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What You Need to Know to Find
the Best Veterinarian

hh color photograph of veterinarian with small white dog

Get referrals

By all means, ask your friends, but expand your circle of contacts.

Call the local breed club in your area and ask the secretary whom most club
members use.

Visit dog shows and buy a program. Find a breeder, owner or handler who lives
in your area and has the same breed of dog you do. Ask them for a recommendation.

Make sure the veterinarian works with Toy breeds

Not all veterinarians work well with or want to work with Toy breeds.
The ideal veterinarian is one who owns or has owned the same breed
of dog you do.

Check your state's Veterinary Medical Board website

See if it has an area called "enforcement" or "complaints" or something
that indicates which veterinarians have been disciplined by the board.
The vets you're considering using should be licensed but not have any
disciplinary actions.

Plan an inspection visit to the prospective vet (without your dog)

Stop by the office of each veterinarian you are considering during the
day (not after work or on Saturday morning when the office is apt to
be packed) and tell the receptionist you are looking for a veterinarian.
Reputable vets do not object to this; in fact they expect it.

Ask where routine exams are done and if owners are allowed to be with
their animals. You should be shown everything including any back rooms
and any areas used for recovery after surgeries as well as kennels
and boarding facilities (if applicable).

Check the staff's credentials and behavior

Ask if there are any state-licensed technician(s) and if they are members
of the North American Veterinary Technicians Association (NAVTA).

Practices that want to reduce operating costs often won't pay the additional
costs to hire licensed, experienced technician(s) and have them participate in continuing education required by groups such as NAVTA.

Ask who gives the shots and takes the X-rays

The vet or licensed technicians should be doing these. You don't want
some recent high school graduate with minimal training giving shots
to your dog.

Check the staff's behavior

See how the staff, including the receptionist, greets patients and their
owners. Does the vet and staff speak and write the same language
you do (literally)?

In many offices, a staff member writes out the prescription, and the
vet just signs it. Make sure these staff members can understand you,
and you can understand them. Mistakes can be deadly.

Find out about emergency service

You're going to have your dog for 12-17 years. At least once, you're
going to need emergency, middle-of-the-night service. Any Vet who
cares about his/her patients will have some standard practice or
referral system to handle emergencies.

Check out the vet's credentials and experience

This is especially vital if your vet is a recent graduate. Many
veterinary schools no longer require students to operate on live dogs
except spay/neuter.

Do you want your dog to the vet's first joint replacement? Don't kid
yourself that computer simulations are an adequate substitute for
live operations.

Find out if the Vet makes referrals to specialists

No one veterinarian can do it all. If s/he claims to do it all himself,
go to the next name on the list.

Ask about the Vet's fees

There is no reason you can't call your list of possible Veterinarians
and ask how much he/she charges for
cccc1) vaccinations;
cccc2) an X-ray of a hip with a possible fracture; and
cccc3) treatment of heartworm disease.

Ask about payment plans and credit cards

If your dog requires surgery, you do not want to be charged an interest
fee if you have to pay the surgery/hospital bill over two or three months.

Always pay vet bills over $50 with a credit card

That gives you the right to dispute the quality of the vet service under
the federal Fair Credit Billing Act rights. http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre16.shtm

Beware of Veterinarian-entrepreneurs

Your vet also may sell dog food and other ancillary products such as flea
and tick medication. There is nothing wrong with buying these from him,
provided s/he is not pushing or strong-arming you into doing it.

Beware of veterinarian-activists

Don't let a vet try to shame or talk you into anything you aren't
ready to do, such as spaying/neutering your dog. If you don't want
to get a dog from a shelter, that's your right.

Your vet should not be forcing his/her political views down your throat.
If the vet gives you a hard time, take your wallet and leave.

Listen to your gut

Do you feel you can openly communicate with the vet or does s/he
make you feel dumb or like a nuisance when you try to ask a question?
Is s/he calm and pleasant or rushed and curt? If the personality,
communication skills and ambiance aren't right, don't hesitate to
go another vet.

One final note - until your puppy has all his vaccinations, hold him in
your arms when you visit. Don't put him on the floor or let him run around
the office as he may pick up a communicable disease from the sick dogs
or other sick animals in the Vet's office.


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