The Right Vet For Your Pet

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, with his wife Tatyana, casts his ballot for the presidential election at a polling station in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Thursday, July 23, 2009. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)
AP Photo/Misha Japaridze
Other than you, your veterinarian is often the most important person in your pet's life. Choosing the right one can make a life-saving difference. Finding the right doctor for your pet requires more than simply searching the yellow pages. In many ways, it's like choosing a pediatrician for your child.

Early Show Contributor Debbye Turner has some great tips on finding a vet that's perfect for you and your pet.

It is important to choose a veterinarian before an emergency arises with pets. Having the time to do some homework will ensure the relationship you have with your veterinarian will be satisfying and enjoyable. In fact, it is best to choose a veterinarian before you choose your pet.

The ultimate goal is to find a veterinarian whom you trust and with whom you are comfortable. The vet should provide top-level care to your pet, charge fees that are feasible for your budget, and be conveniently located.

Where To Start

  • Ask around: Ask your friends, coworkers, relatives and neighbors. Be sure to ask them why they like their veterinarian. Remember, that their ideal choice may not be yours. Also, ask the local or state veterinary association, local kennel club or breeder.
  • Pay a visit: Make an appointment first. Notice the professionalism and friendliness of the receptionists. Is the waiting room full? Do the clients get served in a timely manner? Is the clinic clean? How does it smell? Ask to see the kennel area and an exam room. Also schedule a little bit of time with the veterinarian. Your veterinarian should be willing to patiently answer all your questions. If he or she seems impatient, uninterested or rude, move on.
  • It is generally good to find a veterinarian that is a convenient distance from your home. But that should not be the only reason for choosing a vet.

Questions to Ask a Prospective Veterinarian

  • What are the clinic hours? Are their hours compatible with your work schedule. Are there evening and Saturday hours?
  • What are the fees for routine services? (like vaccinations and physical exam) While you should not make your final decision based on finances alone, money is a real issue. So be sure that the veterinarian's fee schedule is compatible with your budget. The average cost of veterinary care for a healthy dog or cat is $200 - $400 a year. But prices range across the country.
  • What methods of payment are accepted? Are the fees due upon services rendered? Are credit cards accepted or cash only?
  • What are their after-hours services in case of emergencies? It is important to know who you can call if your pet gets in unexpected trouble. If this clinic does not have after-hours services, is there an emergency clinic nearby?
  • Is their staff on-site for 24 hours to care for overnight patients? If there is not someone in the hospital overnight, how often are the pets checked during off hours?
  • What proportion of their business is the species that you have? You want to make sure the veterinarian regularly treats the type of pet you own or at least has had plenty of experience with that species.
  • Who steps in when your veterinarian is not available? It is also good to know if you can request a specific vet. And you should meet the fill-in vet at some point.
  • Where did the veterinarian go to school? What other specialized training does he or she have? Is he or she a member of any professional associations? These involvements imply that the veterinarian is keeping up with the latest technology and developments in the profession.
  • Ask the veterinarian why they are in this business. Listen for commitment, compassion, excellence.
  • What services are available in-house? Can blood work, x-rays be done right there on the premises?
  • Is the clinic or hospital accredited? The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) regulates standards with the vet hospitals in the U.S. and Canada. To be accredited the hospital must undergo evaluation of its services and equipment by a trained AAHA consultant. The hospital must meet 200 standards in emergency services, surgery, anesthesia, nursing care, radiology, dentistry, and medical records.

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