Small animal veterinarians’ communication with pet owners from av Motivational Interviewing (MI) perspective

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Clinical Sciences

Abstract: Communication is a significant part of the veterinary profession. A veterinarian does not only need the skills to make the correct diagnosis, but also to communicate effectively for the treatment to be successful. In many cases, treatment plans require the pet owner to change their behavior, which places demands on veterinarians’ ability to motivate clients to behavior change. Veterinarians commonly adopt a paternalistic communication style which may be ineffective and even increase resistance to change in ambivalent clients. In contrast to paternalism, Motivational Interviewing (MI) is an evidence-based collaboration centered counseling style aiming to strengthen a person’s inner motivation and commitment to change. This study aimed to investigate the extent to which, and in what way, Swedish small animal veterinarians, without previous training or knowledge of the method, spontaneously use MI in their communication with dog owners regarding dental home care in dogs. Audi-recorded role-play calls between eight veterinarians and a professional actor were coded by MIC Lab AB using Motivational Interviewing Treatment Integrity 4.2.1 (MITI 4.2.1), a behavioral coding system developed to evaluate MI-skills. During the conversations, the actor played an owner of a dog diagnosed with periodontitis. The veterinarians’ task was to motivate the dog owner to start brushing his dog’s teeth daily. From the coding protocols, global scores of four variables on a five-point scale, and behavior counts of ten verbal behaviors were obtained. The results were presented as mean ± standard deviation. The veterinarians’ consultation approaches were predominantly characterized by Giving information, Persuasion, and Questions. In general, the veterinarians made few attempts to involve or affirm the dog owner, and none emphasized the dog owner’s autonomy. The veterinarians had the majority of the speaking time and dominated the conversations, while the dog owner had a more passive role. The results of the present study indicate that Swedish small animal veterinarians spontaneously use MI to a very small extent in consultations with dog owners regarding dental home care for dogs. Based on the results and the previous research that has shown MI to be an effective way to help people change their behavior, there are many reasons to consider implementing MI in veterinary practice.

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