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Choosing The Right Veterinarian

How to Choose a Veterinarian

A veterinarian is your pet’s second-best friend. One of the most important decisions you’ll make as a pet parent is finding a quality health care provider for your furry friend. Selecting the right veterinarian is a personal decision, but you’ll want to choose a practice that offers the highest available standard of care.

What Should I Look For In A Vet?

Pet guardians seek out new vets for a variety of reasons, including a recent adoption or move, concerns about a current vet’s quality of care or treatment for a pet’s specific health problem.

How Do I Find A Vet?

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) evaluates veterinary practices on the quality of their facilities, staff, equipment and patient care. Search the organization’s website at for a list of accredited vets in a specific area. It’s also a good idea to ask for recommendations from friends, family and trusted neighbors—especially those who take a keen interest in a pet’s health and well-being.

Related Article: First Vet Visit Establishes Long-Term Puppy Health >>

How Do I Decide Which Vet Is Right For My Pet?

Here are some things to consider when selecting a vet:

  •  Arrange for a first appointment to speak with a veterinarian without your dog or cat and get an overall feel of the facilities.
  •  During this appointment, look around and consider whether the space is clean, modern and well organized.
  •  Inquire about the number of vets on staff. In many practices, vets may share responsibility for patients and cover for each other during vacations or other absences.
  •  Can we (the vet and pet parent) talk? Feeling at ease in talking with a vet creates the desired rapport and the exchange of ideas needed to maintain pet health. Effective communication is essential to any health care relationship.
  •  Ask questions! Don’t be shy; most vets appreciate it when their clients take an interest in their pets’ care.

What Questions Should I Ask When I’m Selecting A Vet?

Although questions may vary depending on the reason for the visit, the following list may serve as a guide:

  •  Is the practice American Animal Hospital Association -AAHA-accredited?
  •  How are overnight pet patients monitored?
  •  What sort of equipment does the practice use?
  •  Does the vet refer pet patients to specialists?
  •  How are pet patients evaluated before anesthesia and surgery?
  •  Does the practice have licensed veterinary technicians on staff? What is the protocol for pain management?

Other Considerations

Once a pet owner has found a veterinarian he/she feels confident in partnering with to maintain a healthy and happy animal, a large part of the continued success still weighs on the involvement of the owner.

Some guidelines to include in monitoring pet health follow:

  •  See a vet regularly for preventive visits, not just when a pet becomes ill.
  •  Learn what’s normal for your pet, to recognize the first signs of illness. If a pet’s not well, don’t wait until it’s really sick before calling the vet. It’s frustrating for a vet, and heartbreaking to owners, to see an animal die of an illness that could have been treated successfully if professional care had begun sooner.
  •  Schedule appointments and be on time. Lateness is rude and wreaks havoc with the office’s timing.
  •  For a pet’s safety as well as that of other clients and pets, bring the animal to the veterinary office in a carrier.
  •  Don’t disturb a veterinarian during non-working hours for matters that can wait, and don’t expect a veterinarian to diagnose a pet’s problem over the telephone.
  •  In the event of an emergency, call ahead to ensure the veterinarian is available. She may have to work the pet into the regular schedule, so be prepared to wait. If the situation is serious enough, the pet may be referred to an emergency vet hospital to address immediate treatment.

What To Do When You Aren’t Happy With Your Veterinarian

The combined partnership of a pet owner, the veterinarian and the animal constitute a significant relationship, often hinged upon the commitment and professional relationship of the humans involved. At times, a pet owner may feel his veterinarian isn’t meeting his needs as a client or the needs of the pet as a patient. Remember, some times simple misunderstandings cause conflicts, which the pet owner and the vet can resolve by talking things out and looking for solutions. However, a continued pattern of frustration and disappointment by ta pet’s owner may lead to finding a new vet.

For problems resolving a fee or treatment dispute with a vet, a pet owner may contact the ethics and grievance committee of the local or state veterinary association and/or the American Veterinary Medical Association.

For serious issues of medical competence, a pet owner may file a formal complaint with the Veterinary Licensing Board in the state of residence.

And finally, a pet owner can take up the matter as a civil suit with an attorney.