Before you bring your new pet home, it’s a good idea to begin the search for a veterinarian.
When you first get your pet, you should take them to the vet to have an exam and any vaccinations needed. This should include a fecal examination to check for internal parasites. This is when you can schedule your pet’s appointment to be neutered/spayed, too, if they haven’t already had that surgery.
There are other times in your pet’s life that you might need to go through the veterinarian-choosing process as well; if you move, for example, you might need a new vet.
No matter what the situation may be, check out the following tips to help you choose a veterinarian for your pets.
Word of mouth is generally the best advertising and the best way to find a veterinarian who will meet your needs. Ask your pet-loving friends, neighbors, and acquaintances who they use for a veterinarian.
Perhaps just as importantly, ask who they avoid: Sometimes, someone will have had a bad experience with a veterinarian and won’t see them any longer. Of course, you will need to take bad experiences with a grain of salt, as some people will blame a vet for a poor prognosis or another unfortunate event that is out of their control.
In addition to asking people you know, check Yelp, Google reviews, and other sites that can shed some light on which vets in your area are favored by dog and cat owners. If you have an exotic pet, such as a lizard or a bird, you can look for vets who have experience with those animals, too, using review sites.
View the Waiting Room
You can stop into a vet’s office without an appointment to take a peek at the waiting area. You’ll want to see that it is clean and that there is enough room for pets to spread out to avoid mishaps and unwanted contact between dogs who don’t get along well with others or between a curious dog and a fearful cat.
A full waiting room can be a good sign, as it means that a lot of people like that particular vet and office. However, an overfull waiting room, particularly if it is filled with people who look angry and annoyed, can mean that an office does not schedule patients well and gets backed quickly. Any office can have a rough day with emergencies, but if you stop in a few times and the waiting room is always overfilled, that might not be a good sign.
Additionally, you should ask to get a tour through the hospital to see how clean it is, how organized it is, etc. This is one of the best ways to evaluate a facility.
Of course, the only way you will be able to stop in to check out the waiting area is if the office is a short trip from where you live.
While it might not be a problem to drive 30 minutes or more for a relaxed, routine visit for shots and blood work, if your pet is seriously ill or injured, every minute spent in the car will be stressful and potentially painful for your furry friend. If possible, choose a veterinarian that is relatively close to your home.
At the same time, you will want to check the office hours. Many vets are open for a half day on Saturdays or 1 or 2 evenings per week. If you work typical hours, such as 8 to 5 on weekdays, finding an office that is open after hours or on weekends will be more convenient for you.
Talk to the Manager About Policies
Before you make an appointment with the veterinarian, you should call and talk to the office manager.
- Find out what the policies are in terms of how quickly pets can be brought in for sick or injury visits.
- Ask what is recommended if a pet has an emergency at night or at other times when the office is closed. In some cases, the vet might be available for phone calls; at other offices, patients are referred to an emergency clinic.
- You should also find out about payment policies. Do they take payments, or are you expected to pay the bill when you arrive? The latter is more common; if it is a problem, do they accept CareCredit or another pet financing credit card?
- Finally, ask what the fees are for some common procedures. How much is an office visit? What about routine vaccinations? Find out what they charge for a spay or neuter surgery and for annual blood work. You can compare these prices to those at other offices in the area. It’s important to note that, while you want to choose a veterinary clinic that fits your budget and needs, pricing isn’t a great indicator of whether a given facility is the right fit. It’s worth paying a little more if one location spends a greater amount of time with each animal they care for.
Visit the Veterinarian
Once you feel comfortable with an office, its location, its policies, and the staff member you have spoken to, it is time to make an appointment to talk to the veterinarian. Usually, this is done with the pet so you can see how your pet reacts to them and how they interact with your pet.
If your pet has special needs or a health concern, bring it up to see how the veterinarian handles it. For example, if your dog tends to snap at strangers, is the vet gentle and calm or fearful? Does he or she explain to you why a muzzle is needed? (The veterinarian and staff need to keep everyone safe, and a muzzle can prevent many problems that can stem from even a small bite.)
Discuss concerns you have about any procedures, medications, or vaccines your vet recommends. The vet should explain his or her philosophies in a way that you can understand, and you should feel respected in the office.
It can be overwhelming to choose a veterinarian, but if you take a step-by-step approach, you will likely find an animal doctor who is perfect for your family’s pet-care needs.