Whether you’re a new pet owner or have owned several pets for years, it’s a good idea to select a veterinarian before you actually need one. This way, you’ll be working with someone who you feel comfortable with and seems to have a good rapport with your pet rather than a vet who is simply nearby, open, or listed first in the Yellow Pages.
To find the right vet requires the same patience and diligence that you would devote to finding any other kind of professional — a pediatrician, dentist, real estate agent, or plumber. Here are five steps to take when choosing a vet for your beloved four-legged friend:
Step 1: Check out the website
Look at each veterinarian’s website for a glimpse of the vet’s personality, staff, and capacity. While someone can be an excellent vet yet still have a less-than-impressive website, it’s still a quick way to narrow down a long list. Search out what information you can from the site, such as location, rates, specializations, and number of employees. It’s also a good sign if a vet clinic is accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).
Step 2: Ask for recommendations
There are plenty of resources you can use to get recommendations for a vet. Many animal-centered organizations, like pet shelters, boarding businesses, and grooming salons, plus other pet owners, will generally be happy to provide you with the name of the vet they know and trust. Remember to ask about more than just the veterinarian — get insight into staff members, rates, and location. It’s also important to make sure they are accredited with the right organizations like the AAHA.
Step 3: Understand how the clinic operates
Vet clinics can be run using a range of business methods, and you want to find the one that best suits your needs. Call the clinic and speak to the office manager or similar authority figure. Ask questions about hours, overnight care practices, billing details, and any other services associated with the clinic. Not only does this give insight into how the clinic is run, it gives you a chance to interact with the staff members to see how knowledgeable they are and what kind of customer service they provide.
Step 4: Meet with each vet
Once you have a short list developed, make appointments to meet with each vet. Schedule some time to talk with the vet without your pet. Ask a series of questions, such as their training, whether they participate in continuing education, their approach to treating pets, and the variety of services their vet clinic provides. Ask for a quick tour to get exposure to the type of environment the vet and the staff create and observe how they interact with you, the animals, and other people.
Step 5: Let your pet meet the vet
When you’ve identified the vet you feel might be best for your pet, schedule a checkup or a get-to-know-you visit. See how the vet handles your pet and observe how your pet reacts. While normal stress and wariness are normal in animals out of their normal element, it’s important for pets and vets to be able to get along enough to perform a basic exam.
Ryean Bishop is the Online Outreach Coordinator for Bannock Animal Medical Center (BAMCVET) in Pocatello, Idaho.