Study Provides Helpful Messaging for Recommending Preventive Care to Pet Owners

Veterinarians can find it challenging to communicate effectively about preventive care, despite understanding its value. IDEXX conducted a study in 2023 involving 1,013 pet owners to understand their perspectives on diagnostic screening and to identify effective messaging for encouraging pet owners to agree to recommendations during their pet's annual check-ups.

The study tested the theory that pet owners are a non-homogenous group and will have a varied response to the proposed messaging. Where it's not a one-size-fits-all, different messages or even a mix of these messages can be effective with different pet owners. Veterinarians often have the best understanding of their clients and their motivations. With that, they can use the messages presented in the study to persuade their clients to invest in preventive care for their pets.

  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

Key Messaging

The study showed that, thematically, certain messages resonated best with owners. These included messages conveying statistical or factual information, those highlighting the general importance, messages discussing the rational benefits of testing, and emotional-focused messaging.

The Top Message

There was one message that resonated most with pet owners in the study: "Routine testing is recommended as part of your pet's regular visit, as it can uncover potential issues in up to 40% of dogs and 60% of cats."

By communicating this message, veterinarians can emphasize the importance of preventive care for pets to catch any underlying health concerns early. In conducting regular diagnostic screening tests, pet owners can be aware of any potential health issues lurking beneath the surface. This proactive approach not only helps in early detection but but also can support healthier, happier lives for their pets.

Key General Importance Messages

When it comes to general preventive care messaging, these messages stood out:

  • "Significant health changes can occur quickly as cats and dogs age, making regular health checks (including routine testing) important throughout their lives."
  • "Regular check-ups that include routine testing are one of the best ways to ensure your pet lives a long, healthy life."

The value of routine testing for our patients cannot be overstated. It serves as a preventive measure allowing us to catch potential health issues earlier. These talking points are important, as the study highlighted that 17% of owners were motivated to accept diagnostic testing to ensure the highest level of care for their pet. Phrases such as "important" and "best ways" were able to drive the general messages home.

Key Rational Value Messages

Many pet owners can be cost-motivated when it comes to pet care. These rational value messages were effective for those pet owners:

  • "Routine testing can help catch potential issues earlier, before they require more expensive interventions."
  • "Being proactive with your pet's health care with routine testing may prevent more costly emergency care in the future."

This messaging allows us to enhance pet owner communication and help them recognize the importance of veterinary preventive care and the cost savings that can come along with it by letting them know they can potentially avert the need for more expensive interventions down the line or prevent costly emergency care.

Routine testing can also help circumvent additional expenses related to treatments that could arise if a disease is not identified early on. For example, with a prompt diagnosis of diabetes in a cat and early aggressive treatment, many cats will go into remission and experience improved control, potentially requiring less frequent monitoring as they will be at a lower risk of an emergency with diabetic ketoacidosis.

Key Emotional Value Messages

Pets are more than just animals—they're cherished members of our clients' families who provide them with unconditional love. Messaging that underscores their emotional bond can be very effective, such as:

  • "Your pet provides you with unconditional love, and you can help protect their health and their love through routine testing."
  • "Pets often hide their symptoms and may look and act healthy, so routine testing can give you the peace of mind that you're not missing anything."

Additionally, some pet owners may worry about their pet's health since pets can't communicate with them. As pets often conceal symptoms and may appear healthy despite underlying issues, routine testing can provide these owners peace of mind, ensuring potential health concerns aren't overlooked.

It's important to keep in mind that emotional messages may not be effective with every pet owner. For some, these types of messages may even be off-putting. Try combining straightforward facts with the emotional reasons—it might just be the perfect approach for your client.

Less Effective Messaging

The study found some messaging categories did not perform as well as others. Generally speaking, messaging focused on early detection, such as, "Early detection of disease can allow treatment before symptoms arise and your pet becomes sick," and individualized medicine, such as, "Routine testing allows your veterinarian to compare results year over year to help establish what's normal for your pet," were less persuasive than those in the other categories overall.

Hopefully, these messages inspire more effective pet owner conversations about preventive care. By getting to know your clients and figuring out what kind of messaging will be most effective for them, you can be more successful with preventive testing and recommendations in the future.


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 author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of either The Vetiverse or IDEXX.

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