How To Choose The Right Veterinarian

How to choose the right veterinarianChoosing the right veterinarian may be the single most important thing you do to ensure the long-term health of your pet. All vets are not created equal. Be careful about choosing one based purely on convenience or because of clever advertising.  Do your research.

When I moved to Pennsylvania from New Jersey 22 years ago I went in search of a new vet.  I adored my previous one and used to tell people I liked my vet better then my own doctor.  He was smart, competent, and friendly. The challenge was finding someone for my corgi, Simon that I liked as much?

The first thing I did was started asking my friends for a recommendation.  Long before the internet and social networking you had to actually talk to people to find out information like this.  After some leg work, I found one I like and was satisfied for awhile.  But then I realized that we were not on the same page from time to time. I was hesitant to question treatments and ask for more information on topics I felt uncomfortable with.  After a few bad experiences, I went in search of another office.

I have been with the same vet now for nine years. With my houseful of dogs, I find myself spending a lot of time in the vet’s office. Over the years I’ve come to realize that that open, comfortable communication with your care provider is essential.  And it is not something that you can spot offhand by examining a diploma on the wall or looking in the phone book.

Today, I have learned to use the internet to do research and help me ask better questions of my doctor.

According to author and TV host Cesar Milan “when you bring a dog into your life, you are responsible from that day forward for his dog nutrition. Dog safety, dog health and dog care. But finding a stellar veterinarian doesn’t just happen by accident.”

The “Dog Whisperer” highlights 10 key topics to keep in mind. And I have added my thoughts following each.

1. Communication.
I think this is the most important aspect of your relationship with your vet. You need to discuss all your concerns regarding your pet’s health!

2. Accreditation.
What kind of education and experience does he or she have. Ask!

3. Community Involvement.
This is a good way to get a feel for how the vet interacts within your neighborhood.

4. Philosophies.
This goes along with communication, you need to be on the same page.

5. Access to Medical Information.
Timely answers to medical questions is a must! There is nothing worse than waiting for a test result.

6. Medical Equipment/Services.
You often don’t think of these needs until they arise but your vet’s office should have all services or at least be able to refer you if necessary. Always ask, especially if you have a pet with special needs.

7. Open Access to All Areas.
Make sure to ask for a tour of the hospital.

8. Interaction.
Are you comfortable with your vet’s bedside manner? A vet should be gentle and calming with your animal and so should the staff!

9. Vet Techs and Assistants.
They are a huge part of the practice your pet will spend a good deal of time with them, make sure you are comfortable with the staff as well as the doctor.

10. Hours.
Make sure their hours are convenient for you.

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These are great tips.  But make sure you also feel comfortable with all the vets in the office. There will be times when you may have an emergency and not be able to see your regular doctor. And please don’t be afraid to get a second opinion if you have an important health issue.

Another excellent source I found came from Healthy Pets in WebMD

This article goes into more detail regarding other questions to consider when choosing a vet. One area of care for the new pet owner is pre-surgical protocol. Even if you assume a puppy is healthy, make sure you get the proper blood work done before any surgery.

Consider these questions:

  • Is the practice AAHA-accredited?
  • How are overnight patients monitored?
  • What sort of equipment does the practice use?
  • Does the vet refer patients to specialists?
  • How are patients evaluated before anesthesia and surgery?
  • Does the practice have licensed veterinary technicians on staff?
  • What is the protocol for pain management?


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