When Clients Fear For Their Pets

We know how fear feels, we just need to recognize it more in our clients.

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So I’m lying on the bed this morning, appreciating a quiet moment with my daughter and our dog Georgia as they both wake for another day. As before, I notice that Georgia’s breath is, well, less than pleasant you could say. My thoughts linger on a discussion we’ve had about her having a dental prophy, and a pit magically appears in the bottom of my stomach: fear.

What am I afraid of? I’m a veterinary technician, for heaven’s sake. I know how to convince pet owners of the important of a dental prophy, so why am I having a hard time with it? It could be a I know TOO much and have seen anesthesia go wrong for no good reason. That seems to be what I fear most, especially when I look at her little muzzle already graying and consider her age of 7 to 8 years. Yet still, if I didn’t know anything about anesthetic disasters, would I be any less afraid?

In my years of being a tech and discussing this type of procedure with clients, I could say all the right things and believe them whole-heartedly. Now my self-talk is battling, like having an angel on my shoulder and a devil on the other: “She’ll be fine; you know the risk is small,” “but could you live with yourself if she arrested?” “of course you know that is unlikely to happen,” “yes, but, what IF?” “well, you know having gingivitis can lead to other systemic problems,” “yes I now, but the risk of that is probably even LESS than a disastrous prophy!”

As you can see, it’s hard to tell which side is winning. I wish we can all step back into the shoes of a pet owner (and out of our scrubs) when talking with our clients. Their fear is REAL, their fear is tangible, and their fear is not always unreasonable; there IS risk and we know it. Perhaps when we have a client that is stalling, deciding, or refusing a procedure such as this, we can relate better if we remember this fear.

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They may balk at the price (as they usually do), but is that really the issue? They may express that it’s difficult to bring the dog in before work and make it back to pick up before the clinic closes, but is that really the issue? We may never know where the hesitation comes from, but we know it’s there. Perhaps we should concentrate on using an empathy statement and simply acknowledge that we see their discomfort: “Ms. Jones, you seem worried, what can I do to help?” If they feel we care, they will feel more like they can confide in us, and let us address the real issue behind their hesitation.

After all, we know how fear feels, we just need to recognize it more in others.

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