Your dog is a member of your family – as such, he or she deserves regular medical care from a skilled practitioner just like any other member of your family. Veterinary care can be expensive and should be budgeted for in the cost of owning a dog. Vets vary in their approach to both care of the animal and office practices, so it is important to explore a few questions prior to selecting a care provider.
Of course no individual veterinarian can be expected to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so the first consideration in choosing a provider is their emergent availability. Is the office a larger practice that always has the doors open and a doctor standing? Or is it a smaller, more traditional practice that staffs the office 9:00am-5:00pm Monday through Friday (or less)? If you do choose a provider with limited office hours, be sure to also become familiar with a 24-hour emergency clinic located nearby.
Outside of emergency visits, be sure to check on the availability of appointments for more routine matters – an ear infection, for example. Are appointments available same day? Next day? Do they book a week out? It doesn’t hurt to check on the staff levels as well. Is there more than one doctor that your pet can see in case the regular practitioner is schedule up, sick or on vacation?
Which schools a veterinarian has attended as well as personal characteristics and beliefs can have an impact on their approach to care for your pet. Is the prospective doctor more traditional, holistic, or a combination of both? Do they have a particular pet health issue that they are passionate about or have become an expert in? Are they an expert for a particular breed? Familiar with the needs of your specific breed?
Some basic questions that you would ask of any human care provider can be helpful in selecting a vet as well, such as how long they have been in practice and how long they have worked at a particular location.
Often one of the best ways to find any service provider is through referrals, so be sure to ask around to judge experiences that others in the community have had. Once you feel you have found a fit, take your pet for an initial appointment and judge the doctor for yourself. Where they empathetic towards your pet? Interested in having a warm and thoughtful discussion with you? Did they answer your questions completely, honestly and with a good depth of knowledge?
A final consideration is your budget. Vet costs can range widely from provider to provider, so be sure to inquire about rates from a couple of offices as well. In order to provide a high standard of care for your dog, you need to ensure that you can afford to do so and to follow through with the recommendations of the veterinary professional.