Dr. Richard DeBowes Client
Education and Communication

Interview conducted by: Dr. Raina Penn with assistance from Dr. Blair de Vries


Richard M. DeBowes, DVM, MS, DACVS, is a Professor of Surgery and the Director of the Professional Life Skills program at the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Working with Dr. Kathleen Ruby and others, Rick helped fund, develop, promote and host the Cougar Orientation and Leadership Experience at WSU and the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Experience (VLE) program for the global veterinary profession. Based on his experiences in veterinary practice and his awareness of the “people skills” needed to be a great health care team member, Rick currently oversees the practice management curriculum and continues to teach in the leadership and the clinical communication courses for which he was the founding co-director.


  1. Selecting a pet and pertinent information for after they come home.
    1. AVMA – Pet Care
      1. This website provides loads of valuable information for a pet owner from selecting a pet and responsible pet ownership to keeping pets healthy, safe, and how to say goodbye. Plus, more! Includes resources for exotic, large, and small animal species. 
    2. Before You Get A Pet – 
      1. Primarily about how to select a pet dog or cat. Also contains an in-depth and useful breakdown on budgeting for the first year of having a dog or cat and annual expenses thereafter. 
    3. Merck Veterinary Manual – Understanding Your Pet Health
      1. Information for owners on multiple species regarding selecting a pet, care, and other species specific, animal health related topics. 
  2. First Aid
    1. AVMA – Emergency Care
      1. Both links contains an overview of basic pet first aid and first aid tips geared towards pet owners. 
    2. Red Cross –
      1. The Red Cross is offering a first aid online course and has an easy to use phone app. Providing owners with basic first aid education at their fingertips. 
    3. ASPCA – APCC
      1. The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center created a mobile app to help pet owners identify potential toxins and advise on how critical an exposure may be to their animal. Currently available for dogs, cats, birds, and horses. 
  3. Preparing a pet for emergencies (natural disasters).
    1. AVMA – Disaster Resources
      1. The following links are to help owners of pets and livestock to adequately prepare for and respond to natural disasters. Complete with how to identify risk depending on location, planning, creating an evacuation kit, and what to do after a disaster with additional links.
        1. Pets – with some information for horse owners

        2. Livestock – including equine resources
        3. Wildfires – pets and livestock
        4. Emergency flyers and cards – pets and livestock
    2. CDC article – Filled with valuable, easy-to-follow information on how to prepare for a disaster for the pet owner. Includes links to additional resources such as putting together a pet’s emergency kit. 
  4. Communication
    1. Calgary-Cambridge – Framework
      1. Guides to improve communication skills for those working in medical professions. 
    2. Dalhousie University – Communication Skills Program
      1. Communication skills pocket cards – Useful resources for veterinarians and staff. Communication workshops also offered. 
  5. Client education
    1. The following links are from a variety of resources to help provide information clients including easy to read client handouts. 
      1. Veterinary schools often have useful, up-to-date information with some handouts available. The following is one example from Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine. 
      2. AVMA – Client Materials 
    2. Veterinary Support Personnel Network (VSPN) – Client Education
      1. A variety of links to veterinary, human and other general sites to help find information for owners on various topics for many species. 
    3. Veterinary Partner by Veterinary Information Network (VIN) –
      1. Many articles listed by species. Handouts can be translated into other languages using Google Translate. Does not always translate everything exactly but has been helpful when no other resources in the other language can be found.