by Sandra Murphy
Whether you’re switching veterinarians because of a problem or you’ve moved and need a new doctor, finding the right one for you and your pets can be a stressful experience. What can you do to make it easier?
First of all, ask friends and family, co-workers, rescue groups and groomers who they recommend or more importantly, who do they avoid? One cat owner posted on the school board site and had five positive responses about the vet she was considering.
Call the clinic and ask questions. Whether of a general nature or specifics, how you are treated reveals a lot. Some staff members take it upon themselves to protect the doctor’s time by denying access. Does the vet call back when he says he will? Of course, a vet needs to see clients but in an emergency, you need to be able to reach him, not jump hurdles or wait for a return call. If you don’t like the staff, it won’t matter how good the vet is, it will be a bad experience.
Ask for a tour of the clinic and a meet and greet with the vet. Take one of your pets along to see how he’s treated. Do cats get a separate space in the waiting room, away from curious dogs? If the shelves are filled with commercial dry or canned foods, look for a vet who is knowledgeable about food that doesn’t come out of a bag or can. If there are several vets in the practice, ask if you can have the same vet each time you visit.
Clinic hours are important. After hours, does the vet refer to an emergency clinic (they can be pricey) or do several vets share emergency on-call hours? If they refer to the emergency clinic, how far away is it? Will the ER vet be able to talk to your vet to be brought up to date on Sparky’s health issues?
When you talk to the doctor, ask about catastrophic disease. Is an FIP cat dismissed as not salvageable or treated to ensure quality of life? A vet who is open to alternative medical practices such as acupuncture or massage therapy will be a benefit to an arthritic dog or cat.
Also ask if the veterinarian has any specialties or is well versed in small animal care like guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters or birds. If he’s not, ask for a recommendation. It’s best to know before acquiring a pet which will have special needs.
Catastrophic disease isn’t the only concern. A rabies vaccination is required but some municipalities want a three year shot while others are fine with an annual injection. Does the vet give all shots on the same day or is he okay with spreading the injections over time to prevent a reaction–without charging for an office visit each time? Flea and tick control can also be a concern. Even if Kitty never goes outside, fleas can come into the house on a person’s clothing or on the dog. Is flea prevention once a month recommended automatically or does the vet consider the climate, access to the outdoors and your pet’s age?
If Kitty needs to stay overnight, make sure there’s a vet tech on duty, if not a vet. Many clinics have someone who checks the animals late at night but then they are left alone until morning. It’s important to find a vet who really listens and responds to your questions, instead of saying it will be okay, don’t worry. No one likes to have their concerns dismissed.
Finding a new vet can be a challenge. Ask others, visit the clinic and most of all observe how you and your pet are treated. If you’re not comfortable, it’s not the place for either of you. There are many vets who are caring and who take the time to make sure both of you are calm after what can be a stressful car ride. Look until you find one of them. You’ll be glad you did!
Check out more animal rescue & pet related articles in our Pet section.