A lot of information is exchanged during a visit to the veterinarian. 

Full disclosure: I'm a pet owner. I work for the American Animal Hospital Association. My perspective is one of a pet owner, but I have a deeper understanding of how veterinary medicine works than most of my pet-owning friends. My dog, a 9-year-old miniature schnauzer named Jack, is taken in for his preventive care visits at least annually, and I always comply with my veterinarian's recommendations. I try to be the perfect client, not only to keep Jack as healthy as possible, but also to make my veterinarian's job easier.

Recently, however, I felt the angst of a typical pet owner while at Jack's preventive care visit. It had been a particularly busy day at work, and I had Jack at the office with me all day so I wouldn't have to go home to pick him up before his appointment. The veterinary technician came into the exam room first, asking me typical health risk assessment questions: "What are you feeding Jack?" "How much are you feeding him each day?" "Does Jack go to daycare or dog parks or do you ever board him?" "Have you noticed anything different about Jack's behavior lately?"

I answered the questions as she looked Jack over and felt his body for whatever it is veterinary technicians feel for. Jack is healthy as can be, I thought to myself. Nothing to report here. Let's get his necessary vaccines taken care of and get a refill of heartworm preventive so we can be on our way.

That's when she looked in his mouth.

"Did you know Jack has two broken teeth?" she asked me nonchalantly.  

Ummm, no. I did not know Jack has two broken teeth

"What? No, I didn't know that."

"Yeah, look--it's this one and this one," she said as she pointed to two of his yellowing molars. 

The veterinarian came into the room a few minutes later and the process started all over. Questions I had to answer; looking into Jack's eyes, ears, mouth; feeling Jack's body for whatever it is veterinarians feel for. I prepared myself for the broken tooth discussion, but was caught off-guard when the veterinarian said, "Oh, it looks like Jack is experiencing some back pain." His back twitched as she gently applied a small amount of pressure to the area around his spine. 

"What? How can you tell?" I asked. 

She explained that the twitching was a sign of pain and asked if he regularly jumps on and off the bed or other furniture. I said yes, and she went on to recommend a supplement that could help. 

Then we moved onto the broken teeth. 

As the veterinarian began explaining her recommendations my mind became a blur. Jack has been in pain? His teeth are broken? How could I have not known these things? What am I going to make for dinner? What time is it--am I going to miss my son's baseball game? Did I remember to answer that email at work today? How much is all of this veterinary care going to cost? Blood work, too? And what was that supplement she said I should buy? 

It was overwhelming. 

It's veterinary visits like this, I thought to myself as she took Jack to the back for his pre-dental blood work, that make many pet owners dread going to the veterinarian. Too much information to process, too big a bill, and not enough good news. 

When Jack and I arrived home that night, I struggled to accurately answer my husband's questions about Jack's back pain, his broken teeth, the big veterinary bill I had just paid. I realized that I hadn't absorbed much of what the veterinarian had explained to me. 

It was only about a week later that I met with the rest of the AAHA creative team to discuss our newly redesigned Pet Health Brochures and to come up with a plan on how to market them. 

"Wow," I said in the creative meeting. "I could really have used some of these at Jack's veterinary visit the other day." 

The brochures provide credible, reliable information on 16 common pet-health topics from dental care to vaccines to diabetes. If my veterinarian had sent me home with the pain management and dental care brochures, perhaps I would have understood more thoroughly what was going on with Jack and would have been better able to explain the situation to my husband afterward.

Help your clients understand and absorb all the information you relay during the veterinary visit. These brochures will help.

Visit the online AAHA Press bookstore, or call 800-883-6301 to order your free sample set.  

Comments (1) -

Margot Vahrenwald
Margot VahrenwaldUnited States
7/31/2015 10:15:36 AM #

Sarah - spot on article! We will be ordering several titles of the brochures next month. But mostly wanted to say glad that Jack had a thorough visit - no owner wants to find out things are wrong, but examination is the only way we find out what our stoic pets have been hiding from us. And, I'm glad he's recovering well post-dental as well.

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