One of the most important decisions you will make as a pet owner is selecting which veterinarian will be looking after the health of your pet. This choice is based on many factors and even if it may take some time and effort, it is well worth your while to do your homework and fully research your options before you make a decision. Don’t be shy – meet and interview the veterinary surgeons in your area and ask questions about his background, specialist area of interest, availability, policy, etc.
In addition, you should be choosing a vet before your new pet arrives as in many cases, it is advisable to stop at the vet for examination and advice before taking your pet home. For example, a new puppy should ideally be examined by the vet within 24 hours of leaving the breeder. Furthermore, selecting a vet beforehand means that you can enjoy your new friend from Day One, secure in the knowledge that you have a good source of veterinary expertise to consult.
Before making up your mind, here are a few things to consider:
Experience and Qualifications
It is vital that the vet you select has experience in the kind of pet you will be getting. Naturally, all vets will be qualified to treat and have some knowledge of a variety of animals; however, personal interest and experience means that all will have certain types that they are more familiar with. Thus, a vet whose main experience is with dogs and cats might not be ideal if you have a pet reptile. Similarly, if you are considering a giant breed dog, a vet who is familiar with the specific problems associated with giant breeds (eg. gastric torsion, cardiac problems, growth problems, special dietary requirements) and ideally has other giant breeds on the clinic client list would be best.
No matter how experienced and technically competent he is, an abrupt, uncommunicative or impatient vet is not satisfactory. It is important that you feel comfortable enough with your vet to discuss any concerns you may have and to feel that you are getting the best advice for the situation, otherwise resentment and distrust will hinder your ability to care for your pet.
Convenience to your home is another important factor, particularly in the case of emergencies or if you need to make multiple visits for treatments. Think not only about distance but also accessibility in terms of transport (if you do not have a car), traffic congestion and parking.
Again, this is very important as you need to be able to consult your vet after-hours, on weekends and on public holidays. Different surgeries will have different office-hours and weekend attendance, as well as different on-call policies for its vets. In some cases, a surgery may be attended by an emergency after-hours service at a different clinic, which may be some distance from your home and this is something that you will need to take into account. In addition, it can be very frustrating to have to wait days for a response from your vet.
Facilities / Services
It is also convenient to select a vet who has services that you might require, such as veterinary dentistry or micro-chipping, as well as possibly a good selection of reputable pet supplies. If you are planning to get a puppy, a veterinary surgery that offers “puppy-parties” or “puppy pre-school” would be ideal as it would not only help socialise your puppy in a safe environment and give you the first step in training your dog but also present the surgery as a positive, welcoming place for your pet which would help enormously in future visits. Many vets also sub-specialise (eg. veterinary cardiologists, dermatologists, radiologists, etc) and it can be handy to know that your chosen vet is particularly knowledgeable in a certain field.
Sophisticated health care and veterinary services can be very costly. As financial considerations play a role in many decisions, it is certainly worth asking around and comparing prices. While many vaccinations, medications and procedures may have a standard charge, there can be price differences between different surgeries and depending on your situation; it can be beneficial to enquire about costs before selecting your vet.
Even with all these considerations, there may be instances when you would prefer to have a second opinion. When the problem affecting your pet is serious, it is not unusual or impudent to ask for another veterinary opinion or even referral to a specialist.