A veterinarian is your pet's second-best friend. When selecting a vet, 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.
Because veterinarians often work with a team of professionals, including technicians and qualified support staff, you will likely want to evaluate the entire vet team's competence and caring. If you think the veterinarian is terrific but don't care for one of her staff, you may not be happy. On the other hand, while the location may be convenient and the fees may suit your budget, you may not feel comfortable about some other aspect of the facility. Weigh the factors that are important to you, but remember you will probably be happier if you drive a few extra miles or pay a few extra dollars to get the care you desire for your pet.
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. Check the Yellow Pages under "Veterinarians" and "Animal Hospitals”, or do a Google search -- where important information may also be provided about hours, services, and staff.
Some veterinary hospitals are members of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). AAHA membership signifies that a veterinary hospital has voluntarily pursued and met AAHA's standards in the areas of facility, equipment, and quality care. Other veterinarians are board certified in a particular area of veterinary medicine such as ophthalmology, surgery, or cardiology, which means they studied an additional two to four years in the specialty area and passed a rigorous examination.
Once you've narrowed your search, try to schedule a visit to meet the staff, tour the facility, and learn about the hospital's philosophy and policies. Write down your questions ahead of time.
- Is the facility clean, comfortable, and well-organized?
- Are appointments required?
- How many veterinarians are in the practice?
- Are there technicians or other professional staff members?
- 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?
- Do fees fit your budget, and are discounts for students, senior citizens or multi-pet households available?
- What diagnostic procedures are done in-house (i.e. X-rays, Ultrasound, bloodwork, etc.)?
- Which emergency services are available?
Learn what is normal for your pet so you recognize the first signs of illness, and see your vet regularly for preventive visits, not only when your pet becomes ill. If a pet is not well, don't wait until she is really sick before calling your vet. It is 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, be on time, and—for your pet's safety as well as that of other clients and pets—bring your pet to the veterinary office on a leash or in a carrier. Even if you have an emergency, call ahead to ensure that the veterinarian is available. An emergency may occur when your vet is not available, so ask for a referral to an emergency veterinary facility.
Before it becomes necessary, take a practice drive to the veterinary office, since trying to find it when you really need it can cost precious minutes. Post the office's number near your telephone for quick access. Do not disturb your veterinarian during non-working hours for matters that can wait, and do not expect your veterinarian to diagnose a pet's problem over the telephone.
WHEN YOUR PET NEEDS EMERGENCY CARE, AND YOUR VETERINARIAN IS UNAVAILABLE, CALL 888 735-PETS.
PetHealthStore keeps a list of Veterinary Hospitals should you need a resource list.
Back to Top