I have recently had to visit a new veterinarian for an emergency.  Actually, it ended up being two occasions, different dogs, different emergencies.  I’m pretty cautious with new vets.  They need to earn my trust with my furkids.

dog and boy with vet

dog and boy with vet

Growing up, our vets were also family friends; trusted people who had always been our vets.  They knew our animals.  Our dog’s veterinarian was the wife of one of  our livestock vets.  They lived nearby and most of my friends knew them well, too.  If we had any kind of emergency, one of them was available.  If they went out of town, they asked another vet to cover their emergencies.  Their home was next door to their practice so overnight care was easy.

 It’s not like that anymore.  Now vets have larger practices and usually rely on a separate emergency practice to cover after hour visits.  Our pet’s veterinarians are not close family friends.  We have to look for that perfect doctor to trust with our furkids.

dog, owner, vet

dog, owner, vet

That’s rarely an easy task.  A few years ago, I had found one that was excellent with our pets.  3 vets shared one practice and I had become quite comfortable with each of them.  Until…one day I needed to take a rescue dog in for a routine exam and shots.  She was a young dog, but had been abused and trusted no one, except me.  The tech that day was in a hurry and didn’t want me to come into the exam room for what she thought would be a quick exam and shots.  I tried to explain but she was quite rude.  If we didn’t need the shots, especially rabies, at the time, I would have just left.  I should have anyway.  She battled that little terrified girl, rather than just allowing me to help.  No owners when giving shots, was her motto.  That was the last day I went inside that vet office.  One person, a tech, had been rude to me and worse yet, not considerate of the dog’s needs.  Four years of good experiences destroyed by that one terrible experience.

vet and dog 2

I’ve gone through a few vets since, some due to our move, some due to their practices.  It’s difficult to find just the right fit.  When our current vet could not squeeze us in for a serious situation, I knew it was time to look again.  The timing turned out to be just right and I think we’ve found a vet hospital that I can truly trust again!

Seeking a veterinarian for your cat? Follow these hints, too!

My Criteria for our family’s veterinarian

(not in order of priority)
  1. Hours that work for us.  We homeschool; so we are more able to move our schedule around, but I still need to know that we have a range of times for appointments.  Tied in with that, however, is the wait time.  If my appointment is at 9am and I am still waiting at 9:45am, that might be a problem.  I understand emergencies, and if my appointment is delayed 2 hours due to a true emergency, I will completely understand.  If the delay i just due to poor scheduling, that is not as understandable.

  2. Close enough to our home for those (thankfully rare) emergencies.  This is a bit subjective.  Our vets have almost always been 20-30 minutes drive as we live in the country.  For us, that usually has to do.

  3. Clean facility with enough space in the waiting area.  I don’t require state of the art facilities, though I do appreciate in house diagnostics.  Cleanliness does not require updating, just time and a little disinfectant

  4. Provide helpful products, but not push those that are not needed.  I’m fine with vets making money; they are in business.  And I want my vet to recommend products or procedures that will benefit my pets.  I’m fine with hearing about some luxury items that are not necessary but might be interesting to me.  But when I am not interested, I am not fine with being made to feel like I love my pet less because of it or if I were a good pet owner, I would just agree to it.  I probably have my reasons but the vet should just understand that such issues are my choice and not something with which to judge the amount of love for my pet.  One example is a friend of mine with a 15 year old cat that was doing well, but fighting some age issues.  His vet wanted to clean the cat’s teeth, a procedure that would require anesthetizing the cat.  Her owner felt it was too risky and since the cat was still able to eat well, he chose not to have it done.  The vet and staff continued to push him toward it, eventually causing him to move to another vet who agreed that it was not in the cat’s best interest.

  5. Has enough staff to help.  Not too many vets choose to set up a solo practice with one assistant anymore.  The workload is intensive and it’s easy to burn out.  I respect their need for some off time; vets are people, too!  But I want to know that my pets are still able to get the best of care.  While I won’t choose against a vet that works alone, I do understand the need for multi-vet offices and will use one, if I find all the vets to fit my needs.

  6. Has the medical knowledge required for the pets.  Most have a good grasp on dogs and cats, but if you have a cavy, can your vet advise you on medical issues?  Also, is he willing to contact specialists when something arises that he is unfamiliar with or is not in his current range?  Our family tends to get the odd issues, not the simple ones.  I need a vet who is not afraid to pick up the phone and consult with a specialist.

  7.  Understanding of pet personalities.  Our homegrown pets are very special; our rescued ones have other special needs.  Just as people have different needs, so also do pets.  Fire, my little toy poodle, responds to soothing talk and gentle handling.  The kind of soft approach that works with her will actually make my son’s basset nervous; she requires a bit more tone to help her feel safe.  Veterinarians and their staff should all be able to read dogs, cats, and other pets, at least in a basic way, and help them feel at ease as much as possible.  I don’t expect them to know my pets as I do, but I do expect a basic understanding.

  8. Understanding of the humans involved.  This can be just as difficult, as we humans are often as complex as our pets.  Some pet owners want to be coddled a little (or a lot!) while others take offense to such treatment.  I have decades of experience with pet medical, behavioral, and care issue.  I need to know the precise information.  Don’t sugar coat what is; just tell me the facts and let me make choices based on the facts.  For me, that is a make it or break it.  The best vets I’ve worked with have taken me into the lab and let me see the test results.  They share all the details.   My emotions will come into play; my furkids are very important to me.  But I can work with facts and information.  Others may not want any facts, just conclusions.  A good vet will read the pet owner and know what information to give.

  9. Compassion for the pets and their humans.  I think most vets start out as animal lovers and truly desire to help animals. Over time, some seem to lose that basic compassion, especially as it relates to the people of the pets.  It’s also important that the staff have that compassion element.  I have witnessed techs that were almost robotic; techs that didn’t even ask the pet’s name or seem to feel sad that little Lily was very ill.  A good tech may not remember each pet’s name or even the owner’s, but she will read the chart and know that Lily is 15 years old and fighting diabetes.  Caring staff will make each pet and owner feel like they are extra special.

vet with spaniel

vet with spaniel

While these are not in any particular order, I do put a heavy amount of weight on the last four.  I need to know that the veterinarian helping my pet has the understanding of pets, medical as well as emotional.  It is also critical that he or she trusts my abilities and works with me.  

What is important to you when you are choosing a veterinarian to work with your pets?  

Please share your comments!

pet dog

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