Hey Andy,

It seems like every day clients are walking in with worse and worse advice they found online. I cringe every time I open the door and someone is sitting there with a huge stack of papers they (or their breeder) printed out from a random website. It’s getting harder and harder to convince them that I know what I’m talking about when they have their minds made up about the diagnosis and treatment before they even walk in the clinic! Help!


Grated by Google

Advice from google
Dear Grated,

I completely understand the frustration. It’s painful to have someone ignore the advice you gave them based on all your years in school because someone on the web told them that you had no idea what you were talking about. But we all know this is the way people get information these days, and let’s be honest- we do the same thing ourselves when our car is making a funny noise. Dr. Google isn’t going anywhere, so how do we learn to peacefully co-exist?

Believe it or not, there is silver lining to this: The client came to you for advice, so they must believe on some level that you have something to offer. We need to look at these clients as an opportunity, not a frustration. So let’s break this down:

People listen to the advice of those they trust.

If they are big fans of an internet celebrity or a particular website, the people running it must have done something to earn that trust. So how do we do the same?

Don’t Disparage Their Research.

No matter how hard you try to separate your opinion of a terrible web article from your opinion of the client, they are going to feel harshly judged if your initial reaction is a negative one. Even if it’s worse advice than “you should pick a Game of Thrones character and get emotionally attached,” you should still frame your statements in a positive light: “Wow, Mrs. Smith! I love when clients are so invested in their pet’s well-being. You are clearly a dedicated owner. Now, I don’t recommend onion powder for fleas myself, and let me tell you why:”

People Want to Be Validated.

Owners will pick up on your frustration no matter how hard you try and hide it, so remember this: We all want the same thing for their pet, and that is to help them live a long and healthy life. If clients believe that you are on their side, which you are, you’ve already won the battle.

Have a List of Trusted Resources.

Unlike you (hopefully), the internet is available 24/7. People are going to jump online even if they know they shouldn’t. I still go to WebMD when I have a stomach ache even though I know it’s a bad idea. So why not give them a list of places to go before they even have a question? Sites such as VeterinaryPartner.com and Vetstreet.com have extensive medical libraries geared towards pet owners that are peer-reviewed and guaranteed not to blow your gasket.