Finding the Veterinary Team for You

December 9, 2010

Choosing your family veterinary team is as important as finding the right medical team for your children or your family. Your relationship with a veterinarian could span decades, so you want to find people you can trust and with whom you will have open and honest communications. So, how do you find the team for you?

Your search should begin with neighbors, friends and relatives. Especially ask people who seem to treat their pet the way you treat your own. There are different approaches to veterinary care, from those aimed at a hunter who does most of his own pet care to tender care for pets who sleep in your bed or eat at the table. You want to consult people who have found a veterinary team that provides for needs that will be similar to yours. If you are moving, be sure to ask your current veterinarian for recommendations in your new town. We have directories that can help us find a friend or classmate who we might recommend.

You can also look for a hospital that is accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). AAHA-accredited hospitals voluntarily choose to be evaluated on over 800 standards in the following areas: quality of care; diagnostic and pharmacy; management; medical records and facility. If you find an AAHA accredited hospital, you will know that your pet is being offered the highest level of care. This doesn’t mean that a practice that isn’t AAHA certified doesn’t meet high standards, but if it certified, it guarantees that they do. You can search for AAHA certified practices at www.healthypet.com.

Once you have narrowed down your choices, review the practice hours to make sure they meet your life style. Can you admit your pet early in the morning so that you can make it to work on time? Are they open on weekends or evenings? That sort of thing. If you have exotic pets, you need to be sure the practice will accommodate you. As specialists in exotic animals become more popular, fewer and fewer veterinarians will work with birds, lizards, rodents, rabbits and ferrets, so you’ll want to be sure to check ahead.

Next visit the hospital web site. Any well run veterinary hospital should have a site that will allow you to “meet” the staff, get a virtual tour of the facility or allow you to order prescriptions online. Most will have a section where you can learn more about pets and pet problems like a “library” or “encyclopedia”.

Then call the practice. Well-managed practices will make you feel as if you are about to become part of their family, not just another client. Happy caring staff usually means a well run hospital. If you feel rushed over the phone, that may be what you find in person.

OK, now it is time for a visit. Will they give you a tour? They should. Does the hospital look and smell clean? Does the atmosphere suggest calmness or chaos? Everyone should make you feel at home and welcome, even if they are busy. Busy isn’t a bad thing, it is how the staff handle it that counts.

You may want to ask for cost estimates of routine services. You should find that staff are happy to discuss and explain fees as needed. When comparing prices at two different hospitals, be sure you are comparing apples to apples. In other words, does one estimate include a few days of pain control after a spay while the other doesn’t? Does one provide state-of-the-art anesthetic monitoring while another doesn’t? And make sure that you understand what vaccinations are on an estimate. Not all pets need all vaccines, so each vaccination might be cheaper at one place, but it would be cheaper to go to the veterinarian who gives fewer vaccinations.

Don’t be shy about communicating your needs to a new or potential veterinary team. The time and effort you invest in your search for a veterinarian now will reward you with may years of a great relationship and excellent care for your pets.

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