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Tip of the Month

9/12/2011 Ensuring Owner Compliance (Medications)

Veterinary Assistant are often called upon to explain medications to pet owners who arrive to pick up their pet following surgery or hospitalization. This is a very important responsibility in the veterinary hospital. The veterinary assistant must convey three important messages to pet owners:

1. How and when to administer the medication
2. What the medication is intended to treat
3. The possible side effects of the medication

While explaining how to administer any medication to a pet, the Veterinary Assistant should be careful to speak slowly and clearly. It is the protocol of many veterinary hospitals and clinics that the owner is asked to repeat the information back to the Veterinary Assistant. Be careful not to assume that an owner understands. The pet parent should also be informed of side effects that may occur and be instructed to pay careful attention to their pet’s behavior during the course of the prescribed treatment. It may be beneficial to ask the owner if they have any additional questions at least three separate times. This will give a shy or reluctant owner plenty of opportunity to clear up lingering confusion or hesitation.

Once the owner takes the pet home, it will be their responsibility to administer all prescriptions as directed. Any misunderstanding about a medication can decrease the owner’s compliance with the administration instructions. This can have serious consequences. Many medications can cause severe health problems in a pet if not administered as directed. Furthermore, if the owner does not fully understand why the medication was prescribed, they may decide that the medication isn’t working and therefore discontinue administration against medical advice.

Many veterinary hospitals create informational hand-outs for some medications as an additional means of ensuring owner compliance. The Veterinary Assistant should always know where these hand-outs are kept, and educate themselves on their hospital’s protocol. A follow-up phone call, about 5 to 7 days after the pet has started a course of prescription medication, is often very helpful to owners, especially if they are having difficulty in administering the pet’s medication.

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