Choosing a Veterinarian
When you visit your doctor, your dentist, and even your hairdresser, you place a great deal of trust in the hands of another person. Whether they are responsible for your health, your smile, or your hair, you want that person to be the very best. You will likely go to great lengths in search of a professional who most suits your specific wants and needs. For some reason, however, when it comes to choosing a veterinarian, pet owners often just go to the closest vet. There is definitely something wrong with this picture.
Perhaps, fifty years ago, it was acceptable to choose a vet based solely on location. But today’s veterinarians have a lot more to offer than walking distance. Advancements in veterinary medicine have lead to a variety of new services and a higher standard of care which every pet owner should be on the look out for. What’s more, the sheer number of practicing veterinarians out there means that pet owners need not settle. There are a number of factors you should consider when choosing a veterinarian—some which might seem like common sense, and some you’ve probably never even thought about.
Before you even begin to shop around for a veterinarian, it is important to determine the qualities you are looking for. You might want to use some of the same criteria you did in selecting your own physician. Also, you should consider your unique pet (or pets) and what will be most important for their well-being. Ask for recommendations from close friends, or if you need a new vet because you’re moving, ask your previous vet for a recommendation. You can also check local breed clubs (for purebred pets), that often know of the veterinarians in your area who are most familiar with your breed of pet. Otherwise, a simple browse through the yellow pages can give you an idea of the various veterinary clinics in your area (there’s nothing wrong with choosing a clinic nearby, just make sure that it’s not your only reason!)
The first thing you will notice when you step in to every clinic is the overall atmosphere. Is the reception area clean? Did the staff greet you warmly? You might think this has little to do with the quality of care your pet receives, but more often than not, the reception area is a good reflection of how the rest of the clinic is managed. If it isn’t clean, then the medical facilities might not be either. If the staff doesn’t treat you kindly, they might not treat your pet kindly during treatments in the back.
If your first impression is good, then it is worth trying to schedule an initial consultation with the veterinarian. In doing this, you will learn a lot about the clinic: How easy is it to get an appointment? What are the regular hours? Is there more than one veterinarian? If so, can you request which one you will see? You can also use this time to ask the reception staff about some of the basic fees of their clinic. Many people feel uncomfortable raising financial concerns, but it is a much better idea to raise them now than when your pet needs emergency care or surgical treatment.
If with this information, you are still interested in the veterinary clinic, you can enter into your first appointment with the veterinarian. Whether or not your pet is due for a check-up, it is important to bring them in with you the first time you meet a potential veterinarian. You should be happy both with the way the veterinarian treats you and your pet. Are they attentive? Sensitive? Do you feel comfortable expressing your concerns and raising questions in front of them? Do they answer your questions in a clear and respectful manner? Your ability to communicate with one another can make or break a client-veterinarian relationship.
You should also make sure to use your initial visit and veterinary consultation to find out about the types of medical and non-medical services the clinic offers. Do they have surgical and imaging equipment? Do they have any specialists on staff? What about emergency services? Is there grooming or boarding available for clients? Whether or not these services matter to you might depend on you and your pet’s personal needs.
You might feel like you’re bombarding your potential veterinarian with questions, but this is not something to be embarrassed about. If anything, a good veterinarian will respect your efforts and obvious interest in your pet’s wellbeing. Remember, when you choose a veterinarian you not only place your trust, but also your pet, in their very hands. A good relationship with a veterinarian can last forever, and in the long run, is probably worth a whole lot more than a good hairdresser!
By Alison Norwich – Pets.ca writer