Tuesday, January 26, 2010
By Julia Williams
Vet visits are not overly pleasant for any animal or owner, but they are an essential aspect of responsible pet ownership. Like us, our pets can get sick or have an accident, and they also need routine care such as yearly “checkups,” teeth cleanings and immunizations. As such, it’s very important to find a veterinarian that you and your pet are comfortable with. You’ll want to feel confident that the vet and their support staff are knowledgeable, capable and dependable. You’ll want to trust that whenever your pet needs medical care, they will be in good hands. In doing so, you’ll minimize the stress of a vet visit for both you and your pet.
How to Find a Vet
For obvious reasons, the ideal time to find a good vet is before your pet needs one. If you’re moving to a new city, or you’re unhappy with your current vet, it’s important to spend some time researching the possibilities. Begin by asking friends, family members, co-workers and neighbors with pets who their vet is. But don’t stop there. Ask them what they specifically like about their vet and why they would recommend them. Be wary if they chose their vet mainly because they were close by, or from a yellow page ad. While this doesn’t necessarily mean the clinic isn’t a good one, you should do more research before entrusting them with the care of your beloved pet.
Before you commit to a new vet, it’s a good idea to schedule a short visit with them. In addition to speaking with the vet and their support staff, you should assess things like cleanliness, procedures, prices and demeanor. If your pet has existing health concerns, discussing them during this visit will help you determine whether this clinic will be able to treat them. Vet clinics are busy places and may not have a lot of time to spend with you on a “meet and greet,” but if they are open to having you as a new client they should be willing to see you briefly.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Vet
Before you visit a vet clinic, think about your pet’s needs, as well as your own. If your pet has health issues or special needs, it’s critical to find a vet who can adequately treat them. Do you need a vet who specializes in (or has extensive experience with) such things like dermatology or geriatrics? Do you prefer a vet whose practice is strictly traditional, or one who integrates holistic care with conventional treatments? What services does the facility offer? For example, if your pet needs an x-ray, surgery, dental work or lab tests, can these be done there, or will you need to go elsewhere?
Is the vet clinic in a convenient location, and are their hours agreeable? Does the place look inviting, inside and out? Is the reception room tidy, and is the receptionist well groomed and friendly? If there is more than one vet at the clinic, will you be able to see the same one each time you visit? If not, does it matter to you? What are the clinic’s procedures for emergencies on nights and weekends?
Will they allow you to make payments should you incur a large bill, or will they demand payment immediately? This can be an important consideration, because life sometimes hands us more than we can handle financially. Many years ago, I had a wonderful vet who let me pay off my balance one month at a time, without any guilt trips. Conversely, I once had to visit an emergency vet clinic that wouldn’t let me leave with my cat until I figured out a way to pay their $800 bill on the spot (needless to say, I never went back there).
Does your vet have good communication skills, and are they personable? Your vet needs to be able to clearly explain treatment options, test results and other important things related to your pet’s care. They also need to be willing to listen to you and answer any questions you may have. Just as with human doctors, a vet’s “bedside manner” should make you feel at ease.
Pay attention to how the vet and their support staff interact with your pet. It’s equally important to watch how your pet responds to the staff, because animals are incredibly intuitive. Speaking of intuition, if anything makes you uncomfortable about a particular vet or their place of business, trust your gut, because in my experience it is never wrong.
Choosing the right vet takes time and effort. You may need to visit several vet clinics before you find the one that best fits your needs. But considering all the love and joy your pet gives you, don’t they deserve the best possible care in return?
Read more articles by Julia Williams