How to Choose a Veterinary Hospital
Do you have a new puppy/dog? Have you moved recently? One of the most important decisions you can make as a pet owner is choosing where to take your pet for medical care. A lot of people think that most veterinary hospitals are pretty much the same. They’re not!
It’s important to look for specific qualities when choosing a veterinary hospital. Location is a big factor. But don’t decide to go to ABC Animal Hospital just because it’s closest to your house. By driving a few more extra miles you could find a hospital where both, you and your pet feel more comfortable. You might even save a few bucks!
You may read information about how to choose the right “doctor” for your dog. It IS important for you and your dog to feel comfortable with the veterinarian. However, what may be even more important is how you both feel about the hospital staff. After all, these are the people whom you and your dog will be dealing with 75% of the time. How do they treat your dog when you walk in? How do they treat you? Is the place clean? Does it have an odor or smell?
Be sure to find out as much information about the staff as possible. Do they employ licensed or certified veterinary technicians? These individuals, much like registered nurses, will be working with your pet more than any other person on the staff. It is important that they are both knowledgeable and professionally trained. Many veterinary hospitals try to save money by hiring un-credentialed support and train them “as they go.” Unfortunately there is no law that states the person operating your pet’s anesthesia or drawing your pet’s blood needs any formal academic training. If you ask me that’s scary!
You can begin your search for a new veterinary hospital simply by talking to people you know. Ask them who they like and why. If that doesn’t work open the yellow pages. There will certainly be a lot of listings under “veterinarians.” Take a look at the ads and see if anything jumps out at you. Often they will have a list of services, office hours, doctor names, etc. If they have a website, be sure you visit it!
Many veterinary hospitals cater to working individuals by offering late office hours. This can be a godsend—especially if you are dealing with a pet that has a chronic disease or a condition that needs regular visits and prescription refills. Some hospitals also offer 24-hour care and emergency services on-site while others will refer you somewhere else, even during normal business hours. Be sure to ask about emergency services when seeking out an animal hospital so you can be prepared in case something unexpected happens.
If a hospital only has one doctor on staff chances are the office hours are going to be very limited. However, many people appreciate the intimacy a one-doctor hospital can offer. You also know that when something goes wrong with your dog you will always see the same doctor. This consistency can be reassuring. Unfortunately, having only one doctor on staff also means a limited number of services offered. And what happens when the doctor goes on vacation? Or leaves for a conference? Does the whole place shut down until he comes back?
When investigating multi-doctor practices find out if any of the veterinarians have any special interests. A lot of general practice vets study a specific area of medicine like orthopedics, dermatology, behavior, acupuncture, etc. but may not actually have a “specialty” accreditation for that discipline. This could save you, a lot of money and a trip to the specialist should you and your dog ever need help in any of those areas.
The best way to choose a veterinary hospitals in your area is simply to ask around. Where do your friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors go? Have they had any good or bad experiences that they can think of? Ask them about the staff retention rate. Are the same employees working there, year after year? Or are you seeing new people working there every time you go in? This can be a huge RED FLAG. If people don’t like being there it must not be a positive working environment. Look for a veterinary hospital that has established for itself a long-term staff. You and your pet will appreciate dealing with the same people year after year. Ask them if the vet listens to them when they talk about what is wrong with their pet.
Be sure to visit any hospital you plan on taking your pet to in person. How does the staff interact with the clients and pets? How does the staff interact with each other? Does the receptionist handle phone calls well? You can also ask to be taken on a tour. While visiting, ask for a list of prices and brochures to take home. You can often get a good or bad feeling just by spending a few minutes in the lobby. And don’t be afraid to ask questions!
While these are all good tips, none of these criteria is really fool proof as we learned the hard way. The only way I’d pick a vet after our experience is after a thorough and detailed interview.
So true, these are baseline criteria which can help.