Trying to get your clients to understand and follow your recommendations in order to keep their pets teeth clean and healthy can be difficult. It’s all very well saying, “brush your pet’s teeth”, but in reality, how many clients will do this? They may start with good intentions, but within a very short time many will give up. If you think that by selling a finger brush and some toothpaste you’re succeeding, you’re almost certainly fooling yourself.
Posted: 15 December 2018
In this feature, we have 8 ways that will make your advice more meaningful and ultimately effective.
From the very first time you see your patient, perhaps as a puppy or kitten, talk about the benefits of good dental care. Alert owners to the fact that a tube of pet toothpaste and a dog/cat toothbrush will cost far less than a dental operation involving cleaning and extractions. Your challenge is to get pet owners to see the value in choosing preventative care.
As clinicians we may use the words like “periodontal disease, halitosis and gingival hyperplasia” when discussing cases with our colleagues, but for many owners these words will mean nothing. Clinical jargon will perplex many owners, and they’ll ‘switch off’. It’s always better to put your thoughts and advice in layman’s terms to ensure more effective communication and better compliance.
Have you ever tried comparing a pet’s poor dental care with our own oral health? You could, for example, use a comparison of ‘no brushing’ with the owner not brushing their own teeth for years. Ask them how they would feel? Get them to think about the smell? How would they feel if they had to have several teeth removed every time they went to the dentist? Imagine having toothache every day with no pain relief and no prospect of a cure? It probably won’t take long before they’ll understand that it’s just not acceptable to ignore their pet’s dental health and wellbeing.
Do you use ultraviolet light to your advantage? By using an UV dental torch and shining the light on the animal’s teeth, the plaque and tartar will glow bright pink. The key advantage is that the client will get to see exactly how covered the teeth are with even mild plaque and tartar. There will be no doubt your client will concede that dental care is required. If the teeth already require treatment, you’ll be able to assure them that after the dental, you’ll be able to start a preventative care plan to avoid further problems.
Poor dental health can lead to many other health issues. Talk to your clients at length and let them know of all the long-term health complications linked to dental disease. There are many to discuss, but perhaps focus on renal, hepatic and cardiac complications. However, it’s probably better to sell the up side of cleaning as well by telling them that they can add years to their pet’s life with good dental care.
Some owners may prefer not to think about dental care for their pet because they are frightened of what’s involved. You need to reassure them that whilst you understand and appreciate their apprehension, they will be doing their pet a real favour. Just because they don’t look at their pet’s teeth doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem brewing. You could at this stage highlight the importance of twice yearly health checks at the practice.
Money is something that most vets would prefer not to talk about. After all, veterinary care is expensive and we’re always worried that a client may be put off the most appropriate treatment because of costs. The reality however is that being open and honest about money is a must. It helps if you produce a detailed written estimate for any dental work you propose. Have an open conversation about any payment, including any split payment options you offer. Whatever you do, don’t surprise them with a huge bill.
Halitosis isn’t normal for pets. The concept of “dog breath” is so set in pet owners minds that they don’t always know that there is an alternative. Consultations, puppy and kitten parties and health checks allow us an opportunity to set higher expectations.