After four surgeries and endless trips to the vet for various ailments for two dogs, I am convinced that the selection of a vet is an all-important factor to your dog’s well-being.
It’s well worth taking the time to develop a good relationship with a quality vet.
Where to Start
You could pick a vet from the Yellow Pages or from an Internet search; but would you pick your own doctor from the same source?
My guess is that you’d want a doctor comes highly recommended – someone you can trust.
And the vet isn’t just your dog’s doctor; he’s also the dentist, manicurist, psychologist, and a friend. When you roll all these things up into one, you can see why you need to spend time confirming that you’ve made the right choice.
The best place to start looking for a vet is by referral. If you know friends or relatives who take good care of their dogs, then that’s a place to start. Ask them who they’d recommend, and why. This last one is very important, because everyone has different priorities: for example, your friends like their own vet because he is a specialist in their own particular breed; or they don’t charge very much; or the office is only a five minutes’ drive. Their priorities are not necessarily yours, so it’s a good idea to make sure that your values coincide with the person giving the referral.
Another place to find a vet is through local training clubs (agility, herding classes, police K-9 academies, etc.) These organizations are almost guaranteed to place a great deal of importance on high-quality veterinary care, because the health and well-being of their dogs is such a priority.
Once you’ve compiled a list of vets that you’re interested in pursuing, call up the vet’s office and explain that you want to find a regular vet for your dog(s). Ask if you can you come in for a quick chat, introduce your dog, and have a look at the facility.
Visit the Vet’s Office
Before you decide to align yourself and your dog with a particular vet, test the waters first. Ideally, you want a chance to talk to the vet, and discuss his or her philosophies and approach to dog care.
Also, this is critical - if your dog ever really needs vet care (if there’s an emergency, or if he needs an urgent short-term appointment), you want to be sure that you’ve made the best possible choice as far as his health and comfort levels are concerned. Neither of you should be subjected to undue stress at a time like that – and you can avoid grief by spending a bit of time in preparation.
Questions to Ask the Vet
While you’re at the vet’s office, you’ll be assessing your potential vet’s overall attitude and approach to health care and animals; and you’ll also probably want answers to some specific questions.
Here’s a list of useful questions to help you on your way:
How many vets are there on staff?
If you need to make an urgent appointment, you don’t want to be waiting around while precious minutes tick past. Ideally, there’ll be at least two qualified veterinarians on hand, not just technicians or assistants.
What kind of testing and analysis capabilities does the clinic have?
If they have to send away to a lab for test results, it means that the results are going to be delayed. If your dog is very sick, time is an important factor: it’s best if the clinic has at least blood-analysis testing on hand.
What after-hours services are available?
A lot of clinics close the doors in the evenings and on weekends, which means that if there’s an emergency, you’ll have to go somewhere else – and subject your dog and yourself to an unfamiliar vet. (If you don’t mind this, then that’s fine; but be aware that in a high-stress situation when emotions are running high, it’s reassuring for your dog and yourself to deal with someone familiar.)
What’s their price range? How are payments made? Is there a facility for payment plans in case of unexpected vet bills?
The payment-plan option is particularly important. Even with pet insurance, vet bills can sometimes be high – and not everyone has the resources to deal with large vet bills. Ask the vet how they handle these situations.
How up-to-date is the staff with advances in the industry? Do the vet, the technicians, and the assistants attend seminars and workshops regularly?
The field of medical care is always moving forward. Responsible vets make the effort to keep up with the times, and see that their staff do, too.
Making the Right Selection
When you choose a vet, you’re balancing convenience and quality. There’s no right or wrong vet for you and your dog. That’s why making the choice can be so confusing. There are plenty of vets to choose from, and they’re all different!
Even though it’s tempting to go for the one right around the corner with the lowest prices, it is worthwhile taking the time to shop around. Your dog is dependent on you for his healthcare – and if you take him seriously as a family member, you’ll want to do the best thing by him.
A good vet knows how to take care of you as well as your dog. The relationship that you have with your vet will hopefully be one that’s based around a healthy mutual respect and positive synergy - there should be very little room for misunderstanding. When the two of you see eye to eye, it makes caring for your dog much easier.
For a comrehensive survival guide on stress-free dog care, including detailed information on when your dog needs to see the vet, how to respond to pet emergencies, dog First Aid, and all common health problems, check out the Ultimate Guide to Dog Health. It’s a complete handbook on dog health care, and teaches you how to take a proactive and prepared approach to dog ownership.
Other resources from the authors own experience:
Anal Gland Removal Surgery - Alvin's Story
Simon's Story - Canine Luxating Patella Surgery and Recovery
Material for this article courtesy of Kingdom of Pets
Photo from flickr.com: Veterinarian from Army Medicine