How to Choose a Vet

Three Parts:Determining Your Veterinary NeedsFinding a VeterinarianChoosing a Veterinarian

If you are thinking of getting a pet, or already have one, then it is essential to register with a vet. You should do this while the pet is healthy, because it can take time to find the right vet for you and your animal. Don't wait until the animal is sick to start looking around. When it comes to choosing a vet you need to balance several factors, including convenience, cost, expert knowledge, and compatibility.[1]

Part 1
Determining Your Veterinary Needs

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    Keep your type of pet in mind. Not all vets will treat all species. Make sure the vet has experience with your species of pet. For instance, even if a vet has a very good reputation as a canine vet, this is useless if you own a rabbit, because the two species are very different.
    • Most vet clinics are happy to treat 'companion animals,' which is another way of saying cats and dogs. If you own rabbits, some vets class them as 'exotic' animals and may not be able to treat them.
    • If you own a pet such as rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, or rats, always ask before registering if the vets are experienced with that species. A veterinarian should have special training in the species and have practice treating them.
    • Ideally, chose a practice with that has a vet who is a specialist in the species, or is happy to treat them. Some vets have a special interest in rabbits but without having extra qualifications in exotic animals. These vets have often gone to the trouble of learning more about the species but haven't taken exams on treating the species, and will do a good job by your pet.
    • Consider a single-species vet. If your have a cat, then you may not want it stressed by dogs in the waiting area. It is increasingly common to find single species clinics, such as "cat only" clinics.
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    Consider practicality. There is little use in registering with a perfect practice if they are a two or three hour drive away. In an emergency situation you may not have two or three hours' time to spare. Always consider how quickly you can get to the practice in the event of an emergency.
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    Decide what services you need your vet to provide. If you have a low income, then cost may be a deciding factor. If your pet has a very specific health issue then you will need a vet that has the equipment, and knowledge, to treat that issue.
    • If you have a vet school in your community the care there is often cheaper than at a private practice. A small animal teaching hospital still provides excellent care under trained supervision, but it'll be more affordable.
    • Be aware that lower fees are usually only achievable if the practice does not invest as heavily in modern equipment and state of the art facilities. Be aware that more sophisticated and well-equipped clinics have to finance the equipment through higher fees, so if your priority is the pet has access to an on-site MRI scanner then be prepared to pay for the privilege.
    • Factors you may want to consider include the level of in-house facilities (blood machines, lab work, x-rays, ultrasound, MRI or CT scanners), location, highly-qualified specialists on site, overnight care, emergency care provision, ease of parking, ease of getting an appointment, and also more emotional aspects such as if your pet likes the vet.[2]

Part 2
Finding a Veterinarian

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    Make a list of veterinarians in your area. Do an internet search or look at a telephone directory, or the local press for adverts. Most clinics have websites so go to the website to get an idea of how many staff the clinic has, the facilities, specialities, and for the overall feel of the practice.
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    Ask others in your area about their experiences with local vets. A good starting point is to ask other pet owners which vet they use and if they are satisfied. If you own a dog, then ask the other dog walkers in your area who they would recommend. Word of mouth recommendations are very valuable because you can ask questions and weigh the responses.
    • You can also approach local animal shelters and animal clubs who will have experience with many different vets.
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    Prepare a list of questions to ask the vet. Be aware that veterinary practices are busy places. You don't want to waste the staff's time, but likewise you should feel you can trust and work with that clinic.[3] The questions you ask the clinic should include:
    • Opening times - these are especially important if you need to have flexible access to your vet, for instance evenings and weekends.
    • Fees – find out their standard consultation fees, also their fees for standard treatments such as vaccinations, worm and flea treatments etc.
    • Emergencies – what are the arrangements for out of hours emergency care for your pet, for instance do they do home visits?
    • Alternative medicine – find out what their attitude is towards alternative and complementary treatments for your pet.
    • Consistency of care: How likely are you to see the same vet each time you visit?
    • Overnight care: If you pet is ill and needs to be admitted for overnight care, who looks after the pet? Is there someone on site 24/7 and what are their qualifications?[4]

Part 3
Choosing a Veterinarian

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    Call the veterinary offices on your list. Never be afraid to ask a vet anything. If you feel afraid to ask them something to do with your pet and it's wellbeing, this obviously isn't the right vet for you.
    • When you call a veterinarian it's likely a receptionist, rather than the vet, who answers the phone. However, the attitude of the staff is usually a reflection of the clinic's ethos. For example, a well-organized clinic will have well-trained reception staff who handle your call efficiently. Even during busy times, a well-trained receptionist will explain she'd like to give your call full attention but she's in the midst of a busy clinic, and then offer to take your number to call you back.
    • Further narrow down the list from these phone calls.
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    Visit your top one or two offices. Drop by and see what sort of welcome you get. If you own a dog, take the dog with you. Are the reception staff welcoming and interested in your pet? Are the premises clean and inviting? Are the noticeboards well kept and with interesting, relevant displays, or the same-faded pictures from years ago?
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    Make an appointment, even if it's just for a healthy pet to have a check up. During the visit, assess how your pet reacts to the vet. Does the vet seem to understand the pet's psychology and know how to react to put it at ease?
    • If you own a dog, be aware some vets will deliberately ignore a shy dog, so as to let the dog gain confidence. This is a good thing, but it helps if the vet explains to you what they are doing, so you don't think they are just being rude. If you find the vet who knows to ignore a dog AND explain why, then it's likely you've hit gold.
    • If your pet especially doesn't like a certain vet, but doesn't mind others, consider following your pet's instincts.
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    Ask the vet your questions. Don't feel bashful, remember you need to be able to trust this person with your pet's health. It's important you feel comfortable enough to get all the information you need.
    • Consider asking about referral procedures if your pet needs to see a specialist. Who does the practice deal with and how far away are they? You may also want to consider the 'extras' that the clinic provides, such as puppy classes, and weight loss clinics.
    • A final factor, is if you have pet insurance, does the clinic accept direct claims, or do you have to pay the vet and then seek reimbursement from your insurer.[5]
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    Make your decision. Pick the veterinarian that is the best fit for you and your pet at this point in time. Go to your veterinarian when your pet has a medical problem or when it is time for your pet's regular check-ups.
    • Remember, however, that you can change vets at any time, so don't think that this is the only vet you can go to now that you've made your decision.


  • Make sure your vet isn't trying to take your money- a good vet will truly care about your pet.

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Categories: Pets and Animals