If you haven’t already found one, or worked with one in the past, you need to find a vet. Pick one you feel comfortable with, and who answers your questions in full, completely and gives you answers you can understand. You don’t need a vet who talks down to you, or acts like you’re too dumb to understand what they’re saying!
Find a vet, if possible, who specializes in small animals (as opposed to one who treats large and small – like horses, cows, cats and dogs.) Your community may only have vets that do a little bit of everything – and there’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s all that’s available, but I’ll remind you – you usually go to a specialist for your health issues, don’t you?
If you’re new in the community, or haven’t needed a vet before – word of mouth is a great way to start looking for a new vet. Ask everybody you can get your hands on – co-workers, friends with pets, local humane societies or shelters. Ask questions: are they happy with their vet? Do they like the way they’re treated when they take their dogs in?
If your dog is a particular breed, check with the local or state breed associations to find out who they use, or local breeders. This can be especially useful if you buy a puppy from a local breeder, because the vet will have seen your puppy and know at least some of his history.
Once you have a referral from someone you trust, here are some questions to ask:
1. What services does the vet offer?
Is it a one-doctor office, or a multi-doctor practice? As vets try to streamline services many are consolidating practices and forming partnerships and group practices. There’s nothing wrong with this – just be aware that you may not always see the same vet. And find out if they offer 24 hour emergency services, or if he or she is affiliated with someone in the area who does. Like everything else in life, illness or accidents don’t always happen between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.
2. Does the vet offer a full surgery suite with on-site lab work? X-rays? Ultrasound?
If the vet has to send all lab tests to an outside agency to be processed, you may be getting popped with additional charges because those tests aren’t being performed or processed in-house.
3. Get a fee schedule.
Cost is usually one of the biggest considerations for dog owners, and it should be lowest on the list of importance, at least in my mind. Not because cost isn’t important – of course it is, but – if you have a vet that you’re happy with – who gives your dog the best care you can possibly find in your area – does paying a little extra for that care really matter in the long run?
4. Check out the physical characteristics of the facility.
Is it clean, or does it smell? Are the ads or magazines in the waiting room current? (That may not sound important, but if the staff and doctors aren’t keeping up-to-date on the latest and greatest information, this may not be the place you want to bring your dog.)
5. Communication – by that I mean how well does your vet communicate with you?
Will he or she explain the condition or illness in terms that you can easily understand, or do they try to confuse you with high-tech or medical jargon? A good vet will go over treatment options with you, explain necessary tests, review x-rays or test results, give complete and clear instructions for home care or further testing requirements, etc.
Take your time to do a complete and thorough evaluation before choosing a new vet. Your dog’s life literally depends on what choice you make. Make it a careful one