Selecting a Vet for Your Dog

Take time to choose your vet carefully. You will rely on his or her expertise for many years to come.
For your dog's best health, choose the vet you'll be mostcomfortable working with.

You and your vet are your dog's health care team; you observe and report, your vet diagnoses and treats. Your veterinarian will arrange a schedule of vaccinations and regular check-ups, maintain a medical history of your dog, and provide preventive, critical, and emergency care. Your partnership with your vet will be a long-term relationship. Working together, you and your vet can help your dog have a healthy, happy life.

Start your search by asking people you know for recommendations. Turn to:

  • your breeder, friends, family members, coworkers and neighbors who have dogs.
  • your local kennel club, your local or state veterinary association.
  • your local yellow pages.

Ask fellow dog owners:

  • Are you happy with your vet?
  • What is the name of your vet?
  • Why did you choose this vet?
  • Can you tell me about a specific situation and why you feel your vet handled it well?

Compile a list of at least six vets to check out.

Once you have a list of six or more vets to choose from, get on the phone and call the vets' offices. Gather information to compare and contrast and narrow down your list. Note how you are treated over the phone. Staff and doctors should be courteous, pleasant, and willing to listen and talk with you. Here are some basic questions to consider:

  • What percentage of the practice is devoted to dog care? You are looking for a vet with plenty of experience with dogs.
  • If your dog is purebred, how many of this breed does the vet treat? Your vet should be well-versed in the idiosyncrasies and conditions that can affect your dog's breed.
  • Does this doctor specialize? Some specializations are surgery, dental care, eye care, orthopedics, and allergies.
  • What range of services does the veterinary practice provide? Do they perform diagnostic tests on the premises, and what testing and evaluation equipment do they have? Are boarding, grooming, and/or training services available?
  • What are the office hours? Consider your schedule and whether you will require Saturday or evening office hours.
  • How much do they charge for annual checkups and vaccinations? If applicable, inquire whether the office accepts (or will help you receive reimbursement from) veterinary insurance.
  • What is the preferred method of payment? Do they accept credit cards? Debit cards? Checks? Cash?
  • What are the procedures for after-hours emergencies? How are emergency calls handled during regular office hours?
  • Is there 24-hour coverage at the office? If not, how often are overnight patients checked?
  • When the doctor is on vacation or unavailable, who provides veterinary care?
  • Does the doctor make house calls?
  • Can your request a specific doctor in multidoctor practices?

Consider phone manner, location, proximity, payment methods, and emergency procedures to narrow down your list to two or three choices. Make arrangements to visit each office. Keep this handy checklist in mind when you visit.

  • Are the facilities clean, well-lit, and pleasant-smelling?
  • Where are overnight patients housed and how are they cared for after office hours?
  • What school did the doctor attend and what degrees does he or she have?
  • Ask each doctor how they would treat a specific condition such as hip dysplasia or skin disorders and compare their responses. If you have a purebred dog, ask about a condition that would affect your dog's breed.

The tone of the vet's response is as important as the content. Vets are generally qualified, so ease of communication is critical. You should be able to understand your vet's response and feel comfortable communicating with the doctor.

Observe how the staff treats you and how they interact with each other. Different offices have different styles and you should find the one that suits you. Every practice should be friendly, helpful and caring.

Once you decide on a vet, take your dog for a visit. Do not wait until you have an emergency to get acquainted. Observe how the doctor and the staff treat your pet. The more you know about your vet and the more your vet knows about your dog, the better.


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