As always, I have strong opinions about choosing a veterinarian just as I am prejudiced when I choose a doctor for my own health. Luckily, I came to know the half dozen vet clinics in my area with all their strengths and weaknesses during the six years that I owned a pet sitting business. I had the advantage of recommendations from my clients and had contact with most of the offices as I made rounds to meet the staff or called for meds or advice when I had a sick dog or cat under my care.
When asked by folks, “who do you use as a vet?”, my answer is “it depends on what I need”. I go to one for teeth cleaning and general health because I just like and trust her, one when I want an alternative to prescription meds because she is trained in Chinese alternative medicine, one for my puppy tail docking because she knows the breed standard and is consistent, another for reproductive issues because that is her expertise and a mobile vet that comes to my house for my puppy wellness checks before they leave my care. I just realized they are all women…too strange!
However, these guidelines are important to me:
1–Does the vet talk to me? Do they have time to answer my questions? It is easy to tell if it is an “in and out” kind of office where number of clients is more important that good relationships.
2–Does the doctor practice good medicine? Do I trust them? Do they offer reasons why they are choosing the treatment options? Do they give me alternatives?
3–Is the vet on call for me off hours or do they only have an answering machine? In my case, I need a vet that is on call for C-sections in the middle of the night on a weekend for a reasonable price or has advice for a difficult whelp where my bitch is at risk when I call to ask. (Been there)
4–Do they require what I consider unnecessary tests before basic treatment is tried, seemingly to raise my bill? One of my favorite vets offers me advice on home remedies and holistic methods, often before giving a prescription or in addition to meds.
5–Is the office clean? No vet’s office is spotless, but clean enough is important. Sick dogs come and go and I don’t like to take in my healthy dog for shots and risk them coming out diseased.
6–Is the office staff efficient? It bugs me if the clerks are gossiping or eating lunch at their desk while ignoring folks that are waiting in line. Even worse is them snickering about clients behind their backs.
7–Is the vet coming to my house helpful? When I have puppies, it is much easier to pay an extra $25 to have the mobile vet come to me for shots and wellness checks. Typically, if my older dogs are also due immunizations, we may do that at the same time.
8–Does the vet like my breed and my dog specifically? And, does my dog like the vet? Our dogs do not forget a bad experience and luckily, the vets I use both like Mini Aussies and also like my pooches. The dogs can tell because they are not freaked out when we walk in the door. Nervous yes, freaked out..no.
9–Is the vet smart about nutrition? This is another one that is important to me. Since Science Diet is a sponsor of most veterinary schools, their products are on the shelves for sale. I also like to see higher quality grain free foods for sale and the doctor knowledgeable about grain allergies and sometimes particular protein intolerance in dogs. Just a side note, Swagger is doing excellent having eliminated dog food with chicken from his diet. My general purpose vet noted that on his chart recently and we talked about it at length. It is not uncommon but sometimes difficult to detect.
10–Does the vet have good techs? After all, the techs do a lot of the routine work like nurses in our hospitals, so they need to also have expertise at both their jobs and also be good at handling the dog patients.
Pricing is important in our dog’s health care picture, but must be balanced with the quality of the care they receive. Many issues are preventable by good nutrition and weight management, but when our pets are ill or need routine preventative care, we are responsible for finding a good doctor to treat them.