How to find the right veterinarian for YOU (in ten easy steps)

Patty Khuly, DVM
Written by:
Published: February 2, 2009
How to find the right veterinarian for YOU (in ten easy steps)

I have family that just moved out to the San Francisco Bay Area. Attached to their dogs as they are, they’d begun stressing about finding the right vet right long before they’d pulled up roots in New York City. So of course, they asked me to hook them up.

Contrary to popular opinion, we veterinarians don’t have an automatic function that allows us to know who the good vets are in any given municipality. Much though my clients may ask, “I’m moving to X, could you recommend a great vet?” I’m less likely to succeed with my innate veterinary-finding mechanism than you would by flipping through the Yellow Pages or tapping Angie’s List. 

Yet I still managed to locate what seems like the ideal veterinary hospital for my family’s dogs...from all the way across the country...sans veterinary spidey-senses. 

All it required was a few basic steps anyone can manage given enough calm thought and a tip or two. With that in mind, here’s a brief list of things to keep in mind as you navigate your way through the world of finding the right vet for your pets:

1. Ask around

If you’re moving to a major metropolitan area you’re likely to know someone who knows someone who knows keep asking!

2. Meet and greet

The dog park, your local breed club, online allies, Facebook friends...they’re all fair game. Get out in your community (or online) and get to know like-minded folks who share your zip code.

3. Ask your veterinarian

I know I just led you to believe we won’t know...but you never know...we’re as likely to have friends we can ask as you are. It never hurts to ask one more pet-connected soul...just in case.

4. Online services

A wide variety of online resources exist to help you find the right professional of any sort. Read reviews wherever possible. Though some of these may be slanted (and negative reviews are sometimes fraudulently posted by competitors), positive reviews with specific statements about the quality of a hospital’s medical care can be helpful. 

5. Veterinary websites

Sometimes you can find a like-minded veterinarian by looking at their website. Do they go for holistic care? Are they likely to refer you to a specialist? Is 24-hour care available nearby? Do you need a veterinarian who will take her own after-hours calls? This kind of basic info is a great adjunct to your search.

6. Vets in the community

Read something you like written by a veterinarian? Met a vet at a charity pet event? At a  dinner party? Heard an radio interview of a veterinarian and liked his obviously well-honed bedside manner? These are great first steps. Next, go check him/her out--online and/or by calling the practice.

7. Make the call

Are you sensitive to customer service issues? Call up to ask questions about the hospital and their protocols. This kills two birds with one stone: Checking on quality customer service and anesthetic protocols (for example) can give you great insight even before you take the plunge and make the appointment.

8. The interview

It’s best not to wait for an emergency for your first visit to any veterinary facility...if you can help it. Have that warty thing checked out. Or simply make an appointment to have his records reviewed. A basic issue is always a good place to start. Think of it as a no-commitment interview. 

9. Manage your expectations

Recognize that even great veterinarians might not be to your liking. And that few veterinarians will offer everything you think you need (my staff can be surly on some days, for example). But be prepared to move on if you find a deal-killer on the first visit.

10. Kissing frogs

We’ve all had to kiss a few frogs before finding the right one of any category of human helpers. It’ll be no different with your veterinarian. But you shouldn’t settle for less than what you believe your pet deserves. You may not find the perfect veterinarian (nobody’s perfect) but with your commitment to your pet’s care in hand and the perseverance to follow through, I promise you’ll find someone who fits your bill. 

How did you find your veterinarian? Any other tips up your sleeve?

PS: A very public shout-out to Gina at PetConnection for hooking my fam up with their new veterinary home in Marin. You're the BEST! 

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