Choosing a Veterinarian: Healthy Pet/Happy Pet 12

Article Series for Dunes Living Magazine

By: Dr. Amanda Thomas

Pet owners ask me all the time about pets, their pet’s health conditions, disease processes and other medical and surgical related topics. They are surprised to find that most of the diseases we diagnose and treat in veterinary medicine are the same as those they know about from human medicine. In fact, many diseases were first discovered in animals, and many of the treatments that are used in humans today came from veterinary research and development, like the total hip replacement procedure.

What is also interesting but not fully understood by our pet loving community is the training that veterinarians go through to become doctors of veterinary medicine in the field of animals and the biomedical sciences.

Following an undergraduate degree, a veterinarian completes 4 years of veterinary college and can follow that with one or more formal internships and a residency program if they choose to become specialized in one area of veterinary medicine or surgery. These veterinarians accrue over 12 -14 years of higher education before going into veterinary practice, biological and medical research, food safety, and other critical areas of human and animal health that protect us against disease transmission and create a safer world.

This is how, as a profession, we are able to provide a human level of care to your pets should they need specialty surgery or medical care, like the removal of cataracts by a board-certified ophthalmologist or heart valve replacement surgery by a cardiologist.

But how does someone choose a veterinarian when they adopt a shelter dog?

This is what most people want to know…

When you are choosing a veterinarian and a vet hospital, you’re looking for someone who can meet your needs, and those of your pet, who has people and animal skills and you feel comfortable talking to and getting information from.

The best way to do this is to ask your friends and neighbors who have the same concerns and want the same level of care for their pets that you do.

If you have a clinic in mind, schedule a visit to meet the doctors and staff and get a tour of their facility. This should be a welcome request by the veterinary hospital and they should be happy to meet with you and show you around.

What you should be looking for:

  • How many veterinarians work there, and what is their level of experience?
  • Is the facility neat, clean, comfortable and well organized?
  • Does the clinic offer high level diagnostics like Digital Radiography, Bloodwork, ultrasound, EKG, or endoscopy?
  • Do the doctors have a good relationship with a referral hospital?
  • Are there licensed, Certified Technicians and Nurses on staff?
  • Is the staff calm, caring, knowledgeable, and communicative?
  • Are cats kept in a separate area from the dogs?
  • Is it a safe environment for dogs, with an enclosed walking area?
  • Is the location convenient?
  • Do the hours meet your schedule?
  • Do the fees fit your budget?
  • Is there an Emergency clinic nearby for after-hours care?
  • Is your pet comfortable in this hospital?

As with all relationships, the one you have with your veterinarian is a two-way street. Here are some ways to be a good veterinary client when you are seeking the best care for your pet:

  • Take your pet in for routine, regular visits not just when he’s sick
  • Pay attention to what is normal for your pet so you catch illness early; there is nothing more heartbreaking than finding a problem when it is too late for a good outcome.
  • Schedule appointments and be on time
  • Always bring your dogs on a leash, and your cats INSIDE a carrier
  • Call ahead when your pet has an emergency
  • Do not expect your vet to diagnose anything over the phone.
  • Be nice to the staff

If you ever feel like your veterinarian or vet hospital is not meeting your needs or the needs of your pet, schedule an appointment to talk to them about the reasons why. It could be a result of a simple misunderstanding or miscommunication.

There are many great veterinarians in private practice who are helpful and available to you and your family of pets, you just need to find the right one and the right practice environment!