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Pet Care » Your Dog's Health

How to Choose a Veterinarian

Tips for choosing your dog's doctor

In a time of medical need or crisis, there's nothing that a true dog lover wouldn't do for their ailing canine companion. Perhaps one of the best medical advantages you can give your dog is to have carefully chosen the best veterinarian that you could find for him or her.

It's not always an easy process to do just that. In fact, it usually requires a few hours of your precious time. However, it will be time well spent if the result is identifying a highly qualified doctor to tend to your dog's health maintenance needs as well as any emergencies that arise.

The Initial Interview Process

Because you're Rover's main health advocate, it's up to you to do the necessary groundwork whether it's before you've purchased a dog or after the fact. Begin by asking for recommendations and references from animal owners that you know. Check with any local animal shelters, dog breeders, or animal rescue groups as they usually have a high level of interaction with veterinarians.

Once you've narrowed your list down to potential veterinarians to visit, make initial telephone calls to the clinics that you're considering. After explaining your needs, ask some general questions pertaining to the vet's experience and availability to meet those needs. Feel free to discuss basic fees for such services as an annual examination, vaccines, spaying/neutering, fecal exams, and heartworm tests.

Try not to take up too much of their time over the telephone, but get answers to the questions that you've identified as being necessary to help you decide whether to proceed "interviewing" this particular vet or not. If the answers you receive are satisfactory ones, ask to schedule a brief appointment to tour the hospital facilities and to meet the veterinarian, if just for a moment. You might want to ask if you can bring your dog along with you if you already own one.

The "In-Office" Interview

While being shown around the clinic, make note of its cleanliness and hopeful lack of odor. Examine the kennel area to see if the cages are of a suitable size and design to keep Rover happy and safe for any overnight visits he or she might need to make. Determine if the surgery area and medical equipment is "up-to-date."

Chat with the employees and pay attention to their interactions with any of the animals that are currently there. Make note if there is more than one vet to handle emergencies or to serve as a back up when and if necessary. Try to get an idea as to how long it can take to get an appointment for Rover to see the vet. While it would seldom be a need of yours, it's a good idea to ask if they're available after regular business hours and whether they make house calls.

When you talk with the veterinarian, describe once again what your current or anticipated needs are and ask them if they feel confident in being able to meet such needs. Try to get a sense of their willingness to utilize alternative medical treatments and ask them about their opinions on early spaying and neutering. Ask basic questions about their past education, current membership in animal-related organizations, and future plans for themselves or the clinic. If you have Rover at your side, their reaction to the vet might help you make a decision, but remember, dogs aren't usually thrilled to be in a doggy doctor's office, so don't be alarmed if Rover seems a little standoffish.

Thank the vet as well as the staff for their time and take home any business-related information that they provide to you. Give yourself a chance to process all of the information that you've been given before deciding how to proceed.

Even if you identify a vet that you and Rover are very comfortable with, continue your discussions with the other doctors on your short list. You never know, you might actually find multiple vets that you like. It certainly never hurts to have a few extra options for your best furry friend's medical needs.

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