How to Chose a Veterinarian

Choosing a Vet

By Patricia Stephens, Owner,

First of all, let me say everything in this article is just my opinion. I believe it's just as important to be picky about medical care for your companion animal as it is for you and your human family. Perhaps the following information can serve as a guideline to help you choose a good veterinarian for your pet if you are in need of one.

Interview a Few Vets

Yes, I said "interview" potential veterinarians. New to an area? People with pets, particularly those with multiple animals can offer special insight as to which veterinarians are stars in their field - and which vets are not.

To get started, make a list of questions about things that are important to you, such as what kind of arrangement does the vet have for emergencies or how do they feel about holistic medicine? Pose your questions to two or three potential vets.

Check Out The Office

Don't just interview these people over the phone. Go to their office. Note things like:
1. Cleanliness of the office. How does it smell? Is it cluttered, disorganized?
2. How do the office staff members act? Their demeanor is very important. As in any business, employees reflect their bosses' attitudes and you don't want people who just want your money and could care less about your animal.
3. Ask to see the vet's diplomas, certifications, professional veterinary association membership certificates and a few references from satisfied clients.
4. Ask for a tour of the facility, including the back rooms where they keep the animals they are treating.
5. What are their regular office hours? Are they compatible with your schedule?
6. How is the clinic staffed after hours? Is there at least one staff member available during the night in case of in-clinic emergencies?
7. Speaking of emergencies, find out who covers the practice when the doctor is unavailable? How easy or difficult are they to reach in times of need?

When people ask me for recommendations about veterinarians in our area, I don't suggest anyone who does not provide emergency care for animals or at least arrange for coverage of the practice by a trusted colleague when he/she must be away from the phone or out of town. What is the point of having a veterinarian who routinely sees your animal but, in case of emergencies, after hours, weekends or holidays, passes you off to an "emergency clinic" 20 miles or more away from your home that has NO information on your pet and wastes valuable time trying to piece together the animal's medical history?

Vets have a right to time off, but consumers of veterinary medical services have every right to expect timely, quality care when they need it. Trading coverage with other vets and giving them access to patient records would seem to be an acceptable solution for all involved.

Details, details...

1.. Ask about billing policies, especially for emergencies. If the vet is not at all flexible with payment arrangements, you might want to keep looking because emergencies happen to anyone.
2. Make sure you understand - and agree with - the hospital's policies and procedures.
3. Communication is vital. You have a right to feel you can communicate your pet's health care needs to the veterinarian. Many signs of illness are very subtle and your veterinarian will need to rely on your awareness of small changes in your pet's behavior or habits. So make sure you have a "connection" with the vet you choose. Your animal's life may depend on it one day!

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