Choosing a vet
Today's pets are living longer, healthier lives thanks to the availability of high-quality medical services and pet owners' careful monitoring of their animals for early signs of illness. With so much attention being given by owners to their pets' daily needs, doesn't it make sense to take some time in selecting the veterinarian who will become that pet's health care provider?
When choosing your family's veterinarian, use the same care and criteria that you would in selecting a physician or dentist. Think about what is important to you. Location? Convenient hours? Range of medical services? Friendliness and commitment of doctors and staff? Payment options? Your goal should be to find the veterinarian who you believe can best meet your pet's medical needs and with whom you feel comfortable in establishing a long-term relationship.
The veterinarian you select will want to maintain an ongoing history of your pet, including health records that detail immunizations, reactions to medications, surgical procedures, behavior traits, etc. He or she will also advise you on the best preventative care program available to maintain your pet's health.
Where to Look for a Veterinarian
Ask a Friend
Animal-owning friends are generally a good source of information. Ask them why they chose their veterinarian. If you believe their expectations of service are similar to yours, you may want to schedule a visit to the facility.
If you have a purebred dog or cat, area breed clubs can be a good source of information. They have often established a strong relationship with a practice that is very familiar with the potential health-related problems for your particular breed.
Turn to the business pages of a phone book or yellow pages for contact information on local veterinarians. Also check the Internet for listings of veterinary association Web sites - many state or local veterinary medical associations maintain lists of area practices.
Your Current Veterinarian
If you are relocating to another city or state, ask your current veterinarian if he or she can recommend a practice where you will be living. Many times they have colleagues in other towns whose practice policies and services are similar to theirs. Your current veterinarian should also give you copies of your pet's medical records to take to the new practice to ensure your pet's medical history is available to the new staff.
When to Look for a Veterinarian
It is a good idea to start thinking about selecting a veterinarian before acquiring a new pet. In fact, a veterinarian can assist you in selecting a pet that complements your personality, work schedule, and home life.
If you have recently moved to a new area, locate a veterinarian before your pet actually needs one. Don't wait until your pet becomes ill or requires emergency care. It is best to have secured a doctor's name and number and become acquainted with the practice and staff in advance of such situations. Consider scheduling an initial visit soon after arriving at your new home. Your veterinarian will suggest ways to help your pet become accustomed to its unfamiliar environment.
Pay a Visit
When deciding on a veterinary practice, first schedule a visit with the veterinarian to discuss your pet and ask questions about fees and services. You may want to visit several practices before making a final selection.
Tips to Keep in Mind When Visiting a Veterinary Practice
- What are the regular hours?
- Are they compatible with your schedule?
- Will they accept e-mails or appointments electronically?
- Who covers the practice when the doctor is unavailable?
- What is the average wait time for making a non-emergency appointment?
Fees and Payment
- How are telephone calls handled?
- Can you request an appointment with a specific veterinarian?
- Does the staff dress and act professionally?
- Do you feel comfortable talking with the doctor? The technician?
- What methods of payment are accepted?
- Does the hospital treat patients of clients that have pet insurance?
- What is the range of medical services that the practice provides?
- Does the hospital have educational materials for pet owners on a variety of topics?
- Are there non-medical services such as boarding, grooming, and training classes?
- If necessary, does the veterinarian have a network of specialists for referrals?
- How are emergency calls handled during regular office hours and after office hours?
- Is there an emergency facility in your area should you need it?
- Is the building environment clean and orderly?
- Are there any unpleasant odors?
- Can you take a tour of the non-public areas?
- Are the doctors members of a professional veterinary association such as the American Veterinary Medical Association or a state or local veterinary association?
- What is the hospital policy regarding continuing education for the professional staff?
Your Responsibility As a Pet Owner
In order for your veterinarian to maintain your pet's good health, it is important for you to schedule regular checkups and practice preventive care at home. At each appointment, be sure to communicate clearly your pet's behavior and habits. Since many signs of illness are subtle, even minor changes in your pet's behavior can give your doctor valuable information on what might become a serious health issue.
Remember that veterinarians care as much about you as an owner as they do about your pets. They are available to give you the information and resources you need to take the best possible care of your animals. By taking the time to select the veterinarian that you feel confident can provide for your needs as an owner and the medical needs of your pet, you will establish a rewarding partnership.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), established in 1863, is a not-for-profit association representing more than 74,000 veterinarians working in private and corporate practice, government, industry, academia, and uniformed services. Structured to work for its members, the AVMA acts as a collective voice for its membership and for the profession