How to Choose a Veterinarian

Your pet is an important family member. Like any family member, it’s important to find the right doctor for your pet so that your pet can remain healthy and have a long life.

Like people doctors, veterinarians come with an array of specialties, so it’s important to find the right veterinarian for both your pet and you. But how do you know which veterinarian is right for your pet?

Start with Recommendations

Often, the best approach is to ask your friends and family whom they use for a veterinarian. A glowing recommendation is often a good sign that the veterinarian is a good one and will suit your needs. However, if you’re not getting good recommendations, or you’re moving to a new area where you don’t know anyone, or if your friends’ and family’s veterinarians are too far away to consider, you may have to look for a veterinarian who will suit your needs and the needs of your pet.

Looking for the Right Veterinarian

When you look for a veterinarian, you’ll want to use the same criteria as you would if you were looking for a doctor for yourself. Look in online directories such as Yelp, and visit AAHA, the American Animal Hospital Association, for a listing of accredited AAHA practices near you, if accreditation is important to you.

If the veterinarians have webpages, you can find out the veterinarians’ locations, hours, payment options, and services they provide. Otherwise, you’ll have to call those veterinarians and ask.

Questions to ask include:

  • What are the clinic’s hours, payment options, and overall services?
  • Does the clinic offer after-hours emergency services?  If not, which emergency services do they recommend?
  • How many veterinarians are in this practice?
  • Does anyone in the clinic have particular specialties?
  • Does the clinic or veterinarians have any special accreditations?
  • If you have an avian or an exotic pet, do the veterinarians have experience with this kind of animal? How much?
  • How much do you charge for an office visit, vaccinations, and spay or neuter? You may also want to ask about flea and tick preventive, heartworm preventive, and other medications (if your pet is currently on a particular medication).
  • Does the clinic offer boarding?
  • Does the clinic have references? If they do, contact the references and ask about the veterinarians and the clinics.

The Grand Tour

Once you have narrowed down your choices, you should contact the clinic for a visit without your pet. They can often tell you the best times for you to stop by and see the clinic when it is less busy. When you get there, look around. Is it clean and inviting, or is there too much clutter? Are the species, such as cats and dogs, kept separated? Do the cages and pens look adequate for the animal, and do the animals look safe and well cared for? Will they allow you in the non-public areas so you can see how it looks?

Make an Appointment

If you think you’ve found a clinic you like, make an appointment for your pet with the veterinarian for a check-up. You’ll be able to see how the veterinarian handles your pet, and the overall care your pet receives with the staff. Ask questions. The veterinarian should be able to answer them to your satisfaction.

How do you like the staff? Does everyone answer your questions thoughtfully? If there is any concern, consider checking out your second choice. You should be able to find a veterinarian that is right for both you and your pet, with enough searching.