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Key Points
  • Make an in-person visit to vet practices to check on location, cleanliness, and organization.
  • Find a veterinarian who shares your philosophies about pet care.
  • Observe how the veterinarian and staff members connect with your dog to reduce stress.

Choosing the right veterinarian for your dog is a serious decision. You’ll want to consider factors such as your canine companion’s age, underlying medical conditions, or previous injuries and surgeries. Your dog may need a veterinarian with specialty training, with state-of-the-art equipment, or one who offers special services.

Here are a few tips on what to do when selecting a veterinarian:

Get recommendations

Talk to neighbors, friends, and family. Find out whom they use and are willing to recommend. Talk to breeders or breed club members who likely know of veterinarians knowledgeable about your breed and the types of problems they experience. Groomers, managers of local shelters, and local dog trainers could be helpful, and state and local veterinary societies can also help you locate a convenient, reputable veterinarian.

Visit local veterinary hospitals without your dog

Take a tour and observe whether the office is clean and well organized. Ask about services they provide, find out what hours they are open, and ask what provisions are made for emergency coverage (after-hours and weekends). Many veterinary practices provide in-house digital x-rays, dental x-rays, pet dental care, ultrasounds, and radiology, as well as veterinary surgical services such as general surgery and neutering, orthopedic procedures, and assistance with chemotherapy. Find out what arrangements are available for specialty referrals. What is the average wait time for making a non-emergency appointment? Can you request an appointment with a specific veterinarian?

Find out whether the practice’s treatment philosophies match yours

Ask the veterinarians for their beliefs about treating cancer, spaying and neutering, supporting senior dogs, and euthanasia. Do they believe in prescribing holistic or alternative treatments when appropriate? Do they emphasize preventative care? If you have children, would they be welcome to accompany you for a routine office visit? It’s great to be able to teach your children what’s involved in responsible pet care. Is the vet patient when answering your questions?

veterinary examing cute beagle dog at clinic

Consider location

A close and convenient location is beneficial when you’re taking your dog to the vet. And should your dog need emergency care, you’ll want to know exactly where to go. If your new veterinarian does not provide 24-hour care, they should provide precise directions to the nearest 24-hour emergency facility.

Ask about fees

Compare charges and avoid deals that look too good to be true. As with most products or services, you get what you pay for. Your best course of action is to ask ahead of time about fees, costs of procedures, and what methods of payments are available and expected. Find out if the veterinarian provides written estimates for services. Are payment plans or financial assistance options available if you need them? If your pet is insured, does the clinic accept your insurance plan? Are you provided with a detailed explanation of services for every visit?

Check on professional accreditations and experience

How many veterinarians and licensed veterinary technicians are on staff? Find out how long they have been in practice, and about their education and training background. Do they participate in continuing education? Are they accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)? Are the veterinarians members of a professional veterinary association such as the American Veterinary Medical Association and their state or local veterinary association?

Visit the veterinarian’s office with your dog

Stop in with your dog and observe the “bedside manner” of the veterinary and office staff. How do they try to make your dog feel at ease? Have they set up the waiting area and examination rooms to make your dog feel as comfortable as possible?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “Today’s pets are living longer, healthier lives thanks to the availability of high-quality veterinary care, preventive care, and pet owners’ careful monitoring of their animals for early signs of illness. When choosing your family’s veterinarian, use the same care and criteria that you would in selecting a physician or dentist. Your goal should be to find the veterinarian who you believe can best meet your pet’s medical needs and with whom you feel comfortable in establishing a long-term veterinarian-client-patient relationship.”

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