Vets need to improve communications skills to meet dog-owners' expectations

Vets need to improve communications skills to meet dog-owners' expectations

A small study published in this week's Veterinary Record reports that veterinarians do not receive adequate training in order to deal with the growing "customer care" expectations of dog-owners.

Basing their findings on surveys and semi-structured interviews, the Scandinavian researchers used a representative sample of 105 dog-owners and breeders. They evaluated their attitudes towards their pets and vets in Norway and Iceland.

In the sample, 99 people were dog-owners. Most seemed to feel the relationship they had with their dog was on a same level as a relationship they might have with another family member.

Approximately 73 percent (three out of four) said their pet was a "best friend" or "essential" part of their lives.

Around one in four said that the principal pleasure of having a dog was about:

• "communication"

• "interaction"

Other words used included:

• "trust"

• "unconditional love"

• "fulfillment"

• "quality of life"

The responses also pointed out that pet-owner were becoming more critical of their vets' practice. They expected them to tackle issues additional to clinical concerns.

Around 23 percent (one in four) felt that vets acted in their pets' best interests. But 26 percent believed that vets were motivated by their own benefit.

About 31 percent (one in three) thought that vets did not have sufficient time to attend the issues correctly. And one in four felt they were forced to go through a variety of often overwhelming exams and procedures at the end of their pets' lives.

More than seven out of ten considered vets to be the normal choice when seeking assistance with their dogs' behavioral problems. They regarded them as a source of guidance on every aspects of general dog keeping.

In conclusion, the authors comment that since pet owners have a strong emotional attachment for their dogs, vets who deal with small animals may gain from improved communication skills. As part of their veterinary training, they need to develop their understanding of the relationship between owners and their dogs.

"Changes in the relationships between dogs, owners and veterinarians in Norway and Iceland"

H. S. Lund, S. Eggertsson, H. Jørgensen, A. M. Grøndahl, A. V. Eggertsdóttir

Veterinary Record 2009; 165: 106-10

Veterinary Record

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