New research has shown a change is needed in how veterinarians communicate with and advise animal owners, to promote engagement with their advice and protect the animals in their care.
Researchers at the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences have found that when veterinarians give advice to clients with the aim of changing their behaviour – such as encouraging them to feed their pet differently – they often speak in a directive style, which is driven by a paternalistic-type relationship.
Alison Bard, PhD researcher at the School of Veterinary Sciences, said that this type of communication reduces a client’s sense of emotional connection to their veterinarian, whilst limiting their personal choice and self-direction in the decision-making process.
Ms Bard said: “Veterinarians are working hard to connect with their clients and promote the health of animals in their care, but being a veterinarian is not just about communicating science and methodology. Communication must also inspire motivation, prompt action and boost confidence for an animal carer to put veterinary advice into practice.
“The problem our research identified is that the perceived role of the veterinarian – to provide advice and solutions – leads to a personal communication style that leaves little room for empathy or client input.”
The research team said a shift in veterinarian’s perceptions of advisory consultations is needed to improve the uptake of advice.
Ms Bard added: “As a profession, veterinarians can benefit from recognising that behaviour change is incredibly complex. Being provided with the ‘right’ advice is not always enough for clients to put veterinary recommendations into action, especially where disease management is complicated and clients have mixed feelings over treatment options.
“How information is communicated in these cases affects client outcomes, meaning the difference between a motivated and unmotivated client can, in fact, be shaped by the veterinarian.”