Any pet owner knows that “find a new veterinarian” is on the top of the moving to-do list. In fact, for many, finding a new vet is higher on the list then finding a new doctor. Admit it! Our four-legged loved ones often come first! However, the task of finding a qualified vet for your beloved furry friend can be a hairy one.
I called in the pros: the veterinarians at VetPronto and Dr. Anthony George, doctor of veterinary medicine and certified veterinary acupuncturist, to learn some simple tips to help find a qualified vet in your new hood. From office structure to qualifications and interaction, their advice covers the hunt from whiskers to tail.
VetPronto recommends asking these 5 questions before selecting a new vet:
1. How far is the clinic? Most pets get stressed by the car ride to the vet so try to minimize the travel time by finding a vet with an office close to your home. If the vet’s office is a bit of a drive, you can desensitize your pet to the car trip by going to the vet frequently and making it a pleasurable experience, such as by giving your pet treats while inside. Your pet will build up positive associations. Vet trip? Yum!
2. What are their hours? Pets like to get sick when it’s least convenient, so look for a vet that works weekends and has options for emergency care, or at least has a good relationship with the local ER vet clinic.
3. What is the ratio of nurses to vets? You want to aim for 1:1 or even 2:1 ratio of nurses to vets to ensure that your pet gets the attention they deserve.
4. Are they AAHA accredited? Ask if they are American Animal Hospital Association accredited, which requires very high standards.
5. What are their qualifications? Ask about their experience as a vet. Specifically, how many years have they been practicing, do they have board memberships in internal medicine or surgery, and where did they get their degree?
Dr. George offers these five tips to unleashing the vet that is right for you and your pet:
1. Seek out recommendations: Ask friends, new colleagues and family in the area if they have a vet they would recommend. Word of mouth is still a very reliable and powerful tool to find a vet you can trust. Social media is also another valuable tool such as Yelp.
2. First Impressions: It is not just the vet you want to give the once over. You want to be sure the front desk is easy to work with, experienced and reliable as well. When you call the office, how is the front staff? Are they friendly? Do they ask you to send copies of your previous records, vaccine history and radiographs? All of their careful work upfront will assist the veterinarian in evaluating your pet’s history and assist you in following through on any special needs your pet may require.
3. Manner & Methods: Once you meet with the vet, its critical to not just look at their qualifications, but also their interactions with you and your pet. Do they make eye contact and show interest in your pet’s history? Do they handle your pet in a gentle manner and try to make your pet (and you) feel comfortable? Do they do a complete physical evaluation, which includes looking at your pet’s eyes, ears and mouth? They should palpate the entire body including the lymph nodes, abdomen and do a rectal examination to evaluate the anal glands and check for any masses.
4. Standard Treatments: All veterinarians should give you options for vaccinations, flea control and heartworm prevention on your first visit. One size does definitely not fit all. Vaccinations should be tailored to the pet’s lifestyle and exposure to certain diseases. The vet should also address the following treatments:
- Rabies is usually required by law, but distemper, parvovirus and kennel cough vaccines can be adjusted to meet each animal’s specific needs. Some animals may have sensitivities to vaccinations and a good veterinarian will give you options for blood tests, which are used to measure protective antibodies levels to certain ailments and evaluate if a vaccination is really necessary.
- Heartworm is a very serious disease, but not present in all parts of the world. A good veterinarian will discuss which diseases are problematic in your new area and assess which preventative measures are needed.
- This practice includes flea control. Many flea products can have side effects and can be toxic to your pet. A veterinarian should discuss environmental control and determine whether your pet truly needs flea medication every month. Often, the administration of flea medications can be tapered or minimized given the season or degree of flea exposure.
5. Specialists: Veterinary medicine, like human medicine, has become highly specialized. There are board certified veterinary surgeons, dermatologists, oncologists, internal medicine specialists, cardiologists, ophthalmologists and behaviorists. Your veterinarian should be familiar with all the options available to you and offer these specialists to you if your pet needs one.
With these ten tips in paw, you will be sure to find a new vet that will keep your pet healthy and both of you happy. Wishing: Happy tails to you!