How To Find The Right Veterinarian For Your Pet8 min read
THE RIGHT VETERINARIAN FOR YOUR PET
People often give little thought to the person that they entrust the care of their pet to. Often that animal hospital is chosen because they are the closest to the home or they offer rock bottom prices compared to other offices. Years ago none of this really mattered since very little was expected of the profession back in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Veterinary medicine, back then, was content on just vaccinating and neutering pets. Throw in a basic illness or two and that was it. Today, veterinary medicine is a technological powerhouse capable of treating medical conditions similar to their cousins practicing human medicine.
Back when I was in college I read every book written by James Herriott. “All Creatures Great and Small” was the backbone of my undergraduate days that gave me inspiration. Life was relatively simple in those days when that series was written. Sitting and staring out at the Yorkshire, England hills sure sounded like a great way to spend an afternoon! Clients of Dr. Herriot simply waited for him to arrive at their barn or home. Fast forward to today. Things are not the way they appear. Take a look at what you need to know to find the right veterinarian for your pet.
IS IT A MIXED ANIMAL OR SMALL ANIMAL PRACTICE?
This is usually an issue for people living in a rural or suburban area. I have yet to see any cattle roaming the street of any city in America. All veterinarians in cities treat companion animals, pocket pets or birds. If you live in a rural area decide the type of office you wish to patronize. Veterinarians that work on large animals work long, hard hours. They are often doing house calls. They hold office hours for their small animal patients but may not be available when you need them due to their house call obligations. Consider a small animal only practice in those cases. Regardless, ask for a tour of the hospital and facilities. If they refuse or hem and haw look elsewhere.
HOW FAR IS THE OFFICE FROM YOUR HOME OR OFFICE?
The average distance between a client and a veterinary office is just about 2.5 miles. Proximity to the office is an important consideration when choosing the right veterinarian for your pet. Most people live on tight schedules and do not want to be stuck in traffic driving across town to a veterinary office. Many pets, particularly cats, hate car rides so consider an office that is relatively close to your home. If your pet suffers an emergency, being close to your veterinarian’s office is crucial so the animal can be worked on in the shortest amount of time.
ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE
In choosing the right veterinarian for your pet pay close attention to the communication skills of the veterinary office. Does the receptionist sound friendly and helpful on the phone or does the individual sound harried or rushed? A good receptionist is worth more than their weight in gold to any practice owner. When visiting the office do the employees get along and work as one team? Does the veterinarian take his or her time to answer any questions you have about your pet’s health? If your pet is hospitalized does the staff keep you up to date on your pet’s progress?
DOES THE HOSPITAL HAVE BOARDING FACILITIES?
This in itself is not a make or break decision on whether to stay with or leave a medical practice but offering boarding facilities does make an owner’s life much easier. If you have to travel on short notice most hospitals are happy to accommodate you. If your pet is on maintenance therapy for any medical condition, such as daily insulin injections, consider that a plus as your pet will be taken care of by a veterinarian. Even if your pet is healthy consider the piece of mind knowing that your pet will be treated IF TAKEN ILL while you are away. This happens more times then you think!
EASE OF SCHEDULING APPOINTMENT TIMES
There is one thing that I know for a fact after owning a practice for years. That is the gratitude that most people feel when you can squeeze their extremely sick or injured animal into your busy schedule. Most successful practices will leave openings throughout the day for cases such as these or will stay after hours to take care of your pet. Selecting the right veterinarian for your pet is staring you right in the face if you find a practice that takes you ASAP. If it takes weeks or longer to schedule a pet for a sick appointment time look elsewhere.
NEIGHBOR OR CO-WORKER REFERRALS
If you have recently moved to a new town ask your neighbors where they take their pets. Not every person will have selected the same practice but ask them the reasons why they chose one hospital over another. Your state veterinary medical board may also provide a list of practitioners in your area if you contact them.
HOW DOES A PRACTICE HANDLE EMERGENCIES?
Emergencies can happen to any person or pet at any time of the day or night. When looking for the right veterinarian for your pet it is crucial to know how your veterinarian handles after hour emergency calls. Some veterinarians will take care of their own client’s emergency cases while others join a group where one person handles all the medical cases of the practices during a particular night or weekend. Others will refer all after hour cases to specialized emergency clinics. If your veterinarian does this LOCATE AND TIME how long it takes to drive from your home to THAT office. All of this is important since time saves lives. For this reason, the state of Florida requires all animal hospitals to have their emergency information posted on their front door. Other states may have similar requirements.
SPECIAL NICHE SITUATIONS
The internet has been a great thing for individual veterinary practices. Their websites offer a wealth of information. Once you have a few offices in mind take the time to check out their websites. A good website will be one that is not cluttered but easy to find specific information- such as business hours offered throughout the week. Some will have forms that can be printed out and taken to the office so time is not wasted in the office. Just as important are the biographies and pictures of all staff members. Take a look at them and you will learn a bit about that person that will be taking care of your pet. They may even share a hobby or interest that you do.
One of the services I used to offer throughout the ownership of my Ohio practice were house calls. People really appreciated that I would take the time to come to their home. Many of those calls were to perform euthanasia on animals too infirm or ill to come to the office. Other people’s lives were so harried that they were happy to pay a bit extra to vaccinate a household of pets. Finding the right veterinarian for your pet might just be the one that offers house calls.
If you cannot take the time to go to a local animal hospital your area may offer veterinarians that own mobile clinics. These vehicles are mini hospitals on wheels that deliver vaccination, surgical and radiological services right to your front door. They are usually found in heavily populated cities around the country.
Some day I should write a modern version of “All Creatures Great and Small”. As a veterinarian you have to be able to think quick on your feet. I used to treat an owner’s herd of Great Pyrenees dogs. They were usually drenched in brown mud, so much so, that it was hard to tell if they really were Pyrenees dogs. He lived in a rural area and wanted to know if I could squeeze in another patient. I said sure. He came back an hour later. He walked around to the passenger side of the pickup and picked up something wrapped in a blanket. It had horns. Funny looking dog I thought. It was a goat with a stifle (knee) injury. I successfully treated it and sent it on its way. I always loved working on goats. Such cute little creatures.