Veterinary medicine is the subdivision of science that deals with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease, disorder and injury in animals. The scope of veterinary care is wide, covering all domestic animal species, with a wide range of conditions which can affect different species.
Veterinary medicine is widely practiced, sometimes with and sometimes without a doctor’s supervision. Professional veterinary care is most often led by a veterinary physician, with various nurses and technicians. This can also be augmented by other para-professionals with specific specialties such as animal physiotherapy or dentistry.
Do you really think you need a veterinarian for your dog?
The bottom line is that one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make as a pet parent is finding a quality health care provider for your “best friend.” Selecting the right veterinary care is a personal decision, but you’ll want to choose a practice that offers the highest available standard of care.
In other words, a veterinarian is your dog’s SECOND “best friend!”
When selecting a veterinarian, you are doing more than just searching for a medical expert. You are looking for someone to meet your needs and those of your dog – a doctor who has people as well as animal skills. The worst time to look for a vet is when you really need one, so plan ahead and choose wisely!
But how do you find the right vet – the vet that’s the best for you AND your best buddy? There are some major things to consider when selecting a veterinary care professional.
Start by seeking recommendations from friends, neighbors, animal-shelter workers, or other pet owners you meet at the dog park. Use the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) website and other Internet resources to find accredited clinics in your area.
Once you have a short list of veterinary care candidates, you can move on to the next step to determine their approach to veterinary medicine and the services their practice offers. Research online, by phone, or in person to define their basic quality of veterinary care. Specifically, you’ll want to determine the following:
How many veterinarians are in the practice?
- Your dog can benefit from a clinic that has more than one veterinarian. One vet might be a specialist in a particular field, but multi-vet practices are often more able to afford better technology, more staff members and perks like extended office hours and overnight care.
Does the practice have licensed veterinary technicians on staff?
- If your state requires licensing of technicians, the practice should use only licensed technicians. Even if your state doesn’t require licensing, it shows professionalism if the practice has several licensed technicians on staff.
Does the vet refer patients to specialists?
- This speaks to the vet’s priorities. Is your dog considered the vet’s number-one priority – above money, above ego, above time, etc? Most practices will not be able to provide every type of care your pet might need, so referring to other, more qualified veterinary care professionals should be essential.
How are overnight dog-patients monitored?
- The practice might have an overnight employee who monitors the dog-patients constantly, or one that stops by periodically. However, if the practice is unable to provide round-the-clock care, then they should be able to refer the dog-patient to another facility for overnight observation.
What about hours, emergency treatment, and payment options?
- Are the veterinary care clinic’s office hours compatible with yours? How do they handle after-hours emergencies – do they see them, or do they refer you to an emergency clinic (it’s best to find out now if they see them of refer them out before you have an emergency situation)? Do they accept your preferred form of payment? If you have pet insurance, does the vet accept your particular plan?
And lastly, check out the prospective clinic and veterinarian by paying them a visit, with or without your dog. Is the clinic/hospital clean and orderly? Ask if you can take a tour of the clinic.
Pay attention to how the veterinary care team talks to clients and how they act toward the animals in the clinic. Are team members readily available to answer your questions or address your concerns? Do they answer your questions in a way you can understand? One of the most important considerations is how the veterinary team makes you feel – ask yourself if you would be comfortable having your pet in their care. Trust your gut feeling – if you like the veterinary care team but can’t pinpoint why you like them, you’re probably in the right place.
When choosing your family's veterinarian, use the same care and criteria that you would in selecting a physician or dentist for your family. Think about what is important to you. Location, office hours, payment options, and the range of medical services provided are all important considerations. For many dog owners, the most important factor is the friendliness and commitment of doctors and staff. Your goal should be to find the vet who you believe can best meet your dog’s veterinary care needs and with whom you feel comfortable in establishing a long-term relationship.