Are you missing pet health communication opportunities with your clients?

A study finds that dog and cat owners don’t always grasp the scope or importance of veterinary exams

Photo courtesy Colorado State University Clinical Sciences

Pet owners don’t always get the full message that veterinary teams think they’re communicating, according to a Partners for Healthy Pets (PHP) study presented during an American Animal Hospital Association session at VMX Veterinary Meeting & Expo in Orlando, Fla.

The study compiled responses from surveys of 1,193 practice staff members, 833 dog owners, and 527 cat owners from April 2012 through June 2017.

Practices have an opportunity to better communicate not only what is being done during a preventive examination but also how the examination benefits the pet, according to the study.

Among the findings

  • About 45 percent of dog owners and 30 percent of cat owners believed that a pain assessment was discussed or performed at their pet’s most recent checkup
  • When staff members were asked whether a pain assessment is typically performed at every examination during a visit for preventive care, 73 percent said yes for dogs, and 68 percent said yes for cats
  • About 95 percent of staff members indicated that a dental exam is typically performed at every preventive care visit
  • About 77 percent of dog owners and 78 percent of cat owners believed a dental examination was discussed or performed at their pet’s most recent checkup

Other areas where communication wires get crossed

  • General physical examination
  • Weight and nutritional assessment
  • Internal parasite testing
  • Broad-spectrum parasite control
  • Heartworm testing
  • Behavioral assessment
  • Vaccinations
  • Follow-up plans based on assessments and recommendations
  • Retrovirus testing for cats

“[Developing good communication skills] really is the fix for ensuring that a client has full appreciation and understanding of the components of a preventive health care exam and their importance,” said David Granstrom, PHP co-chair and American Veterinary Medical Association assistant executive vice president.

The results of the study have been published as a white paper, “The Opportunity: Pet owners don’t always hear what we think we tell them (and how to fix that).” The white paper, survey tool, and free communication tools for staff training are available at


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