A veterinarian is your pet’s second-best friend.
When selecting a veterinarian, you’re doing more than searching for a medical expert. You’re looking for someone to meet your needs and those of your pet, a doctor who has people as well as animal skills. The worst time to look for a vet is when you really need one, so plan ahead and choose wisely.
Veterinarians often work with a team of professionals, including technicians and qualified support staff, so you’ll likely want to evaluate the entire vet team’s competence and caring. You should also consider the hospital’s location and fees when making a decision. Driving a few extra miles or paying a bit more may be worth it to get the care you want for your pet.
How to find the right veterinarian
The best way to find a good veterinarian is to ask people who have the same approach to pet care as you. Start with a recommendation from a friend, neighbor, animal shelter worker, dog trainer, groomer, boarding kennel employee or pet sitter.
Once you’ve narrowed your search, schedule a visit to meet the staff, tour the facility and learn about the hospital’s philosophy and policies. This is a reasonable request that any veterinarian should be glad to oblige. Write down your questions ahead of time.
What to look for in a veterinary practice
- Is the facility clean, comfortable and well-organized?
- Do they have hours that meet your needs?
- What forms of payment to they accept?
- Are appointments required?
- How many veterinarians are in the practice?
- Do they offer discounts, guarantees and rebates on products that you use?
- Are dog and cat cages in separate areas?
- Is the staff caring, calm, competent and courteous, and do they communicate effectively?
- Do the veterinarians have special interests such as geriatrics or behavior?
- Are X-rays, ultrasound, bloodwork, EKG, endoscopy and other diagnostics done in-house or referred to a specialist?
- Which emergency services are available?
- Is location and parking convenient?
- Do fees fit your budget, and are discounts for senior citizens or multi-pet households available?
How to be a good client
Having good client manners encourages a happy relationship with your vet.
- See your vet regularly for preventive visits, not just when your pet becomes ill.
- Learn what’s normal for your pet, so you recognize the first signs of illness. If a pet’s not well, don’t wait until she’s really sick before you call your vet. It’s frustrating for a vet, and heartbreaking to owners, to see an animal die of an illness that could have been treated successfully if professional care had begun sooner.
- Schedule appointments and be on time. Lateness is rude and wreaks havoc with the office’s timing.
- For your pet’s safety as well as that of other clients and pets, bring your cat to the veterinary office in a carrier.
- Don’t disturb your veterinarian during non-working hours for matters that can wait, and don’t expect your veterinarian to diagnose a pet’s problem over the telephone
- Even if you have an emergency, call ahead to ensure that the veterinarian’s available. She will have to work your pet into the regular schedule, so be prepared to wait. If your pet can’t be seen that day, you will be referred to an emergency vet hospital.