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Communication Challenges Between Breeders & Clinicians

Carla Barstow, DVM, MS, DACT, Highland Pet Hospital, Lakeland, Florida

Ethics & Human-Animal Bond

|July/August 2021

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In the Literature

Englar RE, Schettler KA, Ostrom SA. Survey of communication challenges that impact relationships between veterinarians and dog or cat breeders and proposed solutions for retaining breeders as clients. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2021;258(4):407-415.


Good communication skills are vital in the clinic. Ineffective communication can result in failure and frustration that leads to resentment. Negative experiences can influence future interactions, possibly preventing adequate communication. 

This social media-based survey included 793 dog breeders, 540 cat breeders, and 514 clinicians and aimed to characterize communication challenges between breeders and clinicians. The survey also sought to identify areas in which communication and relationships may be improved. 

Key issues identified by breeders included clinicians having apparent lack of veterinary training in theriogenology, not acknowledging breeder knowledge or experience, expressing disapproval of breeding, and making assumptions about breeder character or motivation. Clinicians described issues such as breeder disrespect, financial constraints, lack of prioritization of patient health, unethical behaviors, and trust of anecdotal reporting rather than evidence-based medicine. Potential solutions include effective communication and increased education. 

These survey results highlight the importance of good communication. Common myths and assumptions often lead to ineffective communication, emphasizing the importance of a relationship based on mutual trust and respect.


Key pearls to put into practice:


Active listening that includes being fully engaged in conversation (not thinking ahead about the response) and not jumping to conclusions can be helpful. Closed and/or negative body language should be avoided.


Assumptions and negative past experiences should not distract from or guide the conversation. For example, not all breeders are unethical, and not all clinicians care more about money than the patient.


Clinician collaboration with dog and cat breeders is needed, as they typically have extensive experience regarding the breed. Breeders should be considered part of the healthcare team that is working toward a potential common goal of healthier dogs and cats.


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