For those of us who love our pets, choosing the right veterinarian can be a big decision. There are several things you can do to ensure that you find a doctor you are comfortable with and who will take the best possible care of your pet.
- Ask for recommendations. One of the best ways to find a good veterinarian is to ask other people for recommendations. You can ask family and friends, and you can also check with a breeder or the staff of your local animal shelter. Getting recommendations from people who have a good relationship with their veterinarian is better than searching your local yellow pages.
- Ask about the hours of operation and arrangements for emergency situations. Think about when you are going to be available to take your pet to the vet. Look for a veterinarian who is able to accommodate your schedule. It's also important that your vet has a contingency plan for emergencies that occur outside of regular hours of operation.
- Check with your state's veterinary medicine association. Most states have an association which keeps track of licensing information of veterinarians within the state. These organizations also provide continuing education for their members. The state associations can give you information about a particular veterinarian's certifications and license, and possibly any complaints that have been made against him.
- Pay the office a visit before bringing your pet in for an appointment. Take the time to talk to office staff, and to note the cleanliness of the facility. If the office seems unclean, or the office staff is rude, abrupt, or doesn't have time to answer your questions, you will probably be better off continuing your search.
- Ask about the training and certification of veterinary assistants and technicians, and ask about their role in the care of your pet. It's quite common for veterinary techs and assistants to perform a variety of tasks such as bandaging injuries, assisting with surgeries, giving injections, administering fluids, and much more. With this in mind, it's important to ensure that these staff members are well-trained.
- Ask about fees and payment options prior to your first appointment. This is sometimes a difficult discussion, but cost is a significant factor in your decision-making. Veterinarians' fees can vary from practice to practice. This is not necessarily an indication of the level of care your pet will receive, but rather a difference in the veterinarians' overhead (rent, property taxes, utilities, etc.). A payment plan option may also come in handy in case you have an unforeseen financial problem or if your pet needs an expensive procedure at some point during his lifetime.
- Pay attention to the veterinarian's bedside manner. It's undeniably important that the vet you choose should be well educated and up-to-date on all recent developments in veterinary medicine. Equally as important is that the veterinarian treats your pet with care and compassion.
- Trust your instincts. If at any point you feel uncomfortable with the services your veterinarian is offering, the ability of support staff, or if you simply get a feeling that your pet isn't receiving the best possible care, it is okay to voice your concerns or find another veterinarian.
Finding the right veterinarian can make a big difference in the overall health and well-being of your pet. It's worth it to take a little extra time and effort beforehand to find the perfect doctor for you and your furry friend.