Whether you’re a first-time pet parent unsure where to start or recently moved to a new area, finding the right veterinarian for you and your pet can be difficult, especially when there are so many options! Here’s a guide to help you find the licensed professional who will provide the best care for your pet.
Finding a primary care veterinarian
For your pet’s primary care (the routine check-ups and preventive care), try asking your family and friends for recommendations. Many practices have referral programs that reward you both with discounts. You can also inquire at local rescues or breed clubs.
Helpful Tip: Visit the American Animal Hospital Association website to find a veterinary hospital near you.
Since you’ll be visiting this practice for your pet’s health needs, it’s important to find one that is conveniently located, and with hours of operation that work well for your schedule. This will make it easier when it comes time for your pet’s yearly check-up. These annual visits evaluate your pet’s health status, address potential health issues as well as ensure you meet the requirements for your pet insurance coverage.
What questions to ask?
Here is a list of questions to get you started when you’re on the hunt for the right vet.
- How are appointments scheduled?
- What are the office hours?
- How do they handle walk-ins?
- Do they have after-hour emergency care?
- Is supervised overnight hospitalization available?
- Who covers the practice when the regular doctor is unavailable?
- What additional services do they provide pet parents? Grooming? Boarding? Daycare?
- What are their fees, services and payment policies?
- What payment plans and financial assistance options are available?
- Does the practice allow your pet insurance to pay them directly for covered medical expenses for your convenience?
It doesn’t hurt to visit first and ask the staff plenty of questions before you decide. You’ll need to choose a team that will guide you through times when your pet is healthy or sick. This comes down to communicating well with you as a pet parent. If when you leave you’re not convinced the practice is a good fit, continue your search.
Finally, and arguably most importantly, the veterinarian you choose should be a person your pet feels comfortable with. Some pets may never enjoy going to the hospital, but a veterinary team that goes above and beyond to try and calm goes a long way in helping to keep stressful situations to a minimum. Also, the more your pet sees the vet, the greater the likelihood they’ll become comfortable with the environment – another great reason to never miss a check-up!
Finding an emergency and specialist veterinarian
Should the unexpected strike, you won’t want to waste time searching for emergency care. That’s why we recommend keeping the phone number and address of one you trust handy. But how do you decide on which emergency clinic to use?
Proximity plays a huge factor in your decision as emergency care is often time sensitive. List the hospitals within a 10 mile radius from where you live and ask your primary veterinarian for their recommendation.
Should your pet require more advanced medical care to address a complicated illness or injury, you’ll need to seek out a veterinary specialist. Experts in everything from anesthesia to soft tissue surgery, these specialty veterinarians will be valuable partners in getting your pet back to feeling 100%!
The good news is once you have a primary care veterinarian you trust, it is often easier to find the specialists since they will refer you and your pet.. You can also explore your options via the official American Veterinary Medical Association website.
What to bring to your first vet visit
- Copies of all medical records, including lab work and vaccinations
- A list of concerns or questions to improve your pet’s day-to-day care
- Your pet insurance information
- Hospital manners - keep your pet leashed or in a crate and don’t allow socialization with other patients. Pets that are ordinarily friendly may become stressed at the hospital and aggressive. Plus, it will help prevent your pet from catching a contagious illness.
Remember, you are your pet’s biggest advocate so don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions. Taking the time to find the right veterinarian is important to ensure your pet’s wellness and a good quality of life.
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