June 22, 2020

Ensuring your Client’s Puppies get the Best Start… Even During COVID

Joanna Woodnutt BVM BVS MRCVS

June 22, 2020

According to Facebook, it seems many clients have taken lockdown to be the perfect time to get a new puppy. Unfortunately, we all know that this couldn’t be further from the truth. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t partly responsible for getting these puppies the start in life they need.

Whilst COVID restrictions are going to prohibit a lot of socialisation and habituation, owners can still do lots of things whilst they’re stuck at home with their new puppies.

Using video to connect your team with these clients is a great way to get them bonded to the practice. Providing owners with good, easy-to-access advice is important. Owners left without help may turn to Google, Facebook and their breeder for whatever advice they can lay their hands on.

New Puppy Check

The ‘new puppy check’ gets client and puppy through the door and ensures they’ve been given sound advice. Although vaccinations are sometimes done at this visit, they may not yet be due – this is simply a check-over, meet and greet and bonding experience. Whilst the limitations of video consultation mean you won’t be able to listen to the pet’s chest, you will be able to check the pet over in many other ways, including teeth, palate, hernias, legs, skin and eyes.

The Nurse Consult

Once you’ve finished your exam, you can of course discuss all the usual important things if you want to. But, actually, this is one area that your nurses can really help you with. Nurses are great at building a rapport with the client from the off. They’re often more approachable than vets, and may even be known to the client already. So instead of going through everything now, consider scheduling a free check up with a nurse in a day or so. This also gives the client time to digest your information and consider their questions. The nurse can cover neutering, flea and worm treatments, socialisation and vaccination schedules.

The Socialisation Consult

At the end of the nurse consult, it’s a good idea to book a socialisation consult. This should be within the 12-week socialisation window, ideally at around 10 weeks old. The idea is to check that new owners are managing to do as much socialisation as possible despite the lockdown restrictions. Nurses can email Covid-adjusted socialisation checklists over to clients before the consultation, then go through it with them. Parents will love the distraction many of these socialisation experiences will be for the children, but it’s a good idea for the nurse to reiterate that these things should be done calmly,  without scaring the puppy.

The ‘Weigh and Worm’

Monthly ‘weigh and worms’ are part of practice life. They’re a chance to keep your client coming back in and allow you to pick up on problems they may be having. During lockdown these visits won’t be possible, but you can still schedule monthly ‘weigh and worms’ using our video consultation platform. Of course, these dogs will be spending a lot less time outside and are unlikely to need worming as often, but the check-in on progress is still a good idea. Nurses can observe the client weighing their pet and confirm that it is being done correctly. They can also visually confirm that the weight matches the approximate size of the pet – no more 50kg rabbits! Nurses are also reporting that talking about Body Condition Scores is actually easier over video!

The Six-Eight Month ‘Adolescent’ Health Check

God forbid COVID is still happening when these puppies need their adolescent health checks. But it’s likely that some adolescent checks will need to be done over video, too. Although nurses can handle this, it’s a great opportunity to hand back over to the vet for a check in. Again, the vet can undertake a remote physical exam, and ask questions as to energy levels, appetite and behaviour. In some situations, the client may have questions regarding neutering. The vet can even determine whether the welfare of the pet will be improved significantly enough to have a neutering procedure during COVID restrictions.

Although disruption to our services is part of our daily lives, it doesn’t mean we have to give up altogether. Those puppies purchased during restrictions need our help and support just like any others. And keeping in touch with their owners ensures your practice will be at the forefront of their minds when restrictions are lifted. Using the VetHelpDirect video consultation platform ‘public’ appointment settings allows your registered pet owners to sign into their account and book appointments with you and your nurses at a time that suits them, meaning that all your team has to do is concentrate on seeing the puppies!

Good luck, stay safe and take care!