Getting attached with any veterinarian is bittersweet. It’s great to find someone you’re comfortable with to care for your pet, but at the same time, you know that even the best pet/pet owner and veterinarian relationships will not last forever. Life happens. Maybe they retired. Maybe they moved their practice somewhere too far for you. Maybe you moved away. Whatever may be the reason for you to find a new veterinarian, it’s never easy to find someone you can trust for your dog. We’ve compiled 20 questions you should ask any potential veterinarian before you decide to make a commitment.
1. Are they familiar with your particular breed?
It doesn’t mean that you won’t let them take care of your dog if they aren’t familiar with the breed; however, it does help to know if they’ve worked with other dogs of the same breed. Many pet owners actually look for this in a veterinarian. It’ll give you a lot of comfort in a way that your vet may have already encountered problems with the breed and may be able to anticipate issues or handle issues swiftly if they do come about. You can ask this question, but don’t hold it against your potential vet if they say no. It might be an opportunity for them to get to know your dog better, and in return, be able to provide better care for your pet.
2. How long have they been in practice?
The length of a veterinarian’s practice doesn’t necessarily reflect expertise, but in majority of cases, it just might. New practices will have many other things to get around to in order to get established, and in some ways, it might compromise the quality of care provided to your dog. Practices that have already been established for a long time are used to the back work required in running a clinic, and can therefore focus more on the animals themselves. Finding a practice that has been around for at least a couple of years should be fine, unless you’re confident and willing to work with a completely new veterinarian. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with supporting a new clinic, as long as you check credentials and make sure everything else is legit.
3. Do they specialize in large or small animals?
Specialization is quite important. You might not want to take your dog to a clinic that only specializes in smaller reptiles or the like. A good veterinarian will refer you to another vet that can handle your dog’s issues if they can’t, but that’s not always a guarantee. Most of the time, you’re better off finding a vet on your own that typically works with the type of animal you have. This will eliminate issues later on when your dog gets sick and you can’t figure out what’s wrong with him or her. Time is always sensitive matter when dealing with any type of dog sickness, so it’s imperative to have a veterinarian that’s used to the type of animal you may have.
4. Are there any specialists on site?
Depending on the size of the clinic, they may have one or several veterinary specialists or they may have none. This is something that you might want to consider seriously, especially if your dog has an existing condition. You might want to decide on a vet that is a clinical practitioner, or you might want a clinic that has a specialty in animal internal medicine. This is someone who might have extra training in cardiology, neurology, or oncology. You might also want to work with a clinic that has critical care specialists on site. Having specialists on site means that you won’t have to get referred to another place just to see another vet for a special issue your dog might be having. This can become a hassle for some, especially if you end up having to travel with a sick dog.
5. How many vets are in the office and how many are certified techs?
Certified veterinary techs do important work in clinics. They help the vets with routine work, help keep the flow of animal care smooth and on time, and they also help with the actual care of your dog. However, you might not want to work with a vet that practices alone and works only with techs. You might have difficulty reaching the actual vet when needed and might end up dealing with techs majority of the time. You’ll want to be in a clinic that has, at the very least, two or more vets. This way, if one vet is not available, you can still be guaranteed to see another one.
6. Can you choose which vet you’d like to see in a visit?
Given that a clinic has multiple practicing vets available, you should ask if you’re free to choose a particular vet for any or all of your dog’s visits. Not all clinics will allow this but instead will distribute evenly among practitioners. If it doesn’t matter to you, then you can disregard this question. However, if you’d much prefer to pick the vet for your dog to see on each visit, then it’s important to know if the clinic will let you or not. If it doesn’t work out with one particular vet in that clinic, you can always try the others to find a perfect match for your dog. Trial and error might be a time-consuming ordeal, but it’s still the best way to see if any vet is the right one for your dog.
7. Is someone always on duty for emergencies?
There’s nothing scarier than not being able to reach your dog’s vet when he or she is really ill. However, it happens more than you know. There are a lot of smaller clinics out there that can’t afford to have emergency services or at least provide coverage 24 hours a day, everyday. This is something that’s very important because you’ll never know when your dog will get sick. Make sure that your vet’s clinic has an emergency line or an after office hours contact. This way, if your dog’s issue can’t wait until the following day when they open for business hours, you can guarantee that you’ll be able to talk to a vet to guide you with what you need to do.
8. What does their basic health exam include?
A basic health exam will vary from clinic to clinic. One place might just do the typical physical check up for your dog. Another clinic might include claw trimming, teeth cleaning, or other extras as part of a basic health exam. If you prefer to take your dog to a particular place to get those extras done, then it’s up to you. Just know that there are clinics and vets who will do these as part of a regular exam. This will save you from having to make a separate trip that won’t be necessary if you go with a clinic that goes the extra mile.
9. How much is a basic health exam?
Perhaps more important than what’s included in a basic health exam is how much it’s going to cost. Obviously, different clinics will charge different prices depending on the services they provide. Compare clinics and their costs before making a commitment. Ask for details to see if it’s worth the price. There are many vets out there that will perform extra services without being asked to do so but will still charge even though it wasn’t warranted. You should know what goes in a basic health exam and how much it costs to avoid unwanted charges and also to see if you’re truly getting the best price available. In addition, also ask if making payment arrangements is an option. Vet bills can easily stack up, especially if you find your dog to be really sick. Payment arrangements can help with the burden of expenses.
10. What other services do they offer?
Different clinics will also offer different services. Get to know what services your vet offers because it can eliminate a lot of hassle later on. The services a clinic will provide will depend on many things, but usually, larger clinics will offer more services albeit for the added price. In addition to a basic health check up, some of the other services a clinic might offer may include vaccinations for your dog, bathing and boarding, preventative medicine, and wellness panels. Other clinics may offer complete dental services including teeth cleaning, polishing, extractions, and fluoride treatments. For more specialized services, clinics may offer surgery of alla types, treatment of dog injury, declawing, spaying and neutering, or cancer removal. Having a vet that does all of these services will prevent you from having to go to another just to get one of some of these services done.
11. How much do these services cost?
It wouldn’t hurt to get a detailed price list of how much any of a clinic’s extra services may cost. You can write these down and highlight the ones that you feel are important to you. When scouting and comparing vets, you can then easily compare prices as you go. It’s important to know these ahead of time, so you can be prepared to handle them when the time comes. Again, vet charges can add up easily, and knowing the prices of services so you can be prepared for them helps out a lot. You should also know the prices so you can check to see if one vet is overcharging for services.
12. Where is lab work done, in house or sent out?
Some vet facilities are able to do laboratory work in house. Ask them if they can because this will eliminate a lot of hassle also. Having a laboratory in house will give you faster lab results, especially when it comes to an emergency. Not having this capability will mean that you’ll have to take your dog to get blood drawn at a different facility, wait for the results to finish, wait until they send the results to your dog’s vet, and then wait until the vet reads the results before they can relay the results to you. Having an in-house laboratory will cut at least two of those steps. Also, check to see if the clinic you’re looking into has other capabilities such as radiology and ultrasound. These are some other services your dogs might need one day.
13. Do they run blood work before surgery?
It seems logical enough to do, but believe it or not, not all vets will run blood work before surgery. Of course, you’ll want them to do so, so make sure to ask. Running blood work before surgery is crucial to the success of the surgery, as it can reveal any underlying issues your dog might be having that can be potentially life threatening during surgery. You’ll want a vet that prepares for the worst given the best tools he may have. Blood work is not difficult to do, but its importance in your dog’s health is tantamount. Even though some vets may find you silly for asking, don’t mind being the advocate for your dog.
14. Does the facility have an isolation area?
There are times when an animal might need to be isolated. Facilities that are equipped with an isolation area are practically better options than those that are not. It’s just another layer of protection for your dog and for other animals, for that matter, in case your dog has something that might be contagious or dangerous altogether. An isolation area allows a facility or clinic to reduce the exposure risk of other animals to infectious ones. You wouldn’t want your dog to get sick after a visit at the vet, or vice versa; you also wouldn’t want your dog to get other animals exposed to whatever it may be ill with. An isolation area will prevent this from happening, even though it may just be one room or one small unit.
15. How do they provide prescriptions?
Does the vet write out prescriptions for you to fill at the local pet store? Or does the vet require prescriptions to be filled in their own pharmacy? The difference can mean a lot of money. Having a prescription on your hand may mean that you might be able to get generic versions of what is prescribed, which are generally a lot cheaper compared to name brands. Some clinics may only carry a limited type of a certain medication, so the prices might be higher. At the same time, it can be the complete opposite. You might find that your vet’s medication prices are cheaper than at the pet health store. Make sure to compare prices, especially if you have the option to do so.
16. Are they willing to consider alternative medicine?
Some dog owners prefer a more holistic approach to healing their pets. Some vets do this while others don’t. There are vets who are open to the idea of it, and there are those who will work with whatever their client wishes. Find a vet who is willing to try whatever is needed in order to keep your dog healthy. Sometimes when medications have been exhausted, it’s nice to have another alternative to healing that’s also reliable. If you don’t believe too much in alternative medicine or if you’d prefer that your veterinarian did not practice it, it’s still becomes an important question to ask. Regardless of your beliefs, make sure you let your vet know, so they’ll know how to approach and take care of your dog.
17. What are their hours of operation?
You may find it silly to ask, or you can just say that you can find the information online. There’s still no replacement to asking someone directly what the hours of operation are. Online information can be unreliable at times. The operating hours of a clinic is a big deal because not all clinics are open when you need them to be. They certainly aren’t all open during regular hours. Some clinics might even be open only on certain days of the week. Whatever it may be, just make sure to ask because there’s certainly no point in entertaining a potential vet if you’re not going to be able to take your dog to their clinic because of time issues.
18. What is the average wait time for appointments?
Some vets may be more in demand than others, and therefore, the wait time to get an appointment might take months. Make sure to ask when the next available appointment date is so you can get an idea of how long typical appointment waits are. This might also give you an idea of how much of a wait you’ll have at the office during an appointment. A busy clinic is a good one, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re the best for you. You can still consider and compare other factors into your decision. You might find that the veterinarian available this week is just as good as the one that isn’t available to see your dog until three months from now.
19. Can they provide clients for references?
They may provide you with information, or they may not. If they do, they might give you their most loyal customers to be references. Either way, at least you’ll get direct information from someone who knows the vet and has worked with the vet. If possible, ask for a reference that has the same breed of dog you have and if not, at least a close breed. This will really give you an idea of what to expect when choosing that particular vet for your dog. You’ll also find that most clients, loyal or not, will give you their honest opinions about the vet. Just ask questions as you see them fit. If a clinic won’t provide you with references, check to see if you can see any reviews online. Read them with caution, as some of them may be paid. It’s never a good sign for a clinic to have no reference or reviews whatsoever.
20. Can you tour their facility?
Last but not the least is the availability for a tour. You’ll want to tour a facility comprehensively before you send your dog there to be treated. A tour will give you the best and most final idea of whether this vet is the perfect one for your dog. You can talk to the clinic as much as you want, but you’ll never get the same insight as when you get a tour. You can see firsthand how clean the clinic is, how the people work there, what kinds of animals they treat, and if they really are the best ones for your dog. What will even be better is if you can get a tour unannounced. It’s usually a good sign when a clinic tells you to come anytime because they’re ready for you. That usually means they uphold the best practices and are always ready for inspection.