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How to Find the Best Vet for Your Pet

By Denise Alston

How do you determine the right veterinarian for your pet? Pets are our children—our babies!—and we want only the best for them. So what should you do to make sure they receive the best care from the best vet out there?

Three Steps to Identify the Best Vet for Primary Care

It isn't essential for the best vet to have big hands--but it can help!

The best vet takes time to carefully examine each patient.

It’s best to find a primary care veterinarian before your pet needs one for treatment and to stay on schedule for preventive care regardless of whether you have a dog, cat, bird, pig, etc.  Here is some information things that can help you find the best vet out there, whether this is for your first pet or your tenth.

You can also use this information to help you find a veterinarian specialist, like a cardiologist, oncologist or surgeon.

  • Research local veterinarians. Research is essential. Look online for good and bad reviews, particularly detailed reviews. It’s nice to see someone thinks a vet is great, but what exactly made that vet great? Think about what’s important to you. Go to the practice website and read its blogs to see what topics they discuss, any FAQs, and other information. Check out the state licensing boards and Better Business Bureau ratings. Have there been any lawsuits, fines, judgements, or complaints against the vet or the veterinarian practice?
  • Ask around for recommendations. Ask friends, neighbors, coworkers, and pet rescue organizations what vet they use. Get details:
    • What does the person like and dislike about their vet?
    • Does the vet have any positive or negative attributes? An example would be an ok (but not great) bedside manner but excellent diagnostic and surgical skills. Some pet parents rate professionalism more highly then others.
    • Ask about the practice itself: does it offer evening, weekend, or walk-in hours?
    • Ask about staff: does there seem to be a high turnover? Are veterinary technicians certified by the state?
    • If you’re looking for a specialist, ask you primary veterinarian for recommendations.
  • Schedule a consultation with vets you like on paper. Yes, you may have to pay for the vet’s time or visit during off-peak hours, but it’s good to know if this vet good fit for your pet and you. You may have multiple consultations before you decide which vet is right for your pet! And remember: just because you and your baby meets with a vet does not mean that this is Dr. Right, DVM.

11 Questions to Ask a Prospective Veterinarian

Even an experienced pet owner may not be sure just what to ask of a veterinarian, particularly if you live in an area with lots of choices. Here are 11 questions you can ask a prospective vet. Remember to take a notepad to write down the vet’s responses.

1. How long have you been with the practice?

2. Do you travel long distances to see pets who are too ill to be moved?

3. Do you have any pets?

Pets will say the best vet has the warmest equipment!

Does the vet warm up the stethoscope before the exam?

(The vet may be more understanding of your concerns and compassion regarding your pet’s health.)

4. What are the office hours and who do you recommend when you are unavailable?

5. What is your area of expertise?

(You’ll be surprised to know that even primary vets have more experience in a specific area.)

6. Do you consult with other vets, or make referrals to for issues outside of your practice area?

7. Do you take an aggressive approach treating or sick ill pets?

8. Do you recommend proven holistic treatments instead of, or in combination of medication?

9. Do you or your staff return calls to pet owners? Who calls about test results, follow-up care, and other urgent issues?

(As a note, always obtain test results for your records, review them, and ask questions so that you stay on top of your pet’s medical needs)

10. Do you provide a written cost estimate at least one day prior to a procedure for non-emergency treatments and surgeries?

(This is very important because it allows you time to review and ask questions before a procedure and ensures everyone agrees with and understands what is being performed.)

11. How does the practice ensure all equipment and surgery area is cleaned, sterilized and disinfected to prevent cross-contamination to other areas or exposure to your pet?

(This is the most important question because super bacterial infections like MRSA, Staphylococcus, E-coli can also affect and even kill your pet, similar to human hospitals and medical facilities.

Choosing Dr. Best Vet

You’ve done your research and interviewed a few prospective vets.

So how did it go? Were your questions answered satisfactorily? What did you think of the different dispositions you saw? Were some vets personable and friendly? Did anyone seem to rush through the questions? Do you felt each vet showed an understanding for your concerns?

Go with your gut! What does it tell you? You are looking for the best for your baby, but you are also looking for someone you can work with and who works with you. It’s a team approach. You are your pet’s only advocate.

Denise Alston is an environmental, health & safety engineer who has always had a special love for animals – domestic and wild. She has cared for dogs, frogs, cats and birds. Through experience, research and working with others, she has become very knowledgeable in basic dog care.


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