How to Find a Good Veterinarian

Finding a good vet

“My dog’s eye is bleeding, how could this have happened?”

It was the mid 90’s and those are words I said aloud in a busy waiting room.

“Look, no one can stay here to watch these dogs all night,” the voice of authority commanded. “You want to just leave her and pick her up tomorrow if you can’t handle it, then?”

I took my dog away from that busy waiting room, promising both the dog and myself that no one would ever again:

  • Make me feel so helpless;
  • Put my dog in a similar situation;

The above happened to me while picking my dog up at the veterinary clinic they day after eye surgery. You can imagine the horror I felt expecting to pick my dog up, talk to the vet, get discharge instructions, and be on our merry way to recovery.

A mass appeared to protrude from my Cocker Spaniel’s eyelid days earlier, which I later learned was “cherry eye,” a common occurrence in the breed. I was a fairly new pet parent at the time and cherry eye surgery to remove the gland was the norm in a lot of veterinary practices. I was reassured that someone would monitor the dog after surgery. This was not the case.

Picking my dog up from surgery the next day, she was brought out to me a “bloody mess,” to be blunt. Blood oozed from her eye, caked into the corners and she was blinking from the trauma. The veterinarian’s words cut into me. The 2015 version of me would have handled this much differently, but the mid 90’s dog mom told the vet we’d never be back, paid the bill, meds in tow, and found a new doc.

There are bad apples and rude people who are insensitive in every profession. Veterinary medicine is no different. I have a huge amount of respect for caring veterinarians and specialists, vet techs and all those who assist animals day in and day out: And I know we all have bad days.

You don’t talk down to a client.

You don’t use authority and sarcasm in an attempt to toss your “I know more than you do” weight around.

Finding a good veterinarian with whom you can foster a relationship for you and your dog is worth its weight in golden dog biscuits.

cocker_veterinarian

When to Run Away from the Vet’s Office (i.e., find a new vet)

  • You feel rushed during appointments;
  • He or she isn’t open to discussing your concerns or dismisses your wanting to ask about titers, why your pet needs certain meds, or referring you to a specialist.;
  • The vet gets annoyed if you ask questions;
  • Isn’t giving your pet a thorough exam;
  • Insists you absolutely have to buy the food at the vet’s office and you cannot get it elsewhere;

Obviously, there are more reasons than this, but if you feel dismissed and like your dog isn’t the getting care he or she deserves, and more importantly, needs, run like hell to find a new veterinarian.

How to Find a Good Veterinarian

I adore my dog’s veterinarian so much that we travel over 90 minutes each way to his office for visits. I like to joke that we’ve been with this veterinarian since he was a puppy (not long after he graduated vet school), but it’s true. I put a lot of idol worship on him, but with age comes wisdom. I realize not all super heroes don a cape and fly from building to building.

Caring veterinarians and caring veterinary technicians who dedicate themselves to the health of pets while developing an ongoing relationship with the pet parent among the true super heroes of the world.

wigglebutt warriors

To find a good veterinarian:

Ask friends and family members who they take their dog to see for veterinary visits. More importantly, ask them how satisfied they are with the services. Do you frequent the dog park? Ask folks there. Are you a member of a local agility club? See where folks take their dogs.

When asking, cover the five W’s:

Who do you take your dog to see for veterinary care?

What do you like about this veterinary practice?

When you take the dog in for a visit, does the take his or her time answering questions?

Where is he or she located?

Why do you like going to this particular vet?

If you are going to consider a veterinary practice, find out if your dog can see the same veterinarian each time, barring any days off or emergencies.

dog_veterinarian
“Can I have a cookie for being a good boy at the vet?”

Initial Visit

Call the veterinary office ahead of time and ask questions on the phone. Consider making a visit to the vet’s office for a general visit and before any problems arise. Though a dog has to get accustomed to a new vet and vice versa, this is a good place to start.

Is the person answering the phone helpful? Do not be offended if you are put on hold or asked to hold for an emergency. Smaller practices may do this, and it is normal to hear, “Can you hold or is this an emergency?”

Any relationship takes time to develop. We put the same level of care into choosing a vet that we do in selecting a human physician for ourselves.

First Impressions

On the first visit, take notice of:

  • The condition and cleanliness of the clinic:
  • The vet’s introduction to you and how he or she handles your pet
  • Explain why you are there and be honest: You are looking for a new veterinarian and considering this practice
  • Find out office hours, how long the vet has been practicing, if you will be able to see the veterinarian consistently, and if there are after-hours, weekend, and/or emergency hours.
  • How long the veterinarian has been practicing and if he or she has any specialties.
  • If holistic medicine is important to you, now is the time to address the topic. (i.e., alternative treatment, etc)
  • Ask for a tour of the practice if possible. Note that if surgeries are taking place or an emergency is in house, a tour may not always be possible. When booking the first appointment, you can always ask the receptionist to ask the veterinarian ahead of time.

One of the questions we recommend asking is, “Why should I bring my pet to your practice?” A caring veterinarian will not be offended and will offer the answer.

For me, personally, there has to be a level of “bedside manners” that put me at ease. I’ve seen my dog’s vet get down on all fours to be put my dog at ease. My dog’s vet has called me on weekends if I was in a state of panic when my last Cocker was nearing the end of her life. He is special and I know this.

The veterinarians of today are certainly not the veterinarians of my youth. In fact, the only time our family dog went to the vet throughout my childhood was for shots and emergencies. The times have definitely changed.

One of the main pieces of advice we have is to remember that veterinarians, just like you, put their pants on one leg at a time. Your dog’s well being is in your hands, and at some point you will  need to turn your dog over to a trusted veterinarian.

medicine versus mom

In our continuing series of “Medicine Versus Mom,” pet blogger Rachel Sheppard of the My Kid Has Paws blog shares her vet tech side of things with 9 Ways to Find a Veterinarian here.

Did you ever have a negative experience with a veterinarian? Do you have a gem of a vet? Let us know by barking back in the comments below.

Want more articles like this? Check out other posts in the Medicine Vs Mom series here:

Call the Vet or Believe Online Info?

How to Say No to  A Veterinarian

Does My Dog Really Need Vaccines

Comments

  1. Great article Carol! It is so very important to have a good relationship with your vet. I adore my vet and also travel 40 minutes there and back to see ours. I wouldn’t change it for the world!

  2. It is a hard process unless you are lucky on your first try. We went through four clinics before finding the ideal vet. It is so important to find someone you can trust that truly cares about your pet and not just how much money they can make. Someone the will take the time to explain things to you, give you options and most of all knows what they are talking about.

  3. I met and spoke with the wonderful representatives from AAHA at BlogPaws 2014. What an eye opening experience. We came home and searched for an AAHA accredited vet and it has made a world of difference. Our new vet office is incredible and we have written several posts about the benefit of finding an accredited vet. Now, if they could only find me a good doctor for humans! LOL!

  4. I loved this article!I have been lucky with our Vet office.The first time I took my Riley to them,we had just moved back to Va and he had been attacked by another dog and had several lacerations.I really appreciated the way they dealt with both of us.We only took him there for a little over a year before we lost him to cancer but they were wonderful and so caring.I would receive calls from both Vets and their Vet Tech on a regular basis checking on how he was doing and letting me know that they were there for us.
    When we got Beauregard,there was no choice but where he was going to go :)…they now have 3 Vets there and I feel comfortable with all of them.We are never rushed and they are always willing to answer all questions.My husband recently had to take Beau in by himself and came home amazed at how much he liked the way he and Beau had been treated.Made me happy that we made the right choice with this group.

  5. Superb post! I am blessed to have had two out of 3 great vets! In Cleveland I had a husband/wife team that cared for my Angel Bobo from when he was 6 months old til I moved to Michigan when Bobo was 12.
    When I moved here, the first vet I took him too “man handled” him, didn’t talk to him lovingly, etc…I was OUT of there!
    I did exactly as you suggested, I asked people I worked with and was blessed to be with my current vet since about 2005. There are multiple vets in the practice (all great, but we adore the doctor that we try to go to exclusively)
    He is ALWAYS available to me (even by text) He was out of town when Cody became ill and once updated by his associate, he phoned me immediately and told me to keep him posted as to what happened at the Emergency Vet. He has texted me on vacation (if I have contacted him for an issue)…I do not abuse texting him and he knows that. We are blessed to have this caring angel in our lives.

  6. Good posts. It’s so frustrating at times going through certain things. We are so lucky to have found good vets that take their time and listen
    Lily & Edward

  7. Wow, what a cold fish that woman was! I’m so sorry you had to go through that. Clearly that person is working in the wrong field! I’m glad you never went back. I’ve been lucky to have found very good vets and not had a terrible experience like that. Our vet is so passionate and kind as well as knowledgeable I feel very lucky to have him. These are all great tips, thanks for sharing.

  8. Great article and information! I really liked my previous vet; however, after a couple of misdiagnoses I had to find a new one. I felt bad leaving but the quality of care just wasn’t up to par. My new vet is wonderful and as M.K. Clinton mentioned above, he is AAHA accredited and I do believe this makes a huge difference in the level of care.

  9. in the past 14 yrs i have been thru abt 8 vets. i wont put up w/ them telling me it will be okay and then it is not, or them giving the wrong diagnoses, and having to go back again and again. i go to homeopathic vets, my last homeopathic vet i was a client for over 10 yrs. i had several problems in the past few yrs b4 i left, i wrote her a very long letter, she did not even respond. she had one of her vet techs write me an email stating she was sorry i was not happy. i wont go into the details b/c it would be too long since i have 3 dogs and had problems with all 3 there, but i was pissed that she did not even have the courtesy to call me after 10 yrs and over 15k plus in vet bills. not only that she was one of the most expensive vets in the area. i wont go back to the local vet school b/c of 2 problems i have had there. i wont go back to the er vet b/c they diagnosed the problems wrong, not once but twice. i love the dental vet i go to, dr banker, sedgefield animal hospital, in greensboro, nc, he only does dental but his practice does everything. he also donates lot of his time and practice to rescue groups. there are several rescues-cats, bunnies, lizards, dogs, running around, waiting to get adopted. people come from canada, the west coast and all over the us to see him. my youngest who was 1 at the time, had a loose front tooth, i took her to my old vet, who said she had dental disease, i asked how, you have been seeing her on a reg basis, told me her teeth looked great, and now you are telling me you are going to pull 10 teeth, bs. i was pissed, so i stayed up all nite looking for dental specialist. found dr. banker, 180 miles, rt. love him, he was not happy either since he had trained the dr i had been going to, dr. banker started the dental program at the nc vet school and was a teacher. my new homeopathic vet said he was the best teacher. on top of that, i asked them if the bill was correct b/c it was less than 1/2 what i had been paying. he did gum graphs, root planing on my baby, he has put in fillings in my oldest gal and middle child. i have never had my girls come out of anesthesia so quickly, he does not like to use the injectable anesthesia b/c he said if there is a problem, and the dog is in distress, you cant really do anything, w/ gas, you just cut off the gas. i have learned so much from him. he also helped to develop the oxyfresh products. the techs there are so great. so if you need a really good dental vet, i would call him. worth the trip. my former vet, refused to do a root canal to save one of my other dogs tooth, i told her to go on and do it, she said wait and see, we;;, wait and see, the dog lost the tooth. if she had put in filling or dont root canal the tooth would have been saved. i asked her to remove some bumps on the dog, she refused, said no problem. the bumps got bigger, she still refused, i told her to biopsy them, she said the biopsy came back negative, which is not what the report said, after several visits, several biopsies, she finally removed them “to satisfy me”….the report stated that the biopsies were inconclusive and further testing and removal was advised. and still she refused til i pressed her. my middle child had her teeth cleaned and it took her over 2 days plus to come out of the anesthesia, i took her back and they said just takes time, they gave her too much….dr. banker has several different types of anesthesia formulas he uses and uses what he feels would be best for the specific dog, age, etc. they also monitor the dogs very closely and use a warming blanket.

  10. Having to find a new vet with our move was a source of major stress. We had a great one, will we find one up here? I spent literally days looking, searching, evaluating. Then phone interview with top pics. Than initial visit interview. At the end, I’m happy with my choice.

  11. I was so very lucky to be referred to a wonderful vet practice by a dear friend who is also a vet tech. She in fact, used to work for me and one day came into my office and told me she was quitting and going back to school to become a vet tech. ; ) That was almost 10 years ago and we’ve been visiting the clinic she works at ever since. I can’t say enough about how important the vet-pet parent relationship is. Dr. Karlin and the entire staff at Westgate feel like part of our family.

  12. Thank you for sharing your story, I really enjoyed reading it. Pets are family members, so it’s really important you have a good veterinarian. I’ve had my dog for almost 10 years, and it took me a while to recognize a good veterinarian. I agree with your points, and you list some great questions. I hope whoever reads your story will benefit from it!

  13. Our dog has a condition that requires attention about 3 times per year. We have been going from place to place trying to find a good vet, but we just haven’t felt like we have found our guy yet. Like you mentioned under the first impressions, these vets haven’t had clean and organized offices. We will be on the look and use these tips to help us out!

  14. Wow, this was really helpful and informative! I know it can be really hard to find someone you trust with the health of your furry (or scaly) four-legged friend. I just moved to a new area and I need to find someone I can trust with my mastiff Boomer. This was very helpful, and I feel a lot less lost now. Thanks so much for writing!

  15. I like your advice of making sure my dog can see the same veterinarian each time. I think having that relationship would help my dog feel more calm. It would also help me feel comfortable as well. Hopefully, I can find a vet that will work well for my dog and me.

  16. Oh my goodness, I can’t imagine having my dog treated that way! I’m so sorry you went through that. Your list of tips for when to find a new vet is really great. I definitely agree that a vet shouldn’t get annoyed when you ask questions, and that they shouldn’t be trying to sell you on their products. We are moving soon, so I’ll be keeping this article handy for when I start my search for a new vet!

  17. I really liked your tips! I just recently adopted a puppy, so I’ve been thinking about his health and how to best care for him. I’ve always known that regular visits to the veterinarian are important, but because this is my first pet, I wasn’t sure what I should do to find a good clinic. I liked how you mentioned that I should pay close attention to how the vet handles my pet on the first visit. I think that this is a good indicator as to how well he would treat my dog during future visits, or when I’m not around. I’m going to keep this in mind as I search for a good vet! Thank you for the advice!

  18. For me, going to the right vet is very important. Well, it’s not that important for me but it is very important for my pet. Like you said, there are things that we should take note of. How they handle your pet should be the biggest indication of whether or not you should continue going there.

  19. We did quite a bit of research when looking for a good vet. We had lots of farm animals when we were younger, so we had to have someone who was knowledgeable about many different kinds of animals. We found ours by asking around and getting referrals. We’ve been going to the same vet ever since.

  20. Thank you for your post. This is horrible! Pets are like family and nobody likes to see their family or pets being handled like they are nothing. I like your tips on asking family and friends the five W’s. I think that can help to narrow down the veterinary clinics to look into

  21. I appreciate your tip on finding a vet clinic where the same veterinarian can see your pet every time. I would imagine that having this familiarity with your vet would be helpful for your pet and reduce the stress they may feel. My wife and I are looking for a new veterinary clinic for our puppy so when we do we’ll be sure to see if the same vet can see him every time.

  22. I love your list of things to look for under first impressions, especially the cleanliness of the office. We recently moved to a new town so we are looking for a veterinarian for our two huskies. They are usually pretty good when it comes to going to the vet but it might be a good idea to take them in to help them to get to know the workers.

  23. My dogs are like my children. How the veterinarian cares for them matters to me. It is a good idea to ask around to find a reliable clinic. Another thing I need to consider is the cost. I want my pets to have good quality visits for a reasonable price.

  24. My family and I recently moved to a new area and have been looking for a veterinary facility for our pets. You mentioned that caring veterinarians and caring veterinary technicians who dedicate themselves to the health of pets while developing an ongoing relationship with the pet parent among the true superheroes of the world. Do most veterinary staff have training on how to better connect with the animals? It appears that finding a caring professional could be very important.

  25. This article has helped me to understand the benefits visitng a vet. I like how you explained that a vet can help to keep your dog healthy. I hope that I can remember this article if I ever adopt a dog.

  26. I love how you talked about finding a vet that is really dedicated and hard-working in all that they do. It’s so awesome that you’ve found the right vet for you and your pet, even though he is 90 minutes away from where you live. That just shows how good of a vet he is! I really hope we’ll be able to find someone like that in the city we are moving to, next week. It takes a special person to care for animals and help them in the best way possible.

  27. You have some great tips for finding a good vet. Like you said, there are bad apples in every profession, so it’s important to find someone who will take care of your pets. I like how you talked about first impressions. That is what I will go off of when I see the clinic.

  28. I appreciate what you said about noticing the condition and cleanliness of the clinic when you first visit a new veterinarian. I once visited an emergency pet clinic and the state of the facility was excelling, the cleanliness helped me feel at ease when they cared for my pet. Thanks for the tips! The next time I’m looking for a new clinic for my pet I’ll keep them in mind.

  29. I am happy to have found this information about how to find a good veterinarian. It is good to know that first impressions of the vet and the office are important. It would be good to check around and see if the premises is sanitary.

  30. I really like the checklist you put together about what to do on your first visit with a vet. Especially thinking about how long they have been practicing makes sense, since that would directly affect their experience. I would imagine that referrals from a friend would be very important when choosing an animal hospital.

  31. Man, these are some horror stories. I don’t understand how anyone who doesn’t adore animals could get into the field of veterinary care. I get annoyed by human children, but that is why I am not a school teacher!

  32. I like that you point out that it is a good idea to get a tour of the facility before deciding to have them take care of your pet. I can see why this would give you a chance to see what kind of practice they have. My sister bought a dog for her family for Christmas. I’ll have to ask her if she has found a vet to take him to.

  33. We just adopted our first dog, but weren’t really sure where to take him to get checked up on. It’s interesting that you say to take note of the cleanliness of the clinic and the condition of it. It would be nice to know that we are taking him to a place that won’t make him sick, and will stay clean after her leaves.

  34. I had never considered to ask the receptionist beforehand if I could get a tour of the facility when I came in. This seems like a really good way of preparing the vet and showing that you are interested in becoming a consistent client. My sister is planning on adopting a puppy from the local pound. I’ll have to make sure she does this when she is looking for a vet to go to.

  35. Thank you for the great article. You wrote that you should make sure you find a good veterinarian with whom you can foster a relationship for you and your pet. My friend has a horse, and has been looking for a good vet that could help take her of the horse. If the vet were to really develop a relationship, it could help her better understand the horse and it’s tendencies, which could help the vet know if it is truly healthy and happy. Thanks for the read.

  36. I really like your tip about asking for a tour of the practice when it comes to your first impression of the office! That seems like a great way to get to know the employees and see how clean the facility is. I’ll have to keep that in mind while my husband and I are looking for a new place to take our dogs. Our oldest has arthritis in her front legs so I’ll be sure to let the vet know about that issue. Thank you for sharing!

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