After you and your family, one of the most important individuals in your dog’s life will be his/her vet. He will be the one helping you with your dog’s nutrition, health and care. As many of us have senior dogs, their needs can be quite different than puppies or even middle-aged dogs. Therefore, it is important to choose a veterinarian wisely.
Get a Reference
The best place to start is with your friends and family, local rescues or shelters, groomers, dog trainers or pet sitters, particularly if they live in your neighborhood and feel the same way about your pet as you do. The worse time to introduce your dog to a new vet is when he’s not feeling well. Consider making a “get to know you” appointment so you can see if it is a good fit.
Just like children and doctors, many dogs and cats are afraid to go to the vet. Was the front desk staff nice? Is the vet calm with a good bedside manner? Is it fairly easy to get an appointment if there is an emergency? A full waiting room can be good because that means your vet is well liked. However, no one wants to wait an hour before even being seen!
Is your vet accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)? Are they certified by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP)? How many years has the practice been in business? What are the qualifications of the vet techs and assistants? What is their longevity?
Ask the vet about his/her philosophies. Do they believe in crate training? Do they prefer an all raw diet or grain-free? Because you have a senior pet, what are the feelings on euthanasia, cancer care and other chronic illnesses your dog may face? Are they up-to-date on the latest technologies?
Vet bills can be pricey, from regular vaccinations and checkups to more expensive procedures such as surgeries and CT scans. Do they expect payment at time of service even if it is a large bill? Do they take pet insurance? Do they have a payment plan should the need arise? Do they offer multi-pet discounts or senior citizen discounts?
Hours and Location
What are the vet’s hours of operation on weekdays and weekends? What are their after-office policies? Is there a vet on call 24/7? Having a vet close by will make your life easier.
Here is a list of additional questions and concerns you should consider:
- If there are multiple vets in a practice, can you request a specific one?
- Should you need a specialist, does the vet have a local network?
- How many veterinarians are in the practice?
- Are dog and cat cages in separate areas?
- Is the facility clean?
- What are the accommodations for overnight stays?
- Do the veterinarians have special interests such as geriatrics or canine rehabilitation services?
- Are X-rays, ultrasound, bloodwork, EKG, endoscopy and other diagnostics done in-house or referred to a specialist?
Being a Good Client
Keeping your pet healthy is very important. It is up to you to make sure you schedule regular preventative visits and show up on time for your appointments. If your pet gets sick, don’t wait too long to schedule an appointment so the illness progresses beyond hope. And for your animal’s safety, bring your pet in a carrier, particularly if he/she has something contagious.
It will take teamwork on the part of you and the vet to give your pet the care he/she needs to live a healthier, happy life.