All Things Dog

Searching for a Veterinarian: The Essential Checklist

It could be that you've just adopted a dog and need to find a veterinarian. Or perhaps you've moved to a new city, town or neighborhood. Or maybe you're simply not satisfied with your current vet. Whatever the case may be, here's a checklist of what you should do in order to find a new veterinarian.

Step One: Determine your needs

Before you actually start looking for a veterinarian, take some time to think about the needs of your dog as well as your own needs. For instance, do you have a schedule that's fairly flexible that would allow you to go to an appointment in the middle of the day? Or would it be more convenient for you to have a vet that makes house-calls? Are you prepared to drive across town to the best vet or would you prefer someone with an office close by? These are just some of the things you should think about before you begin your search.

Step Two: Research

Ask neighbors and fellow dog owners at the dog park about their vets, and take a look at online review sites. Search a vet’s name and see what comes up in the results.

You may also see ads in local publications and get direct mail pieces from vets. But remember, a fancy-looking piece of advertising doesn’t guarantee a positive working relationship with your vet!

You can also contact your local Humane Society or animal shelter and ask if they can provide you with a list of veterinarians in your area.

Step Three: Start asking questions

  • What are the office hours? Is the vet available on Saturdays or open after 5 p.m. at least one day a week?

  • How easy is it to get an appointment? Do you need to book far in advance?

  • How many veterinarians are in the practice? If there are more than one, can you request a specific vet?

  • Does the vet (or vets) have any areas of specialty? For example, geriatrics or behavior?

  • What services are provided? For example, are there after-hour emergency services? Does the vet make house-calls? Do they offer boarding services?

  • Are services like x-rays, bloodwork or other diagnostics done on-site or is a specialist required?

  • What associations is the vet affiliated with? For example, a membership with the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) signifies that the veterinarian has passed certain standards in the areas of facility, equipment, and quality care.

  • What forms of payment are accepted?

  • Is it easy to find parking? Is there a cost for it?

Step Four: Pay a visit

Once you've narrowed your search down, visit the veterinarian office in person. Take a good look around and make note of the following:

  • Is the facility clean and comfortable?

  • Do they offer additional products like specialty dog food, grooming items, toys, etc.? (These may not be necessities, but it's good to know they're available.)

  • Is the staff friendly and helpful? Do they seem knowledgeable? Do you feel comfortable talking to them?

You may think this seems like a lot to go through to find a veterinarian, but you're really doing much more than looking for a medical expert. You're looking for someone who will care for the needs of your dog so you can look forward to a longer life together.

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