How Do I Choose a Good Vet?

Congratulations! You’ve decided to welcome a new member into your family. You did all your homework on how to raise a pup, bought all the best toys & edibles, and created a warm, comfortable environment for your new pooch. But don’t relax just yet, there’s one more issue you need to tackle. Whether you’ve adopted a feisty new puppy or a more mature dog, the next decision you face will be one of the most important for your dog’s well being. Who will be his or her vet?

Just as you are fastidious in choosing a primary care physician for yourself, consequently should you be as discriminating for your pet. What’s more, you’re making this decision on your dog’s behalf. It is imperative that you select wisely and thoroughly investigate the candidates. The vet you choose should be someone you whom feel is trustworthy, skilled, ethical, and gentle. But where do you start?

1. Compile a list of veterinarians in your area. Check the yellow pages in your local phone book. This will give you a place to start and organize the contenders so that you can efficiently begin researching them. The best advertisement is through word of mouth, ask your friends and neighbors who own pets on which vets they trust. Not only can they guide you in who you should go to, but they can be a valuable resource in who not to go to as well. If you frequent a dog park or have one close by, chat with some of the other pet owners for advice. You’ll gain a lot of useful information and guidance. If you’re planning to move or have recently moved and in need to look for a new vet, you can ask your current vet if they can refer a clinic or a specific veterinarian in your new area.

2. Utilize your resources. Gather as much information as possible. You can obtain data by asking neighbors, friends or other pet enthusiasts and a bevy of other ways as well. Ask your local Humane Society or peruse the flyers they may have on their bulletin board. Some pet supply stores will offer an information booth or board to assist patrons who have such queries. Research vets on the Internet by logging on to pet related chat rooms or websites. Look for articles regarding any local veterinarians or clinics, positive or negative. Professional directories such as American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) inspect offices and offer information regarding their status.

3. Visit the clinics/offices personally and ask to speak with a vet and take a tour of the facilities. Ask to view where the animals are kept overnight for procedures that would require an extended stay. If possible, speak with a few of the clients in the waiting room to assess their satisfaction. The offices should be clean, well lit, and up to date with the latest in veterinary medicine advances. The staff should be courteous, knowledgeable, and handle animals with care. The vets should be kind, patient, and of course accredited. Don’t simply assume that they have had the required schooling and other advanced education, ask for details or proof. Arm yourself with a list of questions to ask and don’t be afraid to voice your concerns and opinions. A good vet won’t try to bully you into doing something you have reservations about, or belittle you for asking what may seem like simple questions. Look for someone who you feel truly has a love for animals and will develop a personal relationship with you and your pet. They should possess a gentle touch and a soothing demeanor. This will help put your understandably, nervous pup more at ease.

4. The vet should offer either emergency care or have an emergency clinic that they work with, should you encounter a problem after regular office hours. All procedures and policies are to be explained to you up front and in detail, as are fees and payment information. They should inform you of what services they do and do not provide, and be able to refer you to a specialist if one is required. They should be able to provide you with literature about a number of things, from flea and tick prevention to proper nutrition to training.

5. Above all, trust your instincts. If something appears sketchy or makes you uncomfortable, speak up. Your dogs can’t tell you that someone is being too rough with them by means of anything but a yelp, and many times dogs will cry even when the vet is being as gentle as possible. It’s up to you to keep your eyes open and be alert for these things for your pet. You are never contractually obligated to revisit a vet or clinic should you feel uncomfortable with him/her or the services. If you’ve encountered any problems, start looking for another alternative.

Your veterinarian will be the most important person in providing your dog with proper care, second only to you the owner. He or she should be someone you feel comfortable talking to, capable of leaving your animal in his/her care, and with whom you would develop a long-standing relationship. In a manner of speaking, the vet you choose should become a part of your dog’s family. By thoroughly investigating the potential vets and coming to a well-informed decision, you can rest assured that it will save both you and your pet stress in the future. Now, back to playing tug with your new pup!

by Rebecca Ash