Choosing a Veterinarian

A male veterinarian with a stethoscope around his neck with a white jacket on is getting a kiss from a German Shepherd dog on an exam room table.



One of the important aspects of choosing a veterinarian is proximity. Proximity means how close are you to a veterinary practice? The average distance from home to clinic in the U.S. is about 2 1/2 miles. Distance is important. A lot of animals dislike car rides plus during an emergency, you do not want to be that far from an animal hospital.




A veterinarian referral is one of the best ways in choosing a veterinarian. Ask a neighbor or co-worker where they take their pets and ask why they chose that particular veterinary practice.




Nothing against mixed animal veterinarians but if they are practicing solo it would be hard to get them when they are on a large animal call. For dogs and cats I would recommend choosing a veterinarian that does just dogs and cats plus pocket pets.




It is appropriate to ask who is available for after hour emergencies. Is it that same practice or do they refer all calls to a local emergency clinic? Be sure to find out this information WAY BEFORE you need it so you know exactly where to go.




If you own an animal that requires daily medication such as a dog or cat needing insulin, ask if they do medical boarding so that if there are medical problems while you are away; a licensed veterinarian will be on premises to take care of it.




Call up in advance and ask to meet the veterinarian and get a tour of the premises. When choosing a veterinarian this is important. Make sure you note the quality of the equipment, cleanliness, staff friendliness, surgical suites and boarding facilities. If they refuse to give you a tour, walk away.



Everyone needs a vacation plus what happens if you have to travel on an emergency? When choosing a veterinarian ask if the practice boards and call ahead to visit the boarding facilities. If you see dogs boarding in one area and cats in another, that is good.




When choosing a veterinarian ask a neighbor how well the staff works together. Communication is key for Class A medical care. Does the Dr. explain his or her diagnosis and treatment plan in appropriate non condescending language? Do the technicians take the time to further answer other questions? Ditto the front staff?




Having a sick animal and being told that the next appointment is in 2 weeks is not good. Successful practices sprinkle in basic outpatient work leaving time for emergencies and sick animals that need immediate care, not tomorrow! This is when choosing a veterinarian is most important! If you can not get an appointment at a reasonable time, look elsewhere for another practice.




It might seem like a contradiction but when you are with the veterinarian make sure that he talks to the pet, strokes its coat, calls it by its name plus noticing whether it is a boy or girl! Put another way, does the Doctor actually care about the pet?




Choosing a veterinarian the old school way was to look in the yellow pages of the phone book. Use the online version also to find veterinarians in your area. You can “google” for practices in your area. Many offices also have websites where you can take a virtual tour and see pictures of the Dr. and staff.




When choosing a veterinarian contact the state medical board in your state. They will be happy to give you a list of licensed veterinarians in your area that might suit your needs. Remember, the medical boards regulate the practice of veterinary medicine in your state. You can “Google” XYZ state board to get contact info.

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