Chris Duke, DVM, President, AHS
Bienville Animal Medical Center
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
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It’s spring—the season when many clients come to your clinic for heartworm checks, medication refills and their annual dose of heartworm education. As you think through how to once again
make a compelling case for heartworm prevention, consider the following:
1. Clients learn best when there is a perceived need.
Pet owners must see a payoff if they’re going to make the effort to learn about heartworms. I emphasize that heartworm disease is preventable and position preventives as “insurance policies” against it. Using a life cycle diagram, I explain that heartworms undergo three life stages inside the pet and two stages within the mosquito vector—then show clients how heartworm preventives interrupt this cycle.
I admit that I’m often tempted to tell my clients everything I know about heartworms. However, I’ve learned it is better to limit my talking points to essential information and to save the “nice to know” scientific facts for clients who demonstrate genuine interest.
2. Use visuals to facilitate understanding.
Most clients learn better if I combine visuals with my heartworm talk. That’s why I keep copies of the AHS heartworm incidence map in every exam room. Clients are always drawn to the color of our locale on the map and it helps them understand the implications for their pets. I’ve also had clients point to parts of the country where they didn’t expect heartworms to be endemic and say, “Wow. I’m going to tell my friend Mary that she’d better be giving her pets heartworm prevention!”