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How To Choose a Veterinarian

Like any doctor, your pet’s veterinarian will become a trusted member of the family. Here are a few tips for tracking down the pet doc who will best fit the needs of you and your critters.


  • Step 1: Asking around is the best way to start your search. If your friends have a vet they like, find out why. Animal breeders, animal-shelter employees, and your town’s animal warden will also be able to give you a referral.
  • Step 2: Keep in mind that word of mouth isn’t totally reliable. Different people like different kinds of vets. Getting a wide variety of recommendations will help you think about the kind of doctor _you_ want.
  • Step 3: Check the vet listings in your local phone directory. This is especially helpful if you’re looking for a specialized veterinarian. A large animal hospital may offer more services than a vet in private practice.
  • TIP: If you have a rabbit or a parrot, look for a doctor who treats “exotics.”
  • Step 4: Your Internet search engine can also help you research veterinarians in your area. Many vets’ websites give more information than a phonebook or a friend can offer.
  • TIP: Location matters when you’re choosing a vet—but it’s not the only requirement. For example, if you work out of the home, you’ll want to find a vet with evening and Saturday office hours.
  • Step 5: When you’ve come up with a few possibilities, go out and see which vet facility seems best for your pet. Is the waiting room comfortable? Are the receptionists and technicians welcoming? Trust your gut reaction.
  • TIP: Ask for a tour of the vets’ clinics. It’s unlikely that you’ll be shown the surgical areas, but you should be able to see the recovery wards, the boarding kennel (if there is one), and the examination rooms.
  • Step 6: Make sure you know what kind of emergency care a vet offers. If he doesn’t treat emergencies in off-hours, to whom will you be referred? Is there an emergency animal hospital a short distance away?
  • Step 7: When you talk to the vet himself, feel free to ask questions, and take note of his manner. Does he seem focused and helpful? Are you comfortable with his answers?
  • TIP: Schedule a vet interview during a time when the doctor isn’t rushed or overly busy.
  • Step 8: If the facility has more than one veterinarian, make sure that you’re comfortable with both or all of them—or that you can make an appointment to see the vet of your choice each time you come in.
  • Step 9: Find out how the clinic handles payment. What’s the cost of a standard appointment? Can you put a charge on a credit card? Can you set up a payment plan for an expensive treatment, such as surgery?
  • TIP: If you have an unusually difficult or hard-to-handle pet, make sure to schedule a consulting appointment with any potential vet. The way he handles your animal will be especially important.
  • Step 10: Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, schedule an appointment with your pet. Expect to pay this time; after all, you’re now actually using the vet’s services.
  • Step 11: Observe the vet’s manner with your pet. Does he seem kind, compassionate, and as relaxed as possible given the circumstances? No animal loves going to the doctor, so you’ll need to take your cues from the vet, not your pet!
  • Step 12: When you find the right vet, you can relax. You and your pet are in good hands. And if something goes wrong, you’ll know just where to go.
  • FACT: Until the late eighteenth century, the principle vets in Western medicine were blacksmiths, who not only put on horseshoes but treated horses with the remedies available at the time.

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