Train Your Team to Talk About Heartworm Disease

By Nina Silberstein

Clients often lack an understanding about heartworm disease and recommendations for prevention and treatment. This can lead to missed tests or doses, which can increase a pet’s risk of infection. Clients may also not realize how difficult, risky and costly treatment can be, or that it can have serious implications for their pet.
Therefore, veterinary professionals have an important opportunity and responsibility to educate clients about heartworm disease. The first step in educating your clients on heartworm disease is to teach your team. This training is a good investment for the health of your patients and also for your practice.
Walk the Talk of Preventive Care
One of the best ways to teach your team about proper heartworm prevention is to encourage them to use a preventive on their own pets. When your team shows what they do for their pets, they serve as an example to clients by practicing what they preach.  

Demonstrate and Explain
Once you have your clients’ attention, hospital team members can show them how to use a preventive. If a monthly topical product is prescribed, show how it is correctly applied on the skin. Explain to your clients that in addition to the topical product, they have other options to choose from (oral pill or tablet; injectable) to help keep their dogs heartworm free.

Discuss Heartworm Prevention Regularly
The importance of heartworm prevention should be discussed for every pet at every visit. If your clients understand the need and the urgency for protection from heartworm disease, compliance can only improve from there.

Stay Up-to-Date with The American Heartworm Society
The American Heartworm Society (AHS) is a valuable resource for your team and your clients with articles, tips, videos, posters and a wealth of information to get you started. Below are a few key areas to help keep yourself, your team and your clients in the know:

  • Heartworm Compliance: Take a team approach.
    This article from the AHS includes tips and strategies to help your team boost client compliance on heartworm prevention.  
  • What is heartworm, how is it transmitted, what are the signs and what about testing? This all-inclusive article covers all the basics.  
  • Prevalence of heartworm in your region. The AHS has a detailed map that shows the severity of heartworm incidence, based on the average number of cases per reporting clinic.  
  • Importance of year-round heartworm prevention. A heartworm alert you can share with clients stressing the need for year-round prevention. With simple diagrams, this colorful poster explains that heartworm transmission can happen when clients and their pets least expect it.
  • What treatment entails. A handy heartworm treatment guide for the pet owner.  
  • Heartworm disease’s long-term effects. Highlights from the AHS’s revised canine and feline guidelines in dvm360 magazine.
Nina Silberstein graduated from the State University of New York College at Buffalo with a BA in journalism. She joined Banfield in 2008 as a medical writer/editor on the Marketing team. She and her husband, David, have one son, Graeme, and a black cat named Blackie.