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Veterinary Forum April 2009 (Vol 26, No 4)

Editor's Note — Trouble with well-meaning folks

by Marie Rosenthal

    Recently, I encountered some well-meaning — but misinformed — people. Two of them were lovely women who make their living dealing with animals, although neither is a veterinarian nor a technician.

    The first one is a nutritionist/trainer who rallied against by-products in veterinary diets. Then she focused on one company. She disliked its products because they have corn in them, and "dogs are allergic to corn." I told her I thought the company did a lot of testing and supported good research.

    But her final argument stopped me: Veterinarians only prescribe this company's food because the company pays for their veterinary schooling; they sign an agreement to promote the product afterward.

    I realized there would be no education here.

    If we could get one company to pay for everyone's veterinary school, there might not be a veterinary shortage. Of course, with vets graduating about $120,000 in debt, a bag of food would likely cost $1,000, but what the heck — small price to pay, right?

    During one of her puppy training classes, the second woman announced that one of the dog owners called and said her pup recently took second place in his first show but wouldn't be at the class because he also took home a case of kennel cough.

    The instructor offered advice to the rest of the class. She did admit that kennel cough could progress to pneumonia, but she spoke out against antibiotics and vaccination because it's just a cold and dogs need to build their immune system.

    To me, both of these chance meetings demonstrate how important it is to talk to and teach your clients. You and your staff are the first line of defense against ignorance when it comes to our pets.

    We all want the same things for our animals: to be healthy, happy and well behaved. Owners appreciate a discussion on just about any topic that involves their pets, and these discussions are important. Whether it comes from you or your technician, please, tell us what to do.

    In our sister publication, Compendium: Continuing Education for Veterinarians, Kathleen A. Bonvicini recently said that improving communication skills can increase the health outcomes of a veterinary practice and is "the primary tool to retain clients, reduce complaints and decrease malpractice risk."

    It might also prevent owners from using a less-informed source for information about their pet.

    NEXT: Emerging concern for vector-borne diseases