You’ve already had to make a lot of decisions with as a new pet owner – bed or crate? this pink collar or that blue harness? and don’t get me started about the hundreds of different kibbles and dog food out there! But one of the most important decisions as any new pet owner is to find the perfect veterinarian. Your veterinarian will become a life-long partner in the health of your pet so it is important to pick a great one as soon as you can!
It might be a few hits and misses, but eventually you will find the perfect vet, and you won’t want to let go. Here are some tips are finding your new animal best friend.
1. Easy to Talk With and get a hold of
The most important thing you want in your veterinarian is someone you can talk to easily. You want someone that is kind, won’t make you feel stupid when you ask any questions, and that you can easily communicate to, and can easily communicate back. Some vets use a lot of medical jargon without realizing it, so make sure you can say “hey I don’t quite understand” and they will explain without making you feel inferior. Your dog’s health is on the line, so make sure you understand everything that is said to you. You should never be afraid to ask questions!
Working at a vet hospital, I realize that doctors are very busy. Sometimes you can’t talk to them immediately, but our doctors will always get back to you eventually, especially if it’s something you feel panicked about. If they can’t reach you by phone, they will email, or quickly tell a support staff to pass a message on. Bottom line is, they will get back to you eventually, and that’s important.
2. Word of Mouth + Visit
Word of mouth is the best way to find a vet. Ask your friends about who they like and why, check out Yelp reviews and definitely go there yourself to take a look before setting up an appointment.
When support staff aren’t busy (and sometimes when they are!) they should be more than happy to answer any questions about the clinic, the general costs, and their policies and thoughts on animal care. They can’t give any medical advice, but the pleasantness of the conversation should be light and they shouldn’t be irritated about chatting with you – you are a potential new client, of course!
Yelp reviews can be very helpful since they are made by real people, but they also can be very bias. Most people only post when they have bad things to say, so take everything with a grain of salt and be sure to investigate yourself, and look at other reviews to get a general idea. But the best way to decide is go there yourself, meet the vet and the staff, and look at the facilities (be sure to call ahead if you want to do a meet and greet – it can get busy at the clinic, and the staff can’t always be there to show you around!)
3. Good Support Staff
Although the veterinarian is very important, the support staff is just as important in making a clinic run smoothly and well. The support staff is who you will be meeting when you first arrive, and when you leave. They should be kind, courteous, knowledgable, and most importantly, not afraid to ask the vet! Sure there are times when I am pretty confident in what I know, but if it is something serious, I always ask the vet to double check. Nothing is more embarrassing than having the support staff say one thing, and the vet say another.
Not only that but they are also the ones that are helping to handle your animals, so make sure you get a good feeling from them, so you can trust that they are handling your animals properly. Most vets do not have any qualms about letting you watch take blood or give vaccines, so if you’re unsure, it is good to ask to observe so you can see first hand their handling and restraint methods. But don’t be offended if they ask you to leave if your pet is misbehaving – it’s amazing how well behaved some pets get when their owners are not around to run to.
Considering your dog may be operated here, you want a place that is clean and that they sterility and cleanliness seriously. Even the waiting room should be clean and tidy (within consideration; if a big husky was laying in the waiting room, there may be hairballs), it should smell clean (not like poop!) They should clean the waiting room and wash hands between patients, and change water dishes often. Sick animals come in and out, so it is the staff’s job to make sure that the diseases do not spread between patients.
If you want to be extra careful, ask to take a tour of the hospital before you bring your pet in. It might be difficult to schedule (since it needs to be fairly quiet with no surgeries going on), but the hospital should try to accommodate you, and they should have nothing to hide.
5. Eager to Answer Cost related Questions
This goes hand in hand with being easy to talk to, but your vet should be willing to answer any questions, especially about procedures, choices, alternatives and especially the costs! Veterinary medicine can be very expensive, and I feel the best way to explain the costs is to break down the charges and explain the charges and the value to clients. This makes clients feel like they aren’t just dropping hundreds of dollars on nothing, and realize the benefits of spending money on certain treatments (like IV fluids, or monitoring equipment.) Some clinics are able to cut costs by cutting out some things like pain medication, or endotracheal tubes, so all because the price tag is lower doesn’t mean the other vet is ripping you off. So make sure you investigate the costs, and if the vet isn’t willing to talk to you about it, move on!
6. Will get in contact with you
Living in a very busy, digital world, sometimes phone calls are not the easiest way to chat. We use email a lot at work, since we often contact people when they are busy at work. For more complicated conversations, sometimes we even schedule time out of the day to make sure both client and vet are able to chat together without playing phone tag. Some of our clients we even contact through Facebook! It’s a lot to ask, but having a vet that is willing to contact you through other ways and is really eager to relay information to you is important – not just call once, leave a message and that’s it.
7. Okay to Let you Get a Second Opinion
Sometimes important procedures need to happen, but you just aren’t 100% sure. Do you want to risk putting your pet through all that? Is it worth it? Are there other treatments available you may not know about?
Your vet should be okay with you going to another clinic or doctor to get a second opinion. No vet knows everything, and some other vets may have different experiences to draw off of. They should be okay with sending your records to other clinics, lending out radiographs, etc. Some veterinarians will even consult other vets on specific cases. Trust runs both ways, and your vet should trust you as much as you trust them.
So if you aren’t sure, it doesn’t hurt to get a second opinion, and your vet should never guilt you because of that.
8. Puts Your Pets Needs First
What we like to tell clients is we always offer the “gold standard care” first. That is usually the most expensive and comprehensive treatment. After that, we tailor the treatment plan to the client’s cost and comfort. No, the vet isn’t trying to steal all your money because they can, but really they are doing what is considered the best of care first. You always need to get the feeling that your vet cares about you and your animal, more than their pockets. If you ever feel unsure, ask your vet about the costs and why this is more expensive than this, etc. Your vet should never do anything without consulting you first, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.
It is also nice to see vets who go out of their way to make the pet comfortable. Whether it is taking off a white lab coat, offer lots of cookies, or just taking it slow and spending time getting your dog used to you before feeling rushed to get to their next appointment. You want a vet that cares about the comfort of your animal, rather than fitting in as many appointments into their day as possible.
9. Up to Date facilities
Is the hospital equipped with computers, or is everything done by paper? Do they have up to date surgical facilities? X-rays? Are they equipped to keep hospitalized patients? These are important things to know. It is personal preference whether you want computerized records, or overnight care – but very minimum they should have basic diagnostic equipment to do quick blood work, take x-rays (whether film or computer) and have facilities to keep patients safe and quiet.
10. Respects your Decisions and Will Support You No Matter What
Everyone has different reasons for what they do whether it is personal belief, religion or something else. This decisions often get passed onto their pets too. The vet should always respect any decisions you make. They may warn you about the consequences (IE: the dangers of having your cat eat a vegetarian diet) but in the long run, will try to give you as many resources as possible to set you up for success.
There is also the difficult decision about whether or not it is time for your pet. It is a tough decision and your vet should support you no matter what, no matter how long it takes, and no matter what decision you make.