The Vet Said What? How Pet Owner Handouts Support Patient Care

October 30, 2023
4 min

For most of us, client education—whether through conversation or pet owner handouts (or both)—is one of our top priorities in practice. We strive to help pet owners understand as much as possible about their pet’s condition—no matter how complex. Regardless of how skilled we are at client education, pet owners likely retain alarmingly little of the information we give them.

In human medicine, studies have shown that 40% to 80% of the medical information provided by healthcare practitioners is forgotten immediately.1,2 And the more information people are provided with, the lower the proportion they correctly recall. 

Even worse, almost half of the details that are remembered are remembered incorrectly. Add stress and anxiety—commonly encountered when managing complex or distressing conditions—and people remember even less.1 

And even when people know they haven’t grasped all the details, they can be too embarrassed to admit it or ask questions. 

Consequences of Misunderstood Medical Information

Studies in human medicine have found that serious problems can arise when patients don’t understand or remember the information their healthcare providers share.3 Problems include:

  • Improper use of medications
  • Inappropriate use or no use of medical services
  • Poor self-management of chronic conditions
  • Inadequate responses in emergency situations
  • Poor health outcomes
  • Lack of self-efficacy and self-esteem
  • Financial drain on individuals and society

Clear communication, however, results in improved patient—and clinician—satisfaction, relief of patient distress, adherence to treatment plans, reduced attrition, fewer patient complaints, and reduced likelihood of lawsuits.4

While this topic hasn’t been studied to the same extent in veterinary medicine, it’s likely the same outcomes apply. When pet owners don’t understand or don’t remember the information we provide, it can harm the health and well-being of our patients.

How Written Pet Owner Handouts Can Help

When medical information is written—rather than presented verbally—it’s better remembered and leads to better compliance, but only when it’s written in clear and concise language and at a level that the majority of the population can understand.1 

Studies in human medicine have found that most healthcare materials are written at a tenth-grade level, despite most adults reading at an eighth-grade level—and 20% of the population reading at or below a fifth-grade level.

Similarly, a recent study found that discharge instructions provided to pet owners by a veterinary oncology practice were above the average reading level of most US adults.6 

To make sure written instructions are understood and followed, it’s recommended that patient education material be written in clear and concise language, avoid medical jargon, and provide definitions of medical terms.5

Crystal-Clear Pet Owner Handouts from Plumb’s™ 

It’s tough to find pet owner education materials that meet these criteria, especially when we’re busier than ever. Most of us don’t have time to search online for materials that make the grade—let alone look professional and reflect well on our practice.

That’s where Plumb’s™ pet owner handouts come in. These clear, concise handouts are written by veterinarians and reviewed by board-certified specialists. And—most importantly—they’re reviewed by pet owners to ensure the information is easy to read and understand.

Plumb’s™ has two types of pet owner handouts.

Drug Handouts

All Plumb’s™ subscribers have access to drug handouts, which clearly explain everything a pet owner needs to know about the drugs you prescribe, like side effects, duration of therapy, and what to do if they miss a dose or have pills left over.

Clinical Handouts

Plumb’s Pro™ subscribers also have access to clinical handouts, which cover everything from clinical conditions to preventive care and common procedures. 

All Plumb’s™ pet owner handouts are beautifully designed and professionally formatted in PDF format for easy printing. 

And sharing Plumb’s™ pet owner handouts couldn’t be easier. They can be emailed in seconds from your closest device, and you can even quickly send multiple handouts together.

There’s a spot to add a personalized message before you send your email. And your email address is never shared—but you can enter it in the BCC field if you’d like to send yourself a copy of the email for your medical records.

When you use Plumb’s™ for pet owner education, you can be confident that pet owners get all the information they need—and don’t need to rely on memory to recall the details. 

Already subscribed to Plumb’s™? Take a look at Plumb’s™ pet owner handouts.

Think you could use Plumb’s™ handouts in your practice?
Choose your Plumb’s™ plan today.


  1. Kessels RP. Patients’ memory for medical information. J R Soc Med. 2003;96(5):219-222. 
  2. McCarthy DM, Waite KR, Curtis LM, Engel KG, Baker DW, Wolf MS. What did the doctor say? Health literacy and recall of medical instructions. Med Care. 2012;50(4):277-282.
  3. Novotny BJ, Wayner CJ. Chapter 3: Health literacy and client compliance. In: Hand MS, Thatcher CD, Remillard RL, eds. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition. 5th ed. Mark Morris Institute; 2010:31-42.
  4. Bonvicini K, Keller VF. Academic faculty development: the art and practice of effective communication in veterinary medicine. J Vet Med Educ. 2006;33(1):50-57. 
  5. Safeer RS, Keenan J. Health literacy: the gap between physicians and patients. Am Fam Physician. 2005;72(3):463-468.
  6. Medland JE, Marks SL, Intile JL. Discharge summaries provided to owners of pets newly diagnosed with cancer exceed recommended readability levels. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2022; 260(6):657-661.