The Right Vet
Before you start counting stars and reading review after review on Yelp, try polling your own personal network first. “I always tell people to go with word of mouth,” says Dr. Patricia Patterson, Staff Veterinarian of the Best Friends Animal Society. “Ask friends, relatives, neighbors, local shelters or rescues who they use.” This way you’ll get to ask the questions that are most important to you, instead of scrolling through what’s important to others. It’s a good idea to select a veterinarian before you actually need one. This way, you’ll be working with someone who you feel comfortable with and seems to have a good rapport with your companion animal rather than a vet who is simply nearby, open, or listed first on Yelp.
When calling to inquire about making an appointment, take into consideration the attitude of the staff. If it’s like pulling teeth to make a well visit appointment, think about how you’ll feel when you have to call in about something more serious. "I would look to the warmth and friendliness of the staff,” says Dr. Patterson. When choosing a vet, keep in mind their overall personality. Are they calm? Do they have a good bedside manner? Does your animal companion seem to like them? A good vet will know how to soothe a stressful situation, instead of adding to it.
Connect On Your Animal Companion Care Philosophies
There are a few hot topics when it comes to animal companions health, including things like euthanasia, cancer care, chronic disease planning and spaying and neutering. Having like-minded philosophies with your vet can make all the difference when faced with difficult decisions. “I would have an idea of what my principles and overall ethics on animal care are, and then I would ask the veterinarian and staff what they think,” says Dr. Patterson. Your animal companions' quality of life is important to you, and it should be to your vet, as well.
Check Out The Website
Look at each veterinarian’s website for a glimpse of the vet’s personality, staff, and capacity. While someone can be an excellent vet and still have a less-than-impressive website, it’s still a quick way to narrow down a long list. Find out what information you can from the site, such as location, rates, specializations, and number of employees. Are they prepared to handle an emergency? This is more important than you will ever know until it happens. It is hard to think rationally in these types of situations and is imperative to have a vet that is able to provide services during an emergency.
Vet clinics can be run using a range of business methods, and you want to find the one that best suits your needs. Call the clinic and speak to the office manager or similar authority figure. Ask questions about hours, overnight care practices, billing details, and any other services associated with the clinic. Not only does this give insight into how the clinic is run, it gives you a chance to interact with the staff members to see how knowledgeable they are and what kind of customer service they provide.
Busier Usually Equals Better
Can’t find a seat once you get to the office? Standing room only can be a good sign of what the office has to offer. “Don't be put off by a busy, hectic or fast paced waiting area,” suggests Dr. Patterson, “as this can sometimes mean a popular, well-liked and hard-working clinic.” (Check Yelp and other websites for positive reviews.)
Vet bills can be hefty, and they can add up quick. Whether you’re there for routine vaccines or emergency X-rays, make sure to “ask about costs, how they expect payments and if there is a credit line,” says Dr. Patterson. Splitting up payments, if possible, can help your pet get the treatment she needs without having to break the bank all at once.
Hours of Operation
Hours of operation can be a biggie. “I would ask about how a vet sees an emergency patient and what their after-hours policies are,” recommends Dr. Patterson. If you picked your vet based on their proximity and they are closed when you need them, you may end up having to travel much farther just to reach an open emergency clinic.
Location, Location, Location
Having a vet close by can be clutch. If you can walk or make a quick drive, that’s great. Aside from making well visits less of a hassle, this closeness will give you piece of mind knowing that in the case of an emergency, your vet is nearby. One caveat to this step: If the most convenient vet doesn’t tick the other boxes on this list, then you may want to spread your search a little further. After all, it may be worth the extra few minutes in the car for a more skilled vet or a better understanding staff.
Get a Second Opinion
Your animal companion and their health is a matter that’s close to your heart, so even when you’ve found your vet, a second opinion can’t hurt. A serious diagnosis, a surgery or a test recommendation can turn your world upside down, and getting a second opinion could do wonders when it comes to setting your mind at ease. Dr. Patterson suggests asking if your prospective veterinarian uses a referral clinic or has a problem with a second opinion if at some point something like that is needed.
Trust your Instinct
If something doesn't feel right, take a moment and reconsider. Research all of the medical options, remedies and medicine the veterinarian is suggesting. After all, we are the advocate and voice for our animal companion family members. It requires the same patience and diligence that you would devote to finding any other kind of professional — a pediatrician, dentist, real estate agent, plumber, etc.
Once you have a short list of possible veterinarians, make appointments to meet with each vet. Schedule some time to talk with the vets without your companion animal. Ask a series of questions about important topics, such as their training, whether they participate in continuing education, their approach to treating companion animals, and the variety of services their vet clinic provides. The vet clinic should be accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). This is provides assurance that they are a professional veterinarian hospital as they have to follow certain guidelines.
Ask for a quick tour to get exposure to the type of environment the vet and the staff create and observe how they interact with you, the animals, and other people. Are they capable of prescribing holistic or alternative treatments? Do they focus on nutrition and preventative care? If those things are important to you, make sure they are important to your potential vet, as well.
Let your Companion Animal
Meet the Vet
When you’ve identified the vet you feel might be best for your companion animal, schedule a checkup or a get-to-know-you visit. See how the vet handles your companion animals and how they react. While normal stress and wariness are typical in animals out of their normal element, it’s important for your companion and vets to be able to get along enough to perform a basic exam. Some companion animals will be nervous no matter which vet you go to, but pay attention to the vet’s efforts to put your companion at ease. Basically, you’re looking for good bedside manner, for your companion animal.
Their Lives, Health and Overall
Well-Being is in our Hands.