Choosing a Vet Today's pets are living longer, healthier lives thanks to the availability of high quality medical services and pet-owners' careful monitoring of their animals for early signs of illness. With so much attention being given by owners to their pets' daily needs, it makes sense to take your time in selecting the veterinarian who will become your pet's health care provider? When choosing your veterinarian, use the same care and criteria that you would in selecting a physician or dentist. Think about what is important to you, your goal should be to find the veterinarian who you believe can best meet your pet's medical needs and with whom you feel comfortable in establishing a long-term relationship. What is the range of medical services that the practice provides? Does the hospital have educational materials for pet-owners on a variety of topics? If necessary, does the veterinarian have a network of specialists for referrals? How are emergency calls handled during regular office hours and a fter office hours? Is the building environment clean and orderly? Are there any unpleasant odors? Can you take a tour of the non-public areas? Are the doctors’ members of a professional veterinary association such as the American Veterinary Medical Association or a state or local veterinary association? What is the hospital policy regarding continuing education for the professional staff? How many vets are there on staff? If you need to make an urgent appointment, you don’t want to be waiting around while precious minutes tick past. Ideally, there’ll be at least two qualified veterinarians on hand (not just technicians or assistants.) What kind of testing and analysis capabilities does the clinic have? If they have to send away to a lab for analysis it means that the results are going to be delayed. If your pet is very sick, time is an important factor: its best if the clinic has at least blood-analysis testing on hand. What after-hours services are available? A lot of clinics close the doors in the evenings and on weekends, which means that if there’s an emergency, you’ll have to go somewhere else and subject your pet and yourself to an unfamiliar vet. In a high- stress situation when emotions are running high, it’s reassuring for your pet and yourself to deal with someone familiar. What’s their price range? How are payments made? Is there a facility for payment plans in case of unexpected vet bills? The payment-plan option is particularly important. Even with pet insurance, vet bills can sometimes be astronomical – and not everyone has the resources to deal with large vet bills straight away. Ask the clinic how they cater for situations like that. How up-to-date is the staff with advances in the industry? Do the vet, the technicians, and the assistants attend seminars and workshops regularly? The field of medical care is always moving forward – responsible vets make the effort to keep up with the times, and see that their staff does, too. MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICE Even though it’s tempting to go for the vet closest to your home with the rock-bottom prices, it really is worthwhile taking the time to shop around. Your dog is dependent on you for their healthcare and if you take them seriously as a companion and member of the family, you’ll want to take the time to find the right vet. A good vet knows how to take care of you as well as your dog. The relationship that you have with your vet will hopefully be one that’s based around a healthy mutual respect and positive synergy. The veterinarian you choose will want to maintain an ongoing history of your pet, including health records that detail immunizations, reactions to medications, surgical procedures, behavior traits, etc. They will also advise you on the best preventative care program available to maintain your pet's health. Where to Look for a Veterinarian Ask a Friend Friends with pets are generally a good source of information. Ask them why they chose their veterinarian. If you believe their expectations of service are similar to yours, you may want to schedule a visit to the facility. Breed Clubs If you have a purebred dog or cat, area breed clubs can be a good source of information. They have often established a strong relationship with a practice that is very familiar with the potential health-related problems for your particular breed. Your Current Veterinarian If you are relocating to another city or state, ask your current veterinarian if they can recommend a practice where you will be living. Many times they have colleagues in other towns whose practice policies and services are similar to theirs. Your current veterinarian should also give you copies of your pet's medical records to take to the new practice to ensure your pet's medical history is available to the new staff. When to Look for a Veterinarian It is a good idea to start thinking about choosing a veterinarian before acquiring a new pet. In fact, a veterinarian can assist you in selecting a pet that complements your personality, work schedule, and home life. If you have recently moved to a new area, locate a veterinarian before your pet actually needs one. Don't wait until your pet becomes ill or requires emergency care. It is best to have secured a doctor's name and number and become acquainted with the practice and staff in advance of such situations. Consider scheduling an initial visit soon after arriving at your new home. Your veterinarian will suggest ways to help your pet become accustomed to its unfamiliar environment. Your Responsibility As a Pet Owne r In order for your veterinarian to maintain your pet's good health, it is important for you to schedule regular checkups and practice preventive care at home. At each appointment, be sure to communicate clearly your pet's behavior and habits. Since many signs of illness are subtle, even minor changes in your pet's behavior can give your doctor valuable information on what might become a serious health issue. Remember that veterinarian’s care as much about you as an owner as they do about your pets. They are available to give you the information and resources you need to take the best possible care of your animals. By taking the time to select the veterinarian that you feel confident can provide for your needs as an owner and the medical needs of your pet, you will establish a rewarding partnership.