It’s not as easy as you may think. Sure, there are plenty of listings in the phone book, but which one is right for you and your pet? Just like choosing a physician for yourself, you’ll want to do some research before deciding which veterinarian to entrust with your pet’s health. Here are a few tips to help you locate a great veterinarian:
The phone book isn’t a reference
A pretty advertisement in the yellow pages simply means that the office was willing to write a bigger check to pay for it. It has nothing to do with the quality of care. The purpose of advertising is to grab your attention. While you’ll be able to find some basic information about the practice through the ad, you won’t learn anything about the veterinarian’s knowledge or techniques.
Local animal rescues are a great source of information
Many of the animals that enter into rescue facilities have medical or behavior issues. The staff and volunteers will work closely with one or more veterinarians and will be able to direct you to one who is knowledgeable and experienced. This is especially true with exotics or small animals, such as guinea pigs, hedgehogs, birds and sugar gliders.
Talk to friends, neighbors, and coworkers
Most people are more than happy to share their experiences with veterinarians they’ve dealt with. Negative word of mouth spreads much more quickly than positive experiences, but it’s still useful information. It’s just as important to know who not to visit as it is to know which veterinarian to use.
Ask the right questions
One of the most common questions people ask when deciding upon any type of medical professional is, “How long have you been practicing”? Seems like a great question, but it really isn’t as important as you may think. Both the hands-on experience of longtime veterinarians and the current knowledge of more recent graduates are qualities you’ll want. Years of practice mean nothing if the veterinarian does not remain current on the latest information. Likewise, a practitioner with all the latest education can’t help you is they’re afraid of your pet. Most veterinarians are well versed in treating dogs and cats, but if you own a different type of pet, you’ll want to ask:
- How many of my type of pet do you see?
- What do you include in the well-visit for my type of pet?
- Have you performed surgery or other treatment for this type of pet?
- Do you enjoy working with my type of pet?
For those that own exotics or other types of “alternative” pets, it is important that you know the basics of medical care your type of pet requires. If you don’t, you’ll have no way to judge the veterinarian’s level of knowledge and experience. For example, if you own sugar gliders, you should know that their teeth should never be trimmed because it is dangerous and can cause tremendous pain to the animal. If a veterinarian recommended trimming their teeth, you would immediately realize he or she lacked sufficient knowledge to treat your pet. You should trust your veterinarian, but not blindly.
Once you find a good candidate, it’s time to schedule a visit. During your appointment, observe how the veterinarian and technicians interact with your pet. They should be comfortable handling your animal and able to communicate well with you. No one knows your pet as well as you do, so the veterinarian must be willing to listen to your concerns and answer your questions. If they don’t know the answer, they should be willing to look for it. If you don’t feel comfortable after this visit, keep looking. The veterinarian is your pet’s lifeline and you want to know you’ve chosen the best one for your pet.