Does the task of finding a vet seem monumental? With a systematic approach, it’s easier than you might think. This article will walk you through the process, paving the way to success. Here’s how to choose the ideal vet to care for your precious pet.
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First, canvass any pet-owning friends, relatives, co-workers, or neighbors, asking for recommendations. If you’ve recently moved, and have yet to make connections, browse the Web for vets in your area. Also, at MyVeterinarian.com, you can search for a doctor based on location, animal species, and medical specialty.
If you have a purebred cat or dog, Google breed clubs in your area. If there is one, club members can likely direct you to a local vet.
Other sources of quality referrals are Angie’s List and your state or local veterinary medical association. Also helpful is reading Yelp reviews.
Seek accredited facilities
If you own a dog or cat, look for clinic accreditation by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). This credential indicates that the hospital meets or exceeds the highest standards of safe, quality treatment. Approved hospitals are regularly evaluated in 18 categories of animal care, including:
- exam facilities
- emergency care
- radiology services
- pain management
Accreditation is a voluntary procedure, indicating a vet’s intent to provide outstanding care. To check whether an animal hospital is AAHA approved, use the locator tool at https://www.aaha.org/pet_owner/about_aaha/hospital_search/default.aspx.
For eye-opening facts about AAHA accreditation, see this brief video. (Scroll to the end of the webpage.)
Check for board certification
For a pedigreed animal prone to medical problems, consider a doctor specializing in your particular breed. If you go this route, choose one certified by the American Board of Veterinary Specialists (ABVS). Board certification signifies that the doctor has several years of advanced education, training, and experience in their area of expertise.
To discern whether a doctor is board-certified, try calling up their website. The doctor’s profile should list credentials such as board certification.
A vet specialist may be necessary if your animal is an “exotic pet.” This term loosely refers to a pet other than a dog or cat. Examples are a parrot, guinea pig, rabbit, turtle, and ferret.
However, states vary in their definitions of exotic pets. Consequently, a doctor you’re considering may not treat your particular species. Before making an appointment, verify that the vet has specialized training and experience in your type of exotic pet.
Call vet offices
After obtaining the names of a few promising doctors, list them in order of best reputation. Then, consider office location, favoring those close to home for timely care. Note that, for urgent treatment, driving a long distance could jeopardize your animal’s health.
Before making calls, prepare to take some notes. Then, with each receptionist, tell them you’re looking for a new vet, and ask if they have time for a few questions. If not, request a callback at their convenience. When the receptionist is free to help you, pose these questions:
- What are your office hours?
- How long does it take to get a routine appointment?
- For a scheduled visit, what is the average wait time to be seen?
- Do you provide after-hours emergency services?
- How about overnight care?
- If there are several vets on staff, can I request one specifically?
- What do you charge for a standard check-up?
- Are payment plans available?
While recording replies, note the receptionist’s demeanor, a clue to how the practice is run. If the receptionist seems rushed, impatient, or curt, gently end the call. Then, omit that practice from your list.
Review your notes
Once your calls are complete, evaluate the information you’ve compiled. Here are signs that a clinic may be a good match. First, the practice hours fit your schedule, and making appointments is easy. For routine care, you can schedule a visit within a few days to a week. You can also see the vet of your choice.
The practice can promptly handle emergencies, or refer you to a hospital that does. For advanced care, the vet partners with a network of specialists, such as orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, and oncologists. If you’d like ancillary services, such as grooming, boarding, or training classes, the practice provides them.
The clinic is upfront about its fees. Since you know the cost of routine procedures in advance, you’re spared financial surprises. The facility accepts your preferred form of payment, along with offering payment plans.
Visit two facilities
From your list of prospective matches, choose two. Then call each office, and ask to schedule a facility tour. A trustworthy practice will gladly arrange one.
When driving to each clinic, time the commute, and note whether parking is easy. Once inside, and your tour begins, assess the following:
- Do the vet assistants appear skilled, caring, and sensitive to pet anxiety?
- Is the facility clean and organized?
- Are dog and cat cages kept in separate areas?
- Do the animals seem comfortable?
- Are the staff members respectful to you and each other?
Inquire about medical technology
Next, ask your tour guide about medical equipment, especially the following:
The most progressive animal hospitals are equipped to perform EKGs, diagnostic ultrasound, x-rays, CAT scans, and MRIs. They also have onsite blood machines and a lab.
Advanced veterinary anesthesia systems closely monitor vital signs during surgeries, guarding against complications. Each animal is constantly assessed regarding their temperature, oxygen level, heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration.
To get a sense of how sophisticated this technology is, see this sampling of the top models available. Should your pet need surgery, knowing the vet uses the latest equipment can ease your concerns?
For dogs and cats, AAHA recommends annual dental cleanings under anesthesia. Cleanings should start at age 1 for small animals and age 2 for large dogs. A competent vet will provide onsite dental procedures, using state-of-the-art equipment.
Ask to meet the vet
Although vets are always busy, you should be able to touch base with a doctor. If possible, observe the vet interacting with patients. Seeing a doctor at work reveals their general approach to care.
The most trusted vets are personable and straightforward. Their genuine concern for animals is shown by a warm bedside manner. When pet owners voice their concerns, good vets listen intently. They’re also sensitive to owner feelings, especially when heart-wrenching decisions are necessary. With utmost professionalism, the best doctors treat fellow staff members with appreciation and courtesy.
Hopefully, now that you’re well-informed, you feel empowered to find the perfect vet. Be sure to launch your search before your pet needs urgent care. Otherwise, under pressure, you won’t have time for weighing options, possibly leading to a poor outcome.
Here’s a recap of how to proceed. First, get recommendations from trusted sources, favoring doctors with AAHA approval and board certification. Then, call a few offices and pose key questions about the services provided.
After reviewing responses, reorganize your list, with the most promising vets on top. Of those, schedule tours with two. After your visits, if not convinced of quality care, arrange a tour of the next practice on your list.
The right vet will be convenient to see, offer the care you need, employ modern technology, have a kind bedside manner, and work with you financially. It may take some legwork to find the right match for your particular animal. However, doing so will give you precious peace of mind.
Above all, the best vet will treat your pet like their own!