With plenty of factors to consider, deciding on the right veterinarian can feel like an overwhelming process. Pet360 is here to help you make a confident decision with these pointers for both you and your pet. We've created this cheat sheet with tips and steps to finding the right vet, from factors like cost and location to going with reviews and opinions. The right vet is out there for you and your beloved pet, just follow this easy guide to lead you there.
Before you start counting stars and reading review after review on Yelp, try polling your own personal network first. “I always tell people to go with word of mouth,” says Dr. Patricia Patterson, Staff Veterinarian of the Best Friends Animal Society. “Ask friends, relatives, neighbors, local shelters or rescues who they use.” This way you’ll get to ask the questions that are most important to you, instead of scrolling through what’s important to others.
When calling to inquire about making an appointment, take into consideration the attitude of the staff. If it’s like pulling teeth to make a well visit appointment, think about how you’ll feel when you have to call in about something more serious. "I would look to the warmth and friendliness of the staff,” says Dr. Patterson. When choosing a vet, keep in mind their overall personality. Are they calm? Do they have a good bedside manner? Does your pet seem to like them? A good vet will know how to soothe a stressful situation, instead of adding to it.
There are a few hot topics when it comes to pet health, including things like euthanasia, cancer care, chronic disease planning and spaying and neutering. Having like-minded philosophies with your vet can make all the difference when faced with difficult decisions. “I would have an idea of what my principles and overall ethics on animal care are, and then I would ask the veterinarian and staff what they think,” says Dr. Patterson. Your pet’s quality of life is important to you, and it should be to your vet, as well.
Can’t find a seat once you get to the office? Standing room only can be a good sign of what the office has to offer. “Don't be put off by a busy, hectic or fast paced waiting area,” suggests Dr. Patterson, “as this can sometimes mean a popular, well-liked and hard-working clinic.” (Check Yelp and other websites for positive reviews.)
Vet bills can be hefty, and they can add up quick. Whether you’re there for routine vaccines or emergency X-rays, make sure to “ask about costs, how they expect payments and if there is a credit line,” says Dr. Patterson. Splitting up payments, if possible, can help your pet get the treatment she needs without having to break the bank all at once.
Hours of operation can be a biggie. “I would ask about how a vet sees an emergency patient and what their after-hours policies are,” recommends Dr. Patterson. If you picked your vet based on their proximity and they are closed when you need them, you may end up having to travel much farther just to reach an open emergency clinic.
Having a vet close by can be clutch. If you can walk or make a quick drive, that’s great. Aside from making well visits less of a hassle, this closeness will give you piece of mind knowing that in the case of an emergency, your vet is nearby. One caveat to this step: If the most convenient vet doesn’t tick the other boxes on this list, then you may want to spread your search a little further. After all, it may be worth the extra few minutes in the car for a more skilled vet or a better understanding staff.
Your pet and their health is a matter that’s close to your heart, so even when you’ve found your vet, a second opinion can’t hurt. A serious diagnosis, a surgery or a test recommendation can turn your world upside down, and getting a second opinion could do wonders when it comes to setting your mind at ease. Dr. Patterson suggests asking if your prospective veterinarian uses a referral clinic or has a problem with a second opinion if at some point something like that is needed.