You love your dog and want them to live a good, long, healthy life. Finding a great veterinarian is one of the most important things you can do to make sure that happens.
If you don't have a vet you love, the best time to start looking for one is right now. Trust us - you don't want to be scrambling for help when your dog is sick.
Unfortunately, finding a great vet for your dog isn't always straightforward. If you're feeling overwhelmed, intimidated, or confused by the process, or if you just want to be sure that you're making the best choice for your pet, this guide is for you.
What Makes a Great Vet Great?
So what do we mean when we say "great vet?" A great vet is someone who has the skill, consistency, and compassion to see your dog through life's ups and downs. Here are a few of the most important traits to keep in mind as you choose a veterinarian:
- Training and Licensing: A well trained vet will hold a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. This means they've successfully completed four years of post-graduate training in animal medicine, surgery, and behavior. Your vet should also be licensed in your state.
- Compassion and Communication: Your vet should communicate well with both you and your dog. Bringing your pet in for a checkup can be a stressful experience for both of you. A great vet will help you both feel more at ease.
- Compatible Philosophy: Different veterinarians will have different philosophies and approaches to their care. For example, vets have varying policies on vaccinations or diagnostic tests. The best vet for you is the one whose philosophies match your own.
- A Love of Animals: Look for someone who became a veterinarian because they love animals, not because they wanted to make money. A great vet is warm and comfortable around any animal that walks into their practice.
Where Can You Find a Great Vet?
Chances are there are many veterinarians in your area. How do you start narrowing down your choices? Start with some of these resources to make a short list of vets you'd like to learn more about:
- Friends and Family: The people around you are likely to want the same things in a vet as you do. Ask a few people you trust about who they bring their pets to. Learn a little more about what they like about their vet to decide if they might be a good fit for you.
- The Internet: On one hand, the internet can be a valuable resource for learning about an unfamiliar veterinarian. Search for vets in your area to find out more about their experience, education, services, and office hours. On the other hand, it's best to take the reviews you read online with a grain of salt. People are most likely to review a veterinarian if they've had a particularly good (or, more likely, a particularly bad) experience. This makes it difficult to get an unbiased view. Your best step is to visit a vet in person before drawing any conclusions.
- Your Current Vet: If you're moving to another city or state, your current vet may be able to recommend a practice in your new location. This is a particularly great resource if you're looking for a new clinic with a similar philosophy as your current vet.
What Should You Look For the First Time You Visit a Vet?
Make a list of three or four veterinarians you'd like to learn more about, then schedule a visit with each one. This first visit is your chance to get to know more about each vet's facility, policies, experience, and personality. Take all of the following into consideration when you visit each vet:
- The Facility: The facility a veterinarian works in is a reflection of the vet. Is the facility clean? Do you notice any unpleasant odors when you walk in the door? Are you allowed to take a tour of the non-public areas?
- The Staff: A great vet is supported by a great staff. Look for the same traits that you'd want in any other professional environment. Is the staff responsive when you walk in? Are they polite? Do they act and dress professionally? Do you feel comfortable talking with them? Ask about their phone policies. Someone knowledgeable should be available by phone to answer questions, and you should always be able to leave a message with the veterinarian to call you back.
- Office Hours and Communication: Even the best vet will be difficult to work with if they're not there when you need them! Learn more about each practice's office hours. Do they work with your schedule? How do they accept scheduling requests? Do they have emergency coverage after hours? How long do you have to wait when scheduling a non-emergency appointment?
- Pricing and Fees: Veterinary care is important, and it's not something you want to skimp on. However, different vets vary on their services and pricing structure. Ask each vet you visit about their pricing on vaccinations, checkups, spay/neutering (if this is relevant to you), dental, and emergency care. Some vets offer discounts for senior citizens or for people who have more than one pet in their household. Ask about these discounts if they are relevant to you.
- Services: Vets vary greatly in the types of services they provide. Learn more about the services available at each practice to make sure they fit your needs. Does the veterinarian have a network of specialists they can refer you to? Does the practice provide non-medical services, such as grooming or boarding? Do they offer educational materials for pet-owners?
- Your Impression of the Veterinarian: You'll be seeing your veterinarian on a regular basis over the course of your dog's life. Therefore, you want to make sure they are someone you can get along with on a personal level. Are you comfortable talking with the vet? Do they explain and educate in a thoughtful and approachable way? Are they warm and comforting towards your pets?
Your Veterinarian is Your PartnerYou and your veterinarian will work together to keep your dog healthy and happy. Take the time to make sure you've found the right vet for your pet. Not only is it the best choice for your dog's health, it's the first step to creating a rewarding (and lasting) partnership.