Choosing a Vet
By Honor Tarpenning, NextDayPets.com Staff
Choosing a vet is no different from choosing a new doctor for your family. It is preferable to consistently visit one vet so your dog is more comfortable and the care provider has a more complete history of your dog’s medications, conditions, and immunizations, so you want to choose a vet you’ll be comfortable with for the life of your dog, or at least as long as you stay in your present town. Don’t wait to find a vet until you need one. In an emergency or if your dog gets sick, you want to be ready and know exactly where you’re going and what it will be like when you get there. Don’t be afraid to visit several vet clinics before you make your choice. Even if you absolutely love the first office you visit, visit a couple more, if for no other reason than to make you more secure in your choice.
If you’re new to town and don’t have any friends with pets to recommend vets, try local rescue organizations like the SPCA, or local breed clubs. You can also just look up vets in the phone book or online; since you’ll be visiting the facilities, it doesn’t matter where you find them.
First, call a prospective choice and find out when would be a good time to visit their facilities. If they insist that you schedule an actual check-up or procedure for your dog just for you to check out their practice, move on to another vet. You should not be obligated in any way if all you want to do is see what their facilities are like. However, some busier practices may request that you schedule a specific time for your visit, because they just don’t have time to accommodate pop-ins.
Once you’ve established a time to check the place out, take some time to think about what qualities in a vet and vet office are important to you. Of course they should be clean, they should have certified vets, and should have up-to-date facilities. But also, consider what hours a vet must have to fit with your work schedule, and what location is most convenient for you. Also think about what you look for in the personality of a vet. Some people would rather have extremely personable vets who will hold their hand through hard experiences, while others prefer their vet to be all business. Furthermore, some vets will go to great lengths to make sure they thoroughly explain every aspect of your dog’s treatment and care, while others will just give you the gist and only go into detail at your request.
When you go to visit the vet, take your dog. Try to meet all the vets in the practice, and as many of the vet techs as possible. Watch how they interact with your dog, especially the techs, because they will have the most hands-on contact with your dog. To me, besides the cleanliness of the facility, how my dog is treated is the most important thing.
Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you want, especially about cost and what you get for the money. You might be surprised at the vast disparity of cost among various vets. (If money is tight, try a vet far from ritzy or urban areas. Vets in the country, far from big suburban developments and large populations are often much less expensive and just as experienced. ) If it is a multi-vet practice, be sure to find out if you can request a specific vet for your appointments. Your dog might be more comfortable or more friendly with a particular vet, and you’ll want to see that vet whenever possible. Also, ask to see the boarding facilities if they have them. This will give you a great idea of the overall quality of care at a vet. If a vet has boarding facilities, but won’t let you see them, this should be a red flag. Find out if the vet offers after-hours emergency care. If not, find out if they refer their after-hours cases to a particular emergency facility, and check it out as well.
Once you’ve picked out a vet that makes you comfortable, just make sure you’re a good client. Know your dog well enough that when something’s off, you can explain it to the vet. Know what’s normal for your dog and be prepared to give the vet a list of symptoms. Whenever you have an appointment, do your very best to be on time. In an emergency, always call ahead, even if it’s as you’re on your way, so they can prepare for your arrival. Always take your dog to the vet on a short leash or in a carrier, and do not let him roam around the waiting room. It also helps to socialize your dog from a young age to being touched all over. At least once a week open his mouth and look at his teeth, handle his paws, flip him over and check out his belly, feel up and down his legs, and look in his ears; also, get him used to standing on a table. The more comfortable your dog is with these activities, the less stressful a vet visit will be for everyone involved.