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How to Talk to Clients About Flea & Tick Medication

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How to Talk to Clients About Flea & Tick Medication

Tick and flea prevention is an important issue to cover with clients, but what if it is met with resistance? Following the rash of adverse reactions to several topical products in May of 2009 that prompted the EPA to investigate owner claims, some clients now fear putting topical products on their pets. What’s a veterinarian to do if a client is afraid they are putting their pet in danger by using flea and tick products?

The Conversation: What to Say

Keep in mind that when the news mentions something that may affect their pet, owners are more inclined to tune in, according to the report from Mike Paul, DVM, executive director of the Companion Animal Parasite Counsel (CAPC). His statement explained that the EPA reported 40,000 adverse events in May 2009 for topically applied flea products.

Realize that clients may not be aware that “adverse events” means any undesirable event--from unacceptable odors and temporary changes in the pet’s coat to skin irritations, respiratory problems, and fatalities (capcvet.org/capc/media.html). Address these concerns by explaining the risks to the client and help them to better understand that the chances of their pet catching a disease from these parasites is much higher than the risk of them experiencing "adverse events" and that the consequences could be far worse. Outline what could happen to their pet if it contracted Lyme disease, which will help them understand the severity of the situation. Explain that flea and tick prevention is essential year round, and that you will answer any and all questions they have regarding the recommended medication.

Specific Tips to Give Your Clients

To prevent your clients from accidentally injuring their pets with topical medication, they should understand fully the importance of following your directions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends several important tips to give your clients about proper application for topical medicine.

1. Advise the client to read the label before using the product. Recommend that your client call your clinic or the manufacturer before use if they cannot clearly understand the directions.

2. Warn them to follow directions exactly as stated on the bottle. Explain to your client about the dosage for their pet and that the product must be used for that specific patient, not shared among other pets in the household.

3. Recommend that the client wear protective gloves for application and to wash their hands immediately after applying it to their pet.

4. Give the client a list of symptoms to look for (poor appetite, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive salivation) and recommend they call your clinic or hospital if any of those symptoms occur after treatment.

5. Tell the client to keep the products away from food and out of children’s reach.

You both have the pet’s best interest at heart, but to protect the pet, the client needs to understand the importance of flea and tick prevention.

Find more information about the FDA regulations and recommendations

For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

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