How to choose the right vet for your pet

Welcoming a new pet into the house is one of the most exciting times in family life! Picking out toys, making sure you have just the right dishes, deciding where he or she is going to sleep – the choices are endless! One of the first and most important decisions you’ll make, particularly if you’re bringing home a puppy or kitten, is who you are going to entrust with your new pet’s health care.

So how do you pick just the right vet for you? After working in the field for many years, I’ve come up with a list that I give to my own friends and family to help them find the perfect veterinarian, which I’m sharing it with you below:

1. Visit the clinic.

Even if your pet hasn’t come home yet, you can drop by a clinic to get a feel for the place. Is the lobby clean and inviting? Is the front desk staff attentive and happy to speak with you? Depending on how busy the veterinarian is, you may not get to meet without an appointment, but those first impressions from the front desk staff say a lot about the culture of the clinic. If you find a couple of facilities that you like, schedule a “get acquainted” visit to meet the doctor and learn more about team.

2. What are the hours?

Larger clinics may offer weeknight and weekend hours, which is important to many people with busy working schedules. A one-doctor clinic may have more limited hours, which can be a problem for some people. The trade-off is that you often develop a closer one-on-one relationship with a solo practitioner, which is also important to many pet owners. Does the clinic offer drop-offs? This may be a good compromise if you have to go to work but would like your pet to be seen that day.

3. How do they handle after-hours emergencies?

In cities, most veterinary hospitals refer clients to an emergency facility after hours. It’s good to know how far this facility is from your home. If it’s important to you to have your own doctor available after-hours, make sure you ask before settling on a clinic.

4. Will you see the same doctor every time?

I’ve worked at hospitals with only one vet present each day, up to a place with 14 doctors on staff. One is a very personal experience, and one offers great convenience. If you find a doctor with whom you have an excellent rapport, you may not want to see anyone else! There’s no right or wrong answer, just what is most important to you.

5. Does the clinic practice up-to-date medicine?

Some facilities still develop x-rays using old film and developer trays, while others have the newest 4D ultrasound. Most facilities are somewhere in the middle; while you don’t always need the fanciest, newest technology and the price that comes along with it, you also want to know your veterinarian is not practicing outdated methods.

6. Does the clinic have special accreditations?

Some hospitals go above and beyond to become certified in special techniques. The hospital itself may be accredited and inspected by the American Animal Hospital Association, which guarantees a high standard of medicine across the board. Individual veterinarians may have specialized training or interests that are important to you, such as holistic medicine, acupuncture, dentistry, behavior, nutrition, or even “fear free” practice (which is an incredible new program that ensures your pet encounters low stress handling through the entire clinic).

Your veterinarian plays a vital role in your pet’s health and happiness, and is one of your main sources of guidance in pet-related questions. The internet is full of advice, some good, some bad, so it’s important to have someone you trust to ensure that the choices you make are the right ones for your family.