Want happier clients with healthier pets? Here’s how to empower pet parents to play a bigger role in keeping their animals well.
As a technician, you are essential to having happy clients in the practice. Some integrative veterinarians use their vet techs well, and empower them to interact with pet parents a lot. Others have not taken the time to even think about how their techs can save them time, make more money for the clinic, empower clients and help animals be healthier.
You can be a constant educator, reminding pet parents that your clinic, and/or the veterinarians at your clinic, approach healing differently from other veterinarians, or from what clients might see on TV or hear from their dog park friends. Be creative. Put up slogans like: “Build health now for a longer life” or “Love the symptoms, as they are a part of healing”.
Make a list with all the staff and doctors of messages left or calls fielded at night, or what worried clients called about in the morning. When pet parents chose to go the pet ER, was it for something they could have soothed at home? Add to the list things clients try that is beyond what they should be doing, or that may hinder their pets’ treatment.
Each of you works in a different type of practice and will need a different approach to training and empowering pet parents to help them keep their animals healthy. The real key to success is the initial strategizing and the honest evaluation of the success or failure of different strategies. Plan on at least one meeting a month to be sure you are continuing to empower your clients.
1. Encourage them to keep a journal
A major problem faced by clients is decision making. For example: “Do I need to go to the clinic now? Did I choose the right foods, treatments, fl ea control or other lifestyle change?” Most clients have been conditioned to want symptoms to resolve quickly but don’t notice other more general changes. At your practice, they are told that the alternative approaches the doctors offer may not quickly resolve the current problem, but will slowly build health. Once home, clients may forget, or their neighbors may tell them their dog’s skin looks so bad they should go to another clinic.
If you can encourage clients to begin a journal, everyone will reap the benefits for years. At the beginning, you and the client (as part of the office visit or pre-appointment) make a master symptom list of all past and current symptoms. Then look for the Early Warning Signs of Internal Imbalance and add those. Encourage the client to do this exam regularly at home. Educate them about cure, palliation and suppression – the body’s reaction to any treatments or lifestyle changes. (I wrote the Healthy Animal’s Journal as well as articles on how clients can create their own journals to facilitate this critically important process.)
2. Familiarize them with the early warning signs of internal imbalance
Many symptoms that animals display represent an underlying energy imbalance, made worse from poor diet and vaccination. These signs include goo/crud in the eyes, waxy ears, red line at the gum margin, doggy odor, vomiting hairballs, thirst in cats, attracting fleas, freckles appearing with age. These lists have been compiled by multiple homeopathic veterinarians over the last 20 years.
A printed list of these signs can be used when teaching clients how to keep a journal, or can be handed out in the waiting room. It can be used to teach people how much healthier their animals can be. You might also keep a copy in a plastic sleeve in the exam room, so you and the doctor can point out some of the signs you observe.
Teach pet parents to quantify each symptom and record it in their journals. Most importantly, both you and the owner should quantify the activity level and emotional state of the pet, maybe using a 1-10 scale, on how far the pet walks, “puppy” behavior, etc.
Many clients and veterinarians consider these signs normal, yet as integrative veterinarians cure animals of “disease”, we find these “normal” things go away. Teach clients to not be satisfied with the health of their animals until most of these symptoms are gone. Encourage them to come in for treatments whenever they see any of these signs.
3. Help them learn home treatments
This can be approached in two ways – soothe specific problems or teaching a method that can then soothe multiple problems.
This is my favorite modality for everyone to learn. Other less common energy channeling methods that are 100% safe include reconnective therapy, quantum touch, or Healing Touch for Animals (HTA). Reiki instructors can be found all over the country. Reiki is a method of channeling universal healing energy through your hands. It is effective for pain relief and wound healing, and can be used to decrease damage from drugs by doing Reiki on the drugs, or to shift the vibration of food so some anorexic animals will eat…and much more.
Offer classes in your clinic, or create a partnership with a Reiki instructor in your area. The only difference between using Reiki on animals or people is that we recommend “offering” the Reiki rather than “giving” it. Kathleen Prasad (animalreikisource.com) has webinars for Reiki-trained people wanting to work on their animals.
These are also totally safe. We all know the power of Rescue Remedy, so encourage every client to have it in their purses, pockets, car and home. Other flower essences, whether single or in combination, are totally safe and can be selected by the clinic or the client. Teach pet parents how to dilute the remedies and how to let animals select them. At the computer station in your clinic, bookmark YouTube videos on how to use them. Have flower essence books on hand from all the companies you buy from.
Some of my favorite essences include Vaccine Detox and Para- Outta-Site from Spirit Essences; Flee Free and Spraying from Green Hope Farms; V, B and F from Perelandra; and Happy Feet and Lick Granuloma from Anaflora.
You can sell amber or blue dropper bottles to make up the dilutions, and sell the flower essence with a card saying how to dilute it (4 drops in 1 ounce of water). Between Reiki and Rescue Remedy, panic in your clients should decrease by 50%.
This is particularly good for patients with any behavior or training issues. Host TTouch classes at your clinic, or demonstrate a technique during an office visit. Almost any ill animal can benefit from one of the many TTouch strokes or circles.
Four Paws, Five Directions and Acu-Cat, Acu-Dog or Acu-Horse give specific acupressure techniques and point instructions for animal illnesses. Having videos or YouTube links on hand, giving individual demonstrations (for example, show appetite stimulation points for anorexic animals) and offering books to borrow or buy will greatly help owners deal with many problems at home.
Essential oils and herbs
These may have side effects, so you want to provide a handout on how to safely use each one you sell. Many combination herbs for specific problems can be sold at the practice. For example, Animal Apawthecary’s Tinkle Tonic and others; D’Arcy Naturals’ combination of Western and Chinese herbs for specific conditions; and others that you’ll learn of at conferences and from the veterinarians in your clinic. Have pictures of herbs on display, or even grow some of the more common herbs to get people interested. Continue to remind pet parents that we merely using herbs to stimulate the body to heal itself, not as drugs that need to be given for life.
4. Provide them with home treatment plans
List books that you can sell or loan on any condition seen frequently in your practice (itching, fleas, ticks, digestive issues, etc). Teach a few home treatments in your clinic or offer them for purchase.
5. Use the internet for education and communication
There are multiple ways to use the computer, the internet and social media as part of your client education program.
• Your website can be consulted in lieu of calling the emergency clinic. Have handouts on your website that are easy to search for in the wee hours of the morning. As an example, “a little blood goes a long way” reminds clients not to panic if they see blood in the stool, urine or vomit. You can also offer information on gentle treatments (Reiki, flower essences, acupressure, etc.) that could be used until the clinic opens next day. Think about products people have around the house that could be utilized for problem in addition to Reiki and Rescue Remedy. The wonderful lectures at AHVMA conferences will give you plenty of information.
• Webinars and online classes can be created for any topics requested by your clients. Maybe you could do a weekly webinar on feeding fresh foods – how to prepare them, find sources, etc.
• Also very useful are links to local resources such as kennels, grooming facilities, trainers, agility classes, raw meat sources, community supported agriculture farms, farmer markets, etc. Add anything your clients keep asking about. Be sure that whoever you link to reciprocates.
• A big key in empowering pet parents to focus on the goal of complete health rather than merely eliminating symptoms is through constant reminders. Social media, blogs and newsletters can keep this goal always in front of them.
• Use the internet to get clients excited about health. Rather than promoting “dental month” or “time for fl ea and heartworm prevention”, you might have contests for the biggest improvements in health, the shiniest coat after a diet change, or the number of Early Warning Signs that have resolved in the shortest time. If this is starting to sound like a lot of work, consider this: if there are seven people working the clinic, and each one posts one day a week, it’s not too much.
6. Offer training sessions and classes
Part of improving an animal’s health and keeping him healthy is empowering the client to do the physical Early Warning Signs exam, trim nails and hair, and clean eyes, teeth, ears, feet, etc. With your help, most clients can do much more than they ever thought possible. Group classes and individual sessions can help teach these skills. Any time a client says, “I just can’t do (fill in the blank)”, tell them when a training class will be held, or create a new class on this topic.
Once your clinic has decided to begin empowering pet parents to help their animals more at home, have a meeting to set your goals and list the next steps. Have monthly meetings thereafter to assess your current status and set new goals. Post client feedback in the break room or read it at your meetings to keep the excitement rolling.