There’s no “right way” to choose a vet, but there are a number of suggestions to be offered that may help bring order and reason to the search.
Why are you selecting a vet? Have you moved into a new area, has your present vet moved or retired, have you acquired the first pet, or are you unhappy with your current vet or his staff? If the reason is the latter, maybe you shouldn’t be so hasty.
Very often, annoyance with a vet method is the result of a malfunction in communications that fails to get resolved or a particular event or situation that has been allowed to fester. Before you bolt, you might ask to have a “heart to heart” with the person in charge of the facility.
Sometimes it’s hard to complain or point out things that bother us. You owe it to your pet and your vet to try to make the air. You may still make a change, but it will be an informed change.
Most people ask around. If you put some thought into it, though, you can be selective about who you ask. Your golf buddy, closest co-worker, or lifelong friend may be a person whose friendship you value, but their animal husbandry protocols may be far different from yours.
Ask people who maintain their animals with priorities and practices similar to your own, consider those in a long-term relationship with a veterinarian, or someone who just went through such a search. You can also ask groomers, pet store personnel and others in associated fields.
Professional associations can be a resource. Some vet clinics are members of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), which means that the practice meets AAHA standards involving criteria such as equipment, care, and the facility in general.
Individual veterinarians, who have specialties such as dermatology or cardiology, may be members of their respective associations and certification boards, meaning that they’ve had to pass tough requirements and must maintain compliance with continuing education requirements.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is the national trade group for veterinary associations, but each state has its professional association.
Don’t be shy about asking to tour the facility. You can evaluate the set up as to whether or not you feel comfortable with it, and if you think your pet would feel comfortable. You can observe the staff for professional demeanor, the way they interact with clients, pets, and each other.
Don’t be shy about talking money. Be sure you’re clear on fees for routine stuff like exams, vaccination and parasite control, as well as spay/neuter fees and costs for specialized tests. Ask about discounts that may be offered, such as for multiple pets or senior citizens, and about payment options that the practice may offer.
I like to consider “the reality check.” A veterinarian who is incompetent, overly expensive, runs a crummy facility, has a lousy staff, or who has a lousy personality won’t survive in the market. If they’ve been there awhile, they’re probably OK, from an objective viewpoint. Another reality check shows that our decision, in large part, is often based on subjective, emotional criteria.