Choosing the right veterinarian is one of the most important decisions you’ll make during the life of your pet. After all, your furry family member’s doctor is responsible not only for providing routine and preventative care like exams, vaccines, and heartworm prevention, but will also be your trusted resource if your pet gets sick or injured. It is important to find a veterinarian that you feel comfortable with, and who meets the needs and priorities of your pet’s healthcare.
Questions to Ask When Choosing a Veterinarian
The first step is to think about what your priorities are as a pet owner, your pet’s personal medical needs, and what type of care you’d hope to see at your primary veterinary clinic. Some great points to consider include:
- Do you need quick visits or in-depth appointments? Some clinics offer the option of drop-off appointments for both routine and urgent care needs, but your contact with the veterinarian is often limited in these scenarios.
- Do you prefer a more holistic approach to wellness care and disease management?
- Does your pet have any breed-specific or chronic issues? If so, you’ll want to make sure your chosen veterinarian feels knowledgeable and experienced in caring for your particular pet.
- How are emergencies and critical care cases handled, both during and after-hours?
- How does the veterinary practice handle contagious diseases? What type of services are provided in-house vs. those that require referrals or longer wait times? Common services your pet may need include things like surgery, dental care, imaging studies, and laboratory diagnostics like blood work.
- What type of vaccine protocol does the veterinarian follow?
- Does the clinic have an in-house pharmacy, and what is their protocol if you would like to get a prescription filled elsewhere like at your personal pharmacy or online?
- What type of payment methods does this hospital accept, and do they oer a line of credit or the option to make monthly payments, should an expensive situation arise?
- Is the hospital AAHA-accredited? While it’s not required for a veterinary hospital to be accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association, this accreditation ensures the highest standard of care is provided.
Making the Decision
Once you have an idea of your needs, your practice preferences, and your pet’s needs, it’s time to start the search. Ask friends, relatives, or even your bank teller or favorite barista which veterinary office they use and why. It’s also a good idea to check out the clinic’s website and social media pages. You may also want to read the comments in some online reviews carefully, keeping in mind that star-ratings are often skewed by negative financial experiences, wait times, and other factors that may not be as important to you.
When the search has been narrowed to a few of your favorite choices, it’s time to make some calls and schedule “meet and greet” appointments and facility tours. During your meet and greet appointment, be sure to ask any questions from the list above you’d like answered, as well as any other questions you’ve come up with along the way. As you tour the facility, take note of how pets in cages appear, whether dogs and cats are separated, whether things seem clean and orderly, and how the staff is interacting with other animals.
Establishing the Relationship
After you’ve chosen the best vet for your pet, it’s best to provide the veterinarian with all records associated with your furry family member, even if all you have is a microchip, a handful of shelter-administered vaccines, and an adoption date! The more information your veterinarian has on your pet’s history, the more thoroughly s/he will be able to provide the care your animal needs, both during routine exams and in the event of illness.
In terms of when to schedule the first appointment, the veterinarian will likely review records to determine what’s best for your pet. Of course, some situations require more urgent care while others can be handled with a simple phone call to the office. If you’re not sure when it’s time to bring your pet to your newly-selected veterinarian, 24Petwatch Lifetime members can contact whiskerDocs for healthcare support, in the meantime.
If you can’t make it to your new veterinarian right away, or just need to ask a quick health or behavior-related question, whiskerDocs has veterinary experts available 24/7 to help. From handling emergencies to understanding your veterinarian’s recommendations and pet’s lab results, to selecting the best diet and dealing with behavioral problems – you can call or chat with a veterinary professional in seconds, and get guidance on the best course of action to take for your pet.