HOW TO CHOOSE A VET FOR YOUR DOG
The vet you choose is a pretty significant figure in your dog’s life and in yours.
All going well you will only ever need him or her for routine checkups and preventative procedures. However, you should take the time to develop a good relationship with a suitable vet, before you need their services.
WHERE TO FIND A VET
Yes, you could just pick a vet at random from the Yellow Pages or from an Internet search. But having the right vet is crucial to your dog’s health and happiness and in turn your own peace of mind.
Consider if you were trying to choose a doctor for yourself, would you be happy to just select one at random from an impersonal list? Probably not. You would want somebody who comes highly recommended. Somebody you can trust. Your vet isn’t just your dog’s doctor; he or she is also the dentist, manicurist, psychologist, and hopefully a friend.
This is why it’s necessary to spend some time confirming that you’ve made the right vet choice. The best place to start looking for a vet is by word of mouth. If you have any friends or relatives who take good care of their dogs, then that’s a great place to start: ask them who they’d recommend, and why.
The “why” is particularly important, because everyone has different priorities. For example, perhaps they like their own vet because he/she is a specialist in their own particular breed; or they don’t charge very much; or the clinic is only five minutes’ drive … their priorities are not necessarily yours, so it’s a good idea to make sure that your values coincide with the person giving the recommendations.
Another good place to begin your quest for a vet is through local training clubs (Schutzhund, agility, herding classes, police K-9 academies, etc.) These organizations place a great deal of importance on high-quality veterinary care, because the health and well-being of their dogs is a priority.
Once you have narrowed your list of vets that you’re interested in pursuing further, call up the clinic and explain that you’re looking to find a regular vet for your dog(s). Ask to come in for a quick chat, introduce your dog, and have a look at the premises.
VISIT YOUR VET BEFORE YOU HAVE AN EMERGENCY
Before you sign your dog with a particular clinic, test the waters first. Ideally, you want a chance to talk to the vet, and discuss his or her philosophies and approach to pet care.
This is very important. Should your dog ever really needs vet-care (if there’s an emergency, or if she needs an urgent short-term appointment), you want to be sure that you’ve made the best possible choice as far as her health and comfort levels are concerned. Neither of you should be subjected to any unnecessary extra stress at a time like that, and you can avoid a lot of grief by spending a bit of time in preparation.
QUESTIONS TO ASK THE VET
While you’re at the clinic assess your potential vet’s overall attitude and approach to health care and animals.
Some spefic questions that help you to assess a potential clinic are:
- 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 this kind of stuff, it means that the results are going to be delayed. If your dog is very sick, time is an important factor: it’s best if the clinic has at least blood-analysis testing on hand.
- What after-hours services are available?
Many 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 dog (and yourself) to an unfamiliar vet.
- 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 do, too.
MAKING THE RIGHT VET CHOICE
Choosing a vet is a matter of balancing convenience and quality. There’s no right or wrong vet for you and your dog – which is partly why making the choice can be so confusing. There are lots of vets to choose from, and they’re all different!
Even though it’s tempting to go for the one right around the corner with the rock-bottom prices, it really is worthwhile taking the time to shop around. Your dog is utterly dependent on you for her healthcare – and if you take her seriously as a companion and member of the family, you’ll want to do the best thing by her.
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 – there should be very little scope for misunderstanding. When the two of you see eye to eye, it makes caring for your dog that much easier.
FOR MORE ADVICE
A complete survival guide on stress-free dog care, including detailed information on when your dog needs to see the vet, how to respond to pet emergencies, dog First Aid, and all common health problems, refer to The Ultimate Guide to Dog Health. It’s a complete handbook on dog health care, and teaches you how to take a proactive and prepared approach to knowledgeable dog ownership.