Every day, each member of your veterinary team plays an integral role in helping pets receive regular preventive care, identifying
pets that need further veterinary evaluation, and ensuring patients receive appropriate follow-up care. When your technicians
and other team members are well trained, they can help keep clients informed about signs of illness in their pets so diagnoses
can be reached earlier and treatments initiated sooner.
Teach your team about Cushing's
Educating clients about the signs of disease in older pets is especially important, because clients often attribute clinical
signs to "normal" aging, and their pets' health may in fact be deteriorating. For example, pet owners may misinterpret some
clinical signs of hyperadrenocorticism (HAC, also known as Cushing's syndrome) such as lethargy and increased urination and
drinking as normal, age-related changes. Therefore, team members should understand HAC so they are comfortable communicating
with clients about identifying affected pets.
This article reviews basic information about canine HAC that team members should know to help veterinarians at the practice
identify potential Cushing's patients. Your team should understand the different types of HAC (see boxed text "What is hyperadrenocorticism?" ), be aware of client comments that signal potential clinical signs of the disease, and help reinforce your message to clients
about why multiple diagnostic tests may be needed.
What is hyperadrenocorticism?
Normal aging or "red flags?"
Your practice should already be educating clients about the importance of senior wellness examinations and diagnostic senior
testing, which will uncover underlying illnesses in older dogs. The clinical signs of HAC and many other illnesses can develop
slowly, and many owners may simply chalk them up to normal aging. This is where you need your team to be your eyes and ears.
Your technicians and receptionists should listen carefully when clients report signs of aging in their pets, and use their
expertise to help identify these signs as initial "red flags" for the veterinarian. (See boxed text "Red flags raised during client conversations.") These signs can often have a profound effect on quality of life for the pet and of the owner.
Red flags raised during client conversations
Your team members are often the first to realize there may be a problem and should take the opportunity to engage owners in
a conversation about their pet's behavior at home. If owners say that their dog is fine, that he's just acting old, a team
member should inquire further about what owners mean by this. Technicians can start this conversation and help set the stage
for veterinarians to get owner approval for diagnostic testing.