Finding a "Just Right" Veterinarian
We just moved to a different state – canines and humans piled into the car and off we went on a new adventure. Now that we’re almost settled into our new home, there are many little details to attend. Along with getting new drivers licenses, finding new doctors and setting up the utilities, we are searching for a new veterinarian. So, how do you find that “Just Right” vet, the one that you’ll trust with your furry family member's health?
Think about what looks right in a vet office. When I’m calling around town talking with vet offices I’m looking for certain characteristics. I ask lots of questions during the initial phone call at new vet clinics, such as:
Is the vet familiar with my breed or mixed breed dog? I ask this because I have giant breed dogs. Care for a Great Dane is a bit different than care for a Yorkie. I’d like to know if my potential vet is experienced with giant dogs. Also, if the vet clinic has several giant breed clients, the staff is more likely to be comfortable working with the big dogs.
Has the vet worked with patients that have the same medical issues that my dogs have? My deaf/blind dog has a seizure disorder and I have another dog with anxiety issues. It’s nice to know if the vet and staff have other clients with similar issues.
How long is the average wait in the waiting room? I completely understand that emergencies happen, but in general will my wait be 5 minutes or 30 minutes? This helps me prepare for vet visits or decide if I need to keep looking for a vet with a different wait time.
What provisions are made for dogs who are contagious? If I have a sick dog I don’t want to expose other dogs anymore than I want my dog to be exposed to an illness.
What is the veterinarian’s philosophy about routine care – vaccinations, nutrition, etc? There are many different thoughts about routine care – better to have a vet that shares your perspective.
Who do I call if I have an emergency, either during business hours or after hours? In general emergencies have a funny way of happening AFTER clinic hours!
For the big and giant dog people, can the exam room comfortably accommodate a dog the size of mine? This may seem silly, but I once took my Great Dane to a new vet and there simply was not enough physical space in the exam room for my dog, the vet and me. It was very uncomfortable and extremely stressful for my dog.
Do the vet and vet techs practice low-stress handling? Low stress handling, developed by Dr. Sophia Yin, minimizes the stress felt by dogs while at the vet. Low stress handling helps a dog calm while being handled/examined as opposed to manhandling the dog during the exam, thus increasing fear and stress. Why is this important? The experience your pet has at the vet can either make the next visit better or worse. At some point your dog may be injured or ill. It is easier and safer to work with an injured or sick dog who trusts and feels safe with the vet and vet techs.
Can I bring my dog into the office for a meet & greet before the first appointment? This is a great way to introduce your pet to the new office in a low stress way. Be sure to take yummy treats and have everyone in the office treat and greet.
You many think of other important things based on your past experience with vet offices.
An initial phone interview can help identify potential vet clinics. Once you’ve identified one or two clinics, go for a meet and greet. Notice how your dog responds to the environment and staff. Is it chaotic, loud, have strong odors? Do you feel that you can manage your dog in this environment?
At the end of the day it’s important that you and your vet partner together for the benefit of your pup. There are many wonderful vet clinics out there – there is certainly one that’s “just right” for you and your canine companion!