1. Strong recommendations
When recommending a change in diet, it's important to deliver a strong recommendation to the client. This means, know the why, what and how of the food you recommend for your patient's needs. You need to answer the three questions:
- Why do you recommend this diet?
- What diet do you recommend?
- How will this diet help my pet? How does it work?
Example: "I believe Fluffy would benefit from transitioning onto a renal diet, as her recent blood test showed elevated kidney parameters, and this diet is very likely to reduce the workload on her kidneys, help her gain weight and body condition, and slow the progression of her condition. This diet works by having reduced protein and sodium levels to prevent damage to the kidneys, while also having increased fatty acids and omega 3's and 6's to have an anti-inflammatory effect."
By providing a detailed recommendation and sharing your thinking with the client, they feel informed and understand that you are not selling them a product but you are providing a treatment for their patient's needs. This also is suitable when you simply want to advise someone to move onto any different diet, not just a therapeutic diet.
2. Every patient, every time
Ask every single client what they are feeding their pet. This doesn't need to be a detailed diet history, but a simple question, with the answer noted in the patient history. This allows the entire vet team to incorporate nutrition into every patients treatment plan - there is unlikely to be a condition that exists that won't somehow benefit from a better diet. Some of the most common conditions we see in clinic such as gastrointestinal upset, skin conditions or urinary issues can all be significantly improved or even entirely treated with a change in diet. If you start with this information in mind, often you can already see the connection between diet and the condition your vet is seeing, which can both accelerate treatment, improve patient outcomes and better bond clients to your clinic through trust and positive results they can see.
3. Handover & teamwork
Work with your vets! The entire team should get on board with nutrition and get excited about how you're going to make a huge difference to your patient's lives! Speak with your team and ask them to include diet in all their consultations and assessments. You can also organise a team training session to learn more about certain diets, or a brainstorming session on different ways of implementing a nutrition program at your clinic. Work together and consistency is key! It works best when the entire team is on board and following the same protocol.
4. Add value
I send all clients home with something physical to create connection with the message, and I don't mean they have to purchase the product to get value from the consult. I always provide a written feeding plan that includes the diet recommended, information on transitioning and how much to feed. I also find it helpful to give a measuring cup, show the client the bag of food to build the connection, a product brochure on how it works, and a business card with their next appointment booked in - it's very important to follow up with your clients and see how the patient is going after transition. This is also why I charge for my consultations; if you add value to your consults, the consult fee is rarely challenged just like a client would not question a vet consult fee if they feel the consultation was worth their time and they got something out of it.
5. Follow up!
The consultation doesn't end when the patient walks out the door! If the client purchases the recommended product, call after one week (full transition onto the new food) to ask how it's going? Are they having trouble getting them to eat the food? Are they seeing any improvement in symptoms? In some cases, it may also be necessary to book the next appointment at this follow up call; usually for weight clinics I will book a follow up three weeks later, and for food elimination trials I call every two weeks to check in how the food challenges are going then schedule a revisit after 6-8 weeks. This again builds the relationship with the client, the clinic and yourself and increases the chances of your clients seeking advice from you, rather than unqualified individuals.
So if you want your nutritional consults to really shine, try introducing my five top tips and see what a difference it makes both to your clinic and your job satisfaction! And if you want to learn in more detail on setting up a nurse-led nutrition service at your clinic, check out my webinar!
By Jessica Joosse BAnVetBioSci RVN AVN
Registered Veterinary Nurse
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