So, you’ve just moved to a new city or just got your first dog and are wondering “How do I choose a veterinarian?” Just like finding the right human doctor, choosing a veterinarian for your dog is something you do with care. After all, you want her to have the very best!
I have a lot of experience in this area. So much so, that a long time ago I quit counting the number of visits my pets and I have had to the vet.
Ask around and ask them
Simply ask other dog and pet owners who their veterinarian is. They will likely fill you in on the details of their experiences and give you lots of opinions. Also, look at online reviews. Furthermore, make sure they have a good reputation as a canine vet. Call the vet’s office and get a feeling for their concern for animals and how they deal with you as a dog parent. Then ask if you can come in to talk to get a further idea of how they conduct their business. Ask questions like:
- What are your open times?
- Do you provide emergency care?
- Do you make home visits?
- Are there any alternative health practices such as acupuncture?
- What kind of equipment do you have?
- Do you provide surgeries?
- Is there overnight care?
What if there is an emergency and you have to get your pooch to the doctor ASAP? If there is, a close by vet could be a godsend. For example, our veterinarian is literally a 2-minute drive. I can tell you that there have been times we and our pets have been thankful for this. If their office is not close by, I wouldn’t make this a deal-breaker but it’s something to consider.
Bedside manner – with both your dog and you
What do I mean by this? Well, is the veterinarian kind and gentle with her patient? Does she seem to genuinely care for your dog? When she talks to you, does she express an understanding tone and empathy? When you are there with your dog and the situation is serious, you want someone who has these qualities. After all, a vet visit can be very stressful for all involved.
Does the staff honestly seem to enjoy dealing with animals?
Most all veterinarian offices are going to have a crew. Besides the veterinarian (s) these can include receptionists, technicians and doctors assistants. Do they express empathy and understanding? When you walk into the office are you greeted warmly? When you give your dog to them to take to the examining room do they appear to enjoy her company?
Do you see lots of other patients in the waiting room?
Whenever you visit, notice if there are other patients waiting. Obviously, you don’t want the place to be so crowded that you have to wait and wait to see the doctor. But other patients indicate the clinic has a favorable reputation. At our vet’s office, there are always patients waiting but we generally are able to see the doctor quickly.
Cleanliness and facilities within the clinic
Really pay attention to this one. You want to see a clean and orderly clinic. Yes, this can be a hard task for any office that’s constantly dealing with animal accidents and shedding hair. But, cleanliness, or lack thereof says a lot about the practice.
What kind of medical equipment do they have? Do they have MRI or CT scanners? How about a surgery room with up-to-date equipment? Also, make sure there is a clean and quiet kennel area in case your dog needs to stay overnight. Then ask if this area is monitored or supervised during the night. After all, when your dog is in foreign place, it can be scary. Having nice humans around can help relieve some of that fear.
Can they see your dog quickly in case of an emergency?
Emergencies happen, especially with older animals or with accidents. Although even the best vet clinics can’t always see your dog immediately, it’s nice to know emergency services are available. Of course, most areas have a 24-hour emergency veterinarian office and that may be the route you have to go in the middle of the night. However, you are also going to pay a lot more for veterinarians who specialize in emergency care.
Does the doctor and staff answer your questions and are they thorough in their explanations?
There are so many unknowns when dealing with the health of your dog because she can’t tell you what’s wrong. Thus, you have to depend on the knowledge of the veterinarian and staff. You should expect to have all your questions answered thoroughly. These questions can include “What is wrong specifically?’ “What kinds of medications are available to treat the condition?” “How about the long-term prognosis?” “What can we do at home to assist in the healing process?” It’s so important that you and your dog walk out of that office with as much knowledge as possible.
You’ve got to face the facts; veterinary care is expensive. Just going in for a routine visit can add up to hundreds of dollars if x-rays and blood tests are involved. Serious disease treatment and surgeries cost thousands of dollars. It might be a good idea to call around to compare costs for particular procedures. But any which way you look at it, be ready to shell out some dough. Of course, it’s all well worth it to have your best friend in tip-top shape.
Keep in mind that if your vet has substantial fees, that may mean they also have top-quality, state-of-the-art equipment.
Also, you may be able to find less expensive options for treatment if you have a teaching veterinary school in your area. Some areas even have reduced rate veterinary clinics but make sure they have quality care if you choose this option.
Pet insurance is available but last time we looked, it didn’t seem to be worth the cost. But that was a couple years ago so perhaps things have changed.
Credentials and knowledge
For the clinic itself, check for accreditation by the American Animal Hospital Association. AAHA accreditation means that they have voluntarily pursued and met the AAHA’s standards in facility, equipment and quality care.
If you’re in the United States, your veterinarian should have four years of undergraduate school plus four years of veterinary school for a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree. They must also pass national and state boards. If you live outside of the United States, the requirements are likely different so check for your particular country
There is another credential known as Diplomate. This is a veterinarian who does more extensive work in a specialized field such as scientific research. They might also have certification by a specialty board.
Veterinary Technicians also have credentials such as CVT (Certified Veterinary Technician) RVT (Registered Veterinary Technician) and LVT (Licensed Veterinary Technician). These mean the technician has a degree from an accredited Veterinary Technician School and has training in pet care and veterinarian assistance.
How does the doctor and staff deal with euthanasia?
I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times we and our pets have faced this heartbreaking situation. Euthanasia is not considered until all other possibilities are exhausted. It’s a hard decision to make but if your best friend is no longer enjoying life, this may be your final option. Suffice to say that this is a difficult time and your veterinarian needs to understand it deeply.
We know our veterinarian understands the pain people and pets feel when this happens. If there is a euthanasia being performed in one of the exam rooms, they light a candle of silence in the waiting room indicating that everyone should speak softly during this difficult time. And, when we have lost a pet, we always get a card signed by the doctor and entire staff.
Choosing a veterinarian for your dog is an important part of her health maintenance so proceed wisely.
We love comments so be sure to leave yours below. Tell us about experiences you and your dog have had with your veterinarian.