How to Convince Pet Owners of the Importance of Wellness Testing for Pets of All Ages

As a primary care veterinarian for over 15 years and a practice owner for over a decade, I've had plenty of opportunities to test out what works—and what doesn't—when attempting to get pet owners to say "Yes!" to wellness testing for their pets. Each life stage of a pet comes with a unique set of challenges and, in some cases, different objections from clients when it comes to veterinary diagnostic screening.

However, no matter a patient's life stage, the basis for getting clients to agree to testing is the same. It comes down to the "why" behind testing and communicating those reasons in a way that allows clients to relate to your recommendations and see the value for their pets.

State the Importance of Early Detection

The sooner internal abnormalities are discovered, the better. No matter a pet's age, early discovery enables treatment and may limit progression of the disease. And, according to a recent study, the chance for significant hidden abnormalities exists during all life stages.

Veterinary diagnostic screening is how you determine whether there's an abnormality in a pet's internal ecosystem. If something isn't quite right, you can determine which additional diagnostics or treatments make sense for that patient. You can interpret the information for the client so they can make informed decisions about their pet's care, leading to more balanced health and often improved longevity.

  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"

Communicating the importance of early detection can help clients understand the reasoning behind regular wellness testing.

Highlight How Establishing Baselines Saves Money and Time

When I speak with pet owners about wellness testing to establish baselines, one of the reasons I provide for doing this is that it's an investment in the future. Not only can diagnostic screening aid in detecting abnormalities early, but it can also help understand the pet's individual "normal" range. When you know what "normal" looks like, you can be more certain about how severely a pet is affected when running diagnostics during an acute or emergency situation. You can then make clear recommendations and help the client grasp the severity of a pet's condition.

Simply put, I tell my clients, "I'll be able to do a better job as your pet's doctor and you'll be able to make better decisions if we know how critical or noncritical a future illness or injury event is to their health." Establishing baselines and applying those values for trending can also save money and hardship; it can prevent you from having to run additional diagnostics to determine how critical the lab value changes are for that pet. Saving money is a reason for wellness testing that clients can easily relate to.

Stress That Testing Offers Peace of Mind

When a wellness panel comes back normal, it can sometimes feel as if you're delivering unimportant information. But what you're actually delivering is peace of mind. Knowing that a pet's internal health is in balance, at any age, is a relief. You can share this relief with your clients rather than worry that they'll see normal results as proof that wellness testing is unnecessary. With annual wellness screening, clients have more information about their beloved pets and they can worry less about hidden health issues.

Prepare How You'll Appeal to Pet Owners

When communicating with clients, it can be helpful to have a ready-to-go blurb about the importance of wellness testing for pets of all ages. This blurb can be a brief sentence or two about the "why" behind the recommendation. For each patient and at each life stage, the priorities may be slightly different and you can weave those into the blurb.

For example, if you want to establish a baseline for a young animal, you might say: "Ruling out underlying abnormalities that could go undetected is important for your young dog, Missy, and the labwork will also help us establish a baseline. If we have a baseline for Missy, it'll be much easier to make decisions if she develops symptoms or if a problem pops up later in life. It can save you time and money in the long run because the baseline helps us understand how significant or insignificant the problem is."

If you want to run a wellness test for a senior patient, you might say: "While a slight increase in water intake may seem insignificant, it's often the first sign of kidney disease in older cats. The sooner we determine if Milo has a kidney issue or any underlying problem, the more options we'll have for management or treatment. If we find out that all the values are normal, you'll have peace of mind and can stop worrying about whether this increase in water intake indicates a problem."

You can adapt your message based on the priorities of the patient and the client's objections, but the supporting message can stay the same: Early detection, knowing a pet's baseline, and peace of mind are beneficial at every age!

Verbal communication isn't the only way to convey the importance of wellness screening. Electronic and hard copy handouts are a great way to outline the benefits of testing at any age and give clients time to process information. You can create these for each life stage, and you can enter reminders into your management software so you can follow up with the client again later.

Nell Ostermeier

Dr. Ostermeier is an entrepreneur at heart and operates, a virtual practice providing telehealth and education for pet parents as well as consultations for veterinarians who wish to safely integrate holistic options into conventional medicine. She earned her DVM from the University of Illinois in 2004 and, since that time, has worked with multiple species and performed varied roles, including associate veterinarian, relief veterinarian, and practice owner. Dr. Ostermeier is an expert in integrative medicine and veterinary acupuncture, and she has spoken at conferences around the world. As an IDEXX regional thought leader, she supports veterinarians in promoting diagnostics as the basis for best preventive care and individualized treatment plans. The views and opinions in this piece are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of either The Vetiverse or IDEXX.

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