake have worked for centuries. These little gestures go a long way with baby boomers, millennials and anyone in between. 1 2 3 4 5 Communication SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE Car Accessories We can address other pet senses during car travel. Recent studies have shown that dogs and cats are very sensitive not only to sound, but to the type of music they hear. The car ride to a dog's annual wellness exam or a cross-country road trip is not the best time to test a new heavy-metal CD. Instead, consider classical or reggae music, both of which stimulate positive and relaxed reactions in dogs and cats, or the downloadable "Through a Dog's Ear" and "Through a Cat's Ear." Some animal hospitals have assembled Spotify playlists that can be down- loaded and played in the car or home to foster a calm environment. Additionally, pheromone ther- apy is an important part of natural anxiety reduction during car travel. Pheromones are chemical signals produced by the dog or cat. The ef- ficacy of this therapy is dependent on consistent use and appropriate timing. Canine-specific Adaptil, for example, is a synthetic replication of the pheromone released by a bitch after whelping to calm her puppies. The product can be placed inside carriers, on bedding, bandan- as or ThunderShirts, and in the car at least an hour before the ride. Some patients who have stress- ful travel responses but cannot avoid frequent car rides respond better to Adaptil Comfort Zone col- lars, which are effective for 30 days. For cats, Feliway should be used in a similar fashion, and I encourage owners to keep Feliway wipes in carrier side pockets for future uses. Pharmaceutical Intervention While natural remedies and behav- ior modification and training suc- cessfully calm many dogs and cats, veterinary intervention sometimes is necessary. For patients that suffer motion sickness, a few options are available. Dramamine is shown to lessen clinical signs when used off-la- bel, but I prefer to prescribe Cerenia, a neurokinin receptor blocker, at the labeled dose to prevent motion sickness. These patients should not be fed up to two hours before the trip, and instead of offering high- reward treats, pet owners should consider alternatives such as the ThunderShirt or an Adaptil collar. Unfortunately, natural strat- egies aren't effective for every dog or cat, especially those with a history of fear or anxiety associated with car or airplane travel. It's im- portant to discuss this with clients struggling with reactive behaviors or who feel frustrated with a lack of success in reducing stress. In these patients, I strongly recommend pharmaceutical inter- vention before travel. For dogs, the most commonly used anti-anxiety solution is trazodone. It can be prescribed at a dose of 2 to 5 mg/ kg and should be administered at least two hours before travel. In patients with a history of stressful events, I also recommend a loading dose the night before. In cats, I most commonly prescribe gabapentin. At 50 to 100 mg/kg per cat, this is an incred- ibly successful strategy, and like trazodone, it can be administered 12 hours prior as a loading dose. Remember to warn clients that cats might exhibit sedation for six to eight hours, especially at the higher dosage. For clients that struggle with administering pills, these medi- cations can be compounded into liquids and soft chews. Happy Travels Make sure to review with clients the simple steps needed to desensitize their dog or cat to car rides. Great tips like these can be used in email reminders or social media posts. Remember to stress that these steps require preparation and practice and that it is unreasonable to expect car ride desensitization to happen in one day. Fearless columnist Dr. Natalie Marks is co-owner of Blum Animal Hospital in Chicago. She is Fear Free certified. Continued from Page 38

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