Your Veterinarian Should Be Your Pet’s Second-best Friend
To many people, a pet is a member of the family. Would you take your child to just any pediatrician or doctor? Not likely. The same is true for your pet; you want a veterinarian with credentials, one that is experienced, trusted, and reputable.
Sure, you hope to have a friendly, professional relationship with the vet you choose to care for your pet's needs, but it goes much farther than how well you get along. Some of the things you will want to think about when choosing a vet include the services they offer,
How they handle emergency situations, office hours, staff, fees and payments, professional affiliations, and the actual facility. It is also important for you to realize that you should find the right vet BEFORE your pet needs one so that you are prepared should the need arise.
When and where should you look, and what are you looking for? You will find all of the answers about veterinarians and making the right choice in this article.
When to Begin Your Search for A Vet, and Where to Look
Not only do you want a reputable vet, you want one that you also feel comfortable with and that you feel will offer the best care for your pet. The best thing to do is to begin your search for a veterinarian before you ever purchase or adopt a pet. This gives you time to look around and weigh several options instead of being rushed to make a choice when an emergency situation arises.
When you begin your search, you may not know where to start other than going online or looking through the Yellow pages. If you do begin your search in the telephone directory, search under veterinarians and animal hospitals. Searching online can often be helpful, as many websites list memberships and accreditations such as being a member of the AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association.
If you live in a small town, there may be only one veterinarian in town. No matter where you live there are options. If you do live in a rural area, it's likely that there are other vets in a larger nearby city. Often, the best way to find a trusted vet is to ask around for referrals from people you know, such as co-workers, friends, family members, and neighbors. You might also ask your dog groomer or trainer, as they often know of reputable veterinarians in the community.
Moving? You will need to find a new vet if you are moving too far away to use your current veterinarian. Ask your regular vet for a referral in the new area.
What are The Educational Requirements to Become A Veterinarian?
The answer to this question may surprise you. To become a vet, as much education is required time-wise as those who choose to become a physician or dentist. Attending college and obtaining a four-year degree is the first step; once that is completed and a bachelor's degree (or equivalent) obtained, an individual must then apply to a veterinary college where they will study for another four years.
Most of the courses that individuals take prior to becoming a veterinarian emphasize science. General and animal biology, chemistry, genetics, animal nutrition, physics, and systemic physiology are a few of the classes typically required by veterinary medical colleges for an applicant to gain entrance.
The college attended must be accredited in order for an individual to obtain a DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) or VMD, which is required in the United States. At present, there are 28 colleges that meet accreditation standards set by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association. These 28 colleges are located in 26 states.
Checking Out the Facility - What to Look For
Think of yourself or a family member when considering a veterinary practice. If you or your child were ill, would you want to visit a doctor's office or hospital that appeared unsanitary or that smelled bad? Of course, you wouldn't, and the same thing goes for your pet. Once you have a few vets picked out, go to the facility and ask for a tour. Keep a keen eye open during your visit, and keep these things in mind:
- Are the rooms in disarray, or do they appear to be clean and orderly?
- Do kennels and boarding areas appear to be clean?
- Are dogs and cats kept in separate areas in cages?
- Do staff members seem courteous and caring?
- Is there clear communication?
- Is there more than one veterinarian in the practice?
Does the facility smell fairly normal? (There will be some unpleasant odors in any facility where many animals are tended to daily, but it shouldn't be an overpowering or sickening smell.)
Ask staff if you can have a tour of areas that are not open to the public; this will help you get a good idea of what conditions are like behind the scenes. When touring the veterinary clinic, a technician may accompany you. This makes it easy to ask any questions that come to mind.
You can often get a good feel for the veterinary services by the cleanliness of the environment and the demeanor of the staff. Make a list of any and all questions you want answers to, and don't feel intimidated about asking them.
What to Expect From A Dependable, Caring Vet
It is likely that if you have had office visits with various doctors, you have noticed that some performance tests before prescribing a treatment plan while others treat you without really knowing for certain the underlying cause of your illness. A veterinarian is no different! You are putting your trust in a professional's care, and potentially the life of your pet.
You should expect good care from the vet you choose; here are a few points to consider:
Upon your first visit with your pet, your vet should take a detailed history and do a thorough exam from nose to tail. A good veterinarian will take a minimum of 30 minutes to ask questions about your pet's history, address any concerns you may have regarding your pet's health, and examine every area of your pet's body.
Prior to prescribing treatment, a reputable vet will perform lab tests to make certain the problem is diagnosed. If a vet sees common signs of a bacterial infection, he may prescribe antibiotics without performing tests. For most other illnesses, tests will be done before assuming the problem and prescribing treatment. Your vet should also explain clearly to you what the problem is so that you understand, and inform you about any medications prescribed.
Just as with humans, a good vet will advise that your pet have an annual exam. Many conditions can be diagnosed early and treated so that complications can be avoided. An annual exam includes the entire body from nose to tail. Your veterinarian will check your pet's nose, eyes, mouth, ears, lungs, heart, abdomen, skin, and coat, back, and tail.
A thorough exam of your pet involves more than a simple once-over. Your vet will be looking for possible signs of rhinitis, Canine Distemper, parasites, stress, anemia, ear mites, Heartworm, spinal problems, lumps, swelling, and more.
In regular wellness exams, your vet will usually perform a urinalysis, routine blood testing, and various other tests. These are particularly important if your pet is reaching the senior years. As your dog ages, he/she will likely need more attention and having a vet that really knows your pet is a real advantage in offering the appropriate treatment for your pet.
Ask Questions When Choosing A Veterinarian for Your Pet
Never feel intimidated about asking a vet questions so that you can make an informed decision. Your pet is a part of your family, and most individuals that become veterinarians do so because they have a love for and interest in animals. A respected vet will welcome your questions and provide the answers you need.
A few topics to discuss with the vet is whether they provide emergency care, how many surgery beds are available, and whether the clinic has incorporated any new technologies.
Question your Vet About:
How difficult animals are handled. Some people have dogs or other pets that may become aggressive or agitated when taken to the vet.
Ask about the services provided. Some veterinary clinics offer boarding and grooming, as well as medical care and wellness check-ups.
Some pets have medical needs that cannot be met by the vet. Ask if the clinic refers pets to specialists, particularly if yours has a rare condition.
Are licensed veterinary technicians on staff, and is the clinic accredited by the AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association?)
How Long has the Vet been in Practice?
There are many questions you will want to ask the veterinarian so that you feel comfortable putting your pet in his/her care. Most vets understand this, as they know that your pet is important to you and you want the best possible care.
First Impressions, Fees & Payments, Miscellaneous
First impressions are often the most reliable ones. What impression do you get on the initial visit? Are the receptionist and staff friendly and helpful? Observe everything around you, noticing whether the clinic is busy and how the receptionist handles patients in person as well as over the telephone.
Is the reception area clean with a pleasant atmosphere? Look for a bulletin board with photos of some of the pets that are cared for at the clinic, thank you notes from pet owners, etc. Many clinics will have pamphlets or brochures that inform pet owners about various illnesses and afflictions regarding pets, or even information about properly caring for pets.
You will also want to know whether the veterinary clinic takes weekend appointments or whether they are open only during weekdays, and what their hours are. Does someone cover when the vet is sick, on vacation, or otherwise unavailable?
Learn whether the veterinary clinic or hospital takes pet insurance, and what methods of payment are accepted. Payment may be expected at the time of service, or the clinic may offer 30-day billing. It is important that you know these things before you bring your pet in for an appointment so that you are prepared.
Also have a list prepared so that you can inform the vet of any symptoms you may have noticed, such as weight loss or gain, excessive thirst or urination, intense scratching, nausea, etc. These things may help give the vet an idea of where to start with his/her examination.
As you can see, there is much more to choosing a good vet than first meets the eye. You want the best possible care for your pet, so it is worth your time to do a little preparation and research before choosing the veterinarian who will care for your pet. A happy, healthy pet means a happy owner. Give the four-legged members of your family the best possible life with exceptional care.