Education, patience, and support are key to communicating with pet owners about nutrition with their pet. A nutritional recommendation should be made by the veterinary team each time the pet is seen. Remember to include why the specific food is being recommended – regardless of a recommendation for wellness or therapeutic foods. When pet owners understand how the specific recommendation helps their pet stay healthy or manages a disease condition, adherence improves. Nutrition recommendations should include the following 4 components: a) specific food names(s) including treats, b) amount to feed, c) frequency and d) a follow-up plan (when to check in or how to monitor BCS each month etc).
Excellent communication skills are important every step of the way, Compassionate, non-judgmental language and open-ended questions are excellent tools to collect accurate diet history information. Use curiosity to explore the client’s goals and check for understanding. Take the time to educate. Client communication will help increase adherence and thus help to provide that patient with the best care the veterinary team deems appropriate. Veterinary team members should allow time for the pet owner to ask questions. Ensure the recommendation and plan are written for the client and are included in the pet’s medical record. If a diet change has been recommended, be sure to address this concept and the ‘how to’ with clients. Evaluate, adjust, communicate, and encourage on a consistent basis. Following up with clients is key to implementing a successful nutritional plan.