Today’s guest writer is Robbi Hess, Story Editor at Positively Woof. Robbi is writing about how to choose the best veterinarian for your furry family member. 

When you take on the role of “pet parent” one of the most important decisions you make in the well-being of your pet is choosing a veterinarian. Much of the decision-making in choosing the veterinarian might very well be based on personal feelings – you wouldn’t take your pet to a vet with whom you didn’t feel comfortable, right? But skills, expertise and the highest standard of care need to factor into choosing the right vet.

Because World Veterinary Day (April 28) is upon us, we offer this advice on how to choose the best veterinarian for your furry family member.

When should you begin your search for a veterinarian?

Many pet parents look for a veterinarian prior to bringing home their dog. Why? Because you can set up a one-on-one just to ask questions of the vet you may use to get to know him or her before you bring home your puppy or dog.

If you’re moving to a new area, search out a potential veterinarian for your dog(s). You don’t want to have to meet a vet for the first time when you’re in an emergency situation.

How To Find A Great Veterinarian For Your Dog

What should you look for in a veterinary practice?

The American Animal Hospital Association evaluates vet practices and offers accreditation to practices that meet its requirements. You don’t have to only look for an AAHA accredited practice, but this may be a deal-breaker for some pet parents. Even if a practice isn’t accredited, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great practice.

Ask friends and family for recommendations for a veterinarian. If you’re adopting a dog or puppy from a shelter, ask which vet they use for the animals in their care.

How do I know the veterinarian I’m researching is right for my dog?

Again, this is a very personal decision – just as if you were choosing a new physician for yourself or a family member. Take your time and remember if you don’t care for a veterinarian, you can always choose a different one.

Here are some items to consider when choosing a veterinarian:

  1. Ask for a consultation  – without bringing your dog. Talk with the vet, get a feel for the practice, its employees and the facility.
  2. When you’re at the appointment, ask for a tour of the examination rooms and other public areas.
  3. How many vets are on staff.
  4. What kind of after-hour services do you offer or will you need to go to a different location for emergency after-hour issues?
  5. Don’t be shy about asking questions. A good veterinarian will appreciate and welcome your concern about your pets’ care.
  6. Schedule a well visit with the practice. You don’t want your first visit to be under a  stressful, emergency situation.
  7. Do you feel a kinship with the vet? Do you feel comfortable with him or her caring for your fur baby? If you don’t have a “good feeling” go with your gut and continue your search.

What kind of questions should you ask a potential vet?

This is important information, especially if you’re a first time dog owner.

  1.      Are you AAHA-accredited? Remember, this doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, especially if this is a small practice.
  2.      How are overnight patients monitored and cared for?
  3.      Do you have a referral network in case my pet has a unique or intense health care issue?
  4.      How do you evaluate whether my dog is healthy enough for anesthesia or a surgical procedure?
  5.      How to manage pain for my dog?
  6.      Do you have licensed veterinary techs on staff? How many? May I meet them?
  7.      How long have you been running your practice?
  8.      Do you keep cats and dogs in separate areas?
  9.      Do you do ultrasounds, x-rays and other diagnostics in house or will you need to be referred to a different practice?
  10.  Do you have any specialty interests? Senior dog care, behavior issues such as dealing with dog separation anxiety, etc.
  11.  What are your fees? Do you give estimates for unique care issues, ie dental cleanings, elective surgeries, annual wellness visits, etc. Do they offer discounts for multi-pet households?

Don’t forget, it is necessary for you to be a good pet parent. Having good “client manners” will foster a better relationship with your veterinarian and the practice.

Remember, if you have a problem with your veterinarian, you can switch. Some pet parents will switch vets if they feel the vet isn’t properly caring for their dog or if they feel the vet is not listening to the pet parents’ concerns. You are your dog’s best advocate and he relies on you to be his voice.

When you are making a decision to switch vets, whether you’re moving or are unhappy with the practice, request a complete copy of your dog’s health records as you will need them for your new vet.

If your dog has a vet visit on April 28, you can celebrate World Vet Day by thanking him or her for the care they provide your beloved furry family member.