By Mary Oquendo
We all groom a “challenging” pet. Mine is Molly, a soft-coated wheaten terrier. Molly is a sweetheart. She is easily one of my best-behaved clients. What makes Molly a challenge is her health issues. I have overcome this difficulty because of effective communication between Molly’s owner and their veterinarian.
How do you establish effective communication with a pet owner? It starts with trust. The pet owner must feel that you have the best interests of their pet at heart. It is taking the time to talk with the owner and discuss any concerns you may have found or address any worries they may have. If I make a change in any of my products, I let the pet owner know of the replacement and the reason why. Pam Gorian, Molly’s owner, says,
“The reason I trust Mary as much as I do goes back to Ozzie, Molly’s predecessor. When Ozzie became sick, Mary went out of her way to help me. When everyone else was giving up on him, she didn’t. I know Mary cared about Ozzie. She treats my Molly as if she were her own dog.”
All grooms begin with asking what changes have occurred since the last time I saw them. Is there anything I should be aware of? Does the veterinarian have any recommendations? The groom ends with a discussion of anything I found that was different or needs attention. All changes are noted on the file card.
If I were making a suggestion that a visit to the veterinarian was in order, I would write down my descriptive visual findings on paper, not what I believe the problem to be. Good example: Molly’s ears look red and inflamed. Bad example: Molly’s ears are infected. The first one describes, the second one diagnoses.
The reason for writing down my discoveries is because I do not want to rely on the memory of the pet owner to relate my findings to their veterinarian. Do you remember playing Telephone or Whispers as a kid? The first child in the circle would whisper something in the ear of the person next to them, and the message would continue around the circle until it came back to the originator. Rarely was the communication the same. Sometimes this is exactly what happens when the owner tries to remember precisely what you told them. Beth Cristiano, of Pretty Paws LLC in Harrison, NY, has very clear instructions in the employee handbook for her employees to follow.
“Often findings are misconstrued when relayed by a 3rd party. At Pretty Paws LLC my staff and I have found pet report cards to be a valuable resource. They relay our observations in our words to pet parents and other pet professionals such as veterinarians.”
The second half is communicating with veterinarians and the first step is to establish a professional relationship with the area veterinarians. This is also a trust bond. I have always taken that first step and introduced myself to my local veterinarians and invited them to visit my salon. We discussed the importance of continuing education and my willingness to work with them. For the most part, it was well received. Veterinarians are not any different from any other profession. I have found that most will be professional. Even if a veterinarian has been rude or if I question their skill, I never badmouth another professional. If a client asks for my opinion on such a veterinarian I tell them I am unfamiliar with them. Over the years, I have had many veterinarians, who respect my professionalism, ask my opinion on grooming matters.
It is a two way street. Dr. Dale Krier, DVM, of Creature Comforts Mobile Veterinary Clinic sums it up,
“Professionals need to be open to listening and actually hearing the information that is being passed on without standing in judgment of the messenger. We can truly learn from each other. We all have to be open to the knowledge we individually have and join forces on behalf of the pet.”
In Molly’s case, we share the same veterinarian. Since Molly’s owner gave him permission to talk to me, there is direct communication. Rather than waiting for the owner to relay messages back and forth, I have a game plan in place for the next groom based on their veterinarian’s recommendation within days.
At the moment, Molly is in a good place. Her current grooming regiment is every three weeks alternating bath only and groom. During her groom, I use a specific shampoo from the vet, ears are not plucked, and she is shaved naked. This is different from last year. Last year’s groom was different from the year before. When this protocol is no longer effective for Molly, her veterinarian and I will make a course correction.
Opening up the lines of communications between the pet owner and their veterinarian is the first line of defense for the pets’ health and quality of life. Every role is important when it comes to the care of pets.