Client Communication

Communicating about a dog’s or cat’s nutrition can be a complex topic for veterinary personnel and pet owners to navigate. Nutrition conversations start with the recognition that there are three aspects of communication to be considered.70 First is the content, the medical or scientific knowledge that informs a complete and balanced nutrition recommendation, which is outlined in the majority of these guidelines. Second is the process, the approach used to engage a client in discussion about their dog’s or cat’s nutrition, which is presented throughout this section. Third is the perceptual aspect of communication—how the client thinks and feels about pet nutrition—which represents the assumptions, beliefs, goals, and thought process a person brings to a nutrition conversation. Although we often focus on the content of communication, it is the process and, even more often, the perceptions of staff and clients that dictate whether a nutrition conversation is successful.

What we bring to a nutrition conversation in terms of our own ideas, knowledge, and prior experiences is a critical starting point. This involves recognizing and managing our own biases and perceptions associated with pet nutrition in order to enter the conversation with an open mind. When a client’s beliefs, goals, ideas, or perceptions are not aligned with our viewpoint, the client is likely to reject our viewpoint in favor of their own, regardless of the content we communicate.71 Nutrition conversations require a curiosity that allows us to be attentive and responsive to understanding our client’s viewpoint. As a result, successfully communicating a nutrition recommendation to a client is heavily dependent upon understanding the client’s perspective. This is gained through conducting a comprehensive nutritional history (Figure 3).

Figure 3

Components of a comprehensive nutrition history.
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These guidelines are supported by generous educational grants from Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc., Purina® Pro Plan® Veterinary Diets, and Royal Canin®.