How to Choose A Vet

Dr. Chris Newman, Belle Mead, NJ

It can be difficult to know what to look for when looking for a Veterinarian for your pet. You may have moved and left behind a vet with whom you have great rapport or you may have a new pet and are overwhelmed by all those big ads in the yellow pages. While there is no magic formula to guarantee a positive experience and high-quality care for your pet, there are a few ways to simply evaluate the hospital and veterinarian you choose.

Ask friends for recommendations
Before making an appointment you should check with friends and neighbors who own pets. Find out who they use and why. It is a good idea to get several different opinions since no one person will be liked by everyone. You want to get a sampling of opinions.

A visit to the clinic
Next, visit the clinic before making the appointment. The staff should be happy to answer any questions about the practice. It is also legitimate to request a tour at a time that is mutually convenient. There may be times of the day when a tour is not advisable but your request should be granted at some point.

The staff
Evaluate the front office staff? Are they helpful? Friendly? Do they acknowledge you when you walk in or are you ignored? What is the overall appearance of the clinic? Is it clean? Odor free? What is the attitude of the staff toward the other clients who may be present? How about to those on the other end of the phone line? You can learn a lot by just observing.

Your first appointment
If you make the appointment you will have a chance to meet with the doctor and the assistants. (Of course, you may have already met some of these people if you stopped in the office). You should evaluate these people in the same manner as previously described. Are the assistants helpful and friendly? Are they kind to your pet? Are they rough in handling the animal or gentle?

Meeting the veterinarian
How about the doctor? Does he/she take time to listen to your concerns? Are you given enough time to explain and ask questions? How is his/her rapport with your pet? Does he/she talk to your animal and try to establish a relationship before starting the exam? Is your pet called by name? Does the doctor take time to do an exam and address your concerns? Do you feel comfortable asking questions? Are you questions answered?

If your pet is ill or if some type of in-hospital procedure is required is everything well explained?

Make sure you communicate your needs to the doctor
It is always appropriate to ask specific questions about procedures, medications, anesthetics etc. It is also a good idea to tell the doctor exactly what you expect. If you treat your pet as a family member and want the doctor to feel free to do whatever he/she feels is necessary you should say so. If finances are a major concern that should be mentioned at the outset so there will be no surprises.

If tests have been run, do you receive the results promptly? If you leave a message for the doctor, do you receive a reply in a reasonable amount of time?

You might also want to ask about the clinic’s emergency policy and how they handle referrals to specialists and second opinions.

Above all, you should be comfortable with the veterinarian and the practice. You should always feel that your pet’s good health is their first priority.

Always call your veterinary if any medical emergency occurs or in the slightest doubt as to your pet’s condition.

This information sheet is designed to help non-veterinary people evaluate the health of cats and dogs. Its not a comprehensive guide and will not give you all the answers. Also, its not meant to replace veterinary care or advice.