The best time to find a veterinarian is before your pet needs one!
Selecting a new veterinarian can be a challenge, whether you are new to the area or are dissatisfied with your previous vet. You have many to choose from, and there are many differences between practices. Even though it may be tempting to go to the closest one, doesn’t it make sense to take some time to select the veterinary practice that will become your pet’s health care provider? After you, your veterinarian may become the most important person in your pet’s life. Choose your pet’s doctor as carefully as you would your physician or dentist. Think about what is important to you. Location, office hours, payment options, and the range of medical services offered are all important considerations. For many pet owners the most important factor is the friendliness of the doctors and staff.
Choosing a veterinarian
Ask a Friend
- Ask someone you trust for a recommendation. Ask who they’d recommend and why. Animal-owning family, friends, co-workers and neighbors are generally good sources of information.
- Google and other search engines will bring up practices for you to consider. Check out their web sites for information. Read reviews when available but if you don’t know the reviewer it’s hard to know how objective they are. A good web site will answer many of the questions below.
American Animal Hospital Association
- AAHA is the only organization that inspects and accredits veterinary hospitals, and only 15% of the hospitals in the US are accredited. Check their list at http://www.healthypet.com/Accreditation/HospitalSearch.aspx
Consider when choosing a veterinary practice
Office Hours and Appointment Scheduling
- What are regular office hours? Are they compatible with your schedule?
- Will they accept appointment requests by email (if that is your preferred scheduling method)?
- What is the average wait time for making an appointment?
- How are emergencies handled during regular office hours?
- Who covers the practice after hours?
- How many veterinarians are on staff? Larger practices tend to have better coverage for emergencies, evenings, weekends and vacations. Also they can usually provide more comprehensive services because each vet will usually have their own area of expertise.
- Can you request an appointment with a specific veterinarian?
- Are there any Certified Veterinary Technicians on staff to care for your pet?
- What is the range of medical services provided? Do they provide orthopedic surgery, ultrasound, acupuncture, dentistry, etc.?
- Are there non-medical services such as boarding and bathing?
- If necessary, does the practice have a network of specialists for referrals?
- Does the hospital have educational materials for pet-owners on a variety of topics?
- Is the focus on quality medical care or cheap veterinary care? What is important to you?
- Can laboratory tests, ultrasound, etc. be done the same day? Time is important if your pet is sick.
- What methods of payment are accepted?
- Are there payment plans in case of unexpected large veterinary bills?
- Does the practice allow tours of the non-public areas?
- Are they willing to provide copies of lab work or records on request?
- What steps are taken to ensure safe anesthesia?
- What is done to keep patients warm during anesthesia?
- What procedures are followed for dental care?
- Does the practice have a policy on pain management?
During and After a visit
- Was the office staff friendly and ready to answer questions and give you a tour?
- Was the facility clean and orderly?
- Were there any unpleasant odors?
- Did the staff dress and act professionally?
- Did you feel comfortable talking to the veterinarian? The technician?
- How did the doctors and staff interact with your pet?
Veterinarians should care as much about you the owner as they do about your pets. They should be available to give you the information and resources you need to take the best possible care of your animals. By taking the time to use the questions above, you should be able to select the veterinarian that you will be able to trust; a professional who will partner with you for your pet’s future health, welfare and longevity.