Finding the Right Veterinarian – For Your Pet AND for You

PetMD Editorial
Updated: December 14, 2016
Published: November 28, 2016
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Pet owners want to ensure they have a good relationship with their pet’s veterinarian, not only to ensure the optimal health for their pet, but to give them the peace of mind that their veterinarian is treating their pet with the highest medical standards, latest information, and most sincere compassion. They want to know their vet is trustworthy, understandable, and that he or she knows what is best for their furry, scaly, or feathery family member.

Finding the right “fit” may take some time and a little research, but it can make a huge impact on a pet owner’s stress level and the health of their pet.

Here are some of the tips I have collected over the past decade on how to select a veterinarian.

Word of mouth

Before the days of internet search engines, we used to ask our friends and family for their opinions. Where should we go to eat? What’s the name of your handyman? Can you recommend a good babysitter? So why should finding a veterinarian be any different?

If you have just moved to an area, or have a new addition to your family, ask around for a good vet. Your friends, neighbors, and co-workers will give you an honest and, in most cases, unfiltered suggestion. They will tell you what’s good, bad, and just plain ugly with the vets in the neighborhood.

Online reviews

In this internet age, social-media savvy, google search engine world, we tend to look to others’ reviews for the perfect restaurant, most comfortable shoe, or even the best cell phone carrier. But take these online reviews from yelp or google with a grain of salt. Not all reviews should be trusted for their accuracy – whether positive or negative. You should first take a look at the profile of who is listing the review. If you notice that this individual either gives 1 or 5 star reviews, and nothing in the middle, their judgement may be questionable. This individual may only give reviews if they are upset with the services they receive and never recognize good service, or vice versa.

In my experience, the reason many veterinary hospitals receive a bad review is because the reviewer is upset about a hospital policy that is in fact law. They will then take to social media to air their grievance because they could not get what they wanted. You may even look to see if the review is for a particular veterinarian or for the clinic/hospital itself.

Keep in mind that not all owners will get along with all vets. We all have different personalities and tend to respond more positively to those we share common traits with.

The staff

This is the GOLD standard to finding the right vet for your pet and you. The staff works with the veterinarians on a daily basis, they know their personalities, their expertise, and what their general bedside manner is. Is this vet talkative? Do they prefer to just breeze in, say hello, give you the basics and breeze out? Has the vet been out of school for a few years or a few decades? Are you the type of owner that needs to know every single detail of the physical exam, or do you just need to know if Fluffy is healthy or not?

Don’t be shy to ask the front staff or the veterinary technicians who they prefer to treat their own personal pets, and WHY. Each staff member may pick a different vet for different reasons, but this could help you find a vet that you may get along with, feel more comfortable with, and ultimately develop a productive relationship — with the goal of ensuring your pet’s lifelong health.

If you chose a veterinary hospital with multiple veterinarians (especially if you have a new puppy or kitten and will be visiting the hospital 2-3 times in the next couple of months), request appointments with different vets. This will give you a chance to “interview” the veterinarians and get to know them a bit. This will also ensure you have a client-patient relationship with multiple doctors within the practice. That relationship is the basis for prescribing, diagnosing, and making a prognosis for your pet, and, in some instances can make getting appointments, medication refills, and other general questions addressed in a timelier fashion.

And if you should you choose a favorite amongst the group, most veterinarians will not be offended if you prefer to see one of their colleagues over them. They understand that their “cageside” manner is not for everyone and even have favorite clients of their own.

Finally, if you feel uncomfortable with the treatment your pet is receiving or with a specific veterinarian, do not be afraid to request to see another doctor or to leave the practice entirely. There are no contracts, no exclusivity deals, and there should not be any hurt feelings.

Do what works for you and what makes you and your pet most comfortable.