In some ways, choosing a vet for your pet is more stressful than choosing a physician for yourself. Because pets have trouble communicating their pain, and because veterinary visits are stressful for pets, a veterinarian must be both intuitive and kind. So, what should you look for before hiring a new veterinarian?
Whether you're new to an area or new to pet ownership, the best place to start shopping for a new veterinarian is to speak to other pet owners. If your pet is a dog, ask for referrals at your local dog park. If you have a cat or more exotic pet, look for reviews on Yelp, Nextdoor, and other social media sites. Join a local forum or Facebook page dedicated to pets like yours if you haven't already. Finally, look for a vet that's accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).
How much experience does the vet have with your pet's species?
Most veterinarians treat dogs and cats. Fewer treat animals like birds, fish, lizards, snakes, and small mammals like mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs. You may need to find a rural veterinarian that specializes in farm animals for large animals.
Even if a veterinarian treats a variety of animal species, they might specialize in one. The only way to know that is to ask.
Interview the vet
In our parents' and grandparents' eras, veterinarians were veterinarians. Today, veterinary treatments are as varied as human medical treatments. You want to be sure that a vet is open to your healthcare philosophy but isn't afraid to share the latest science. How do they treat pain and anxiety? What is their philosophy toward spaying and neutering? Does the vet offer or endorse alternative treatments such as chiropractic and acupuncture? How do they treat cancer or other life-threatening illnesses? Do they provide in-home euthanizations?
What do they charge for office visits, lab work, x-rays, and other essential services? Do they accept insurance or offer financial assistance if needed? Do they provide 24-hour emergency services?
More significantly, go with your gut. You are looking for a relationship that could last for 15 years or more. Even if the vet knows what they are doing, they may not be a good match if they're dismissive or short with you.
Take a look at their office
A veterinary office, like any medical office, should be sanitary. Are there separate waiting room areas for dogs and cats? Does the staff seem warm and attentive?
Observe the veterinarians and staff with your pet or pets
Once you've narrowed down your choices, bring your pet in for a visit. Expect that your pet will be stressed, but you, as the pet owner, know when they're more stressed than they'd typically be. Is the staff helpful? Is the veterinarian thorough and empathetic?
If you find that your pets become less comfortable with their vet as time goes by, don’t be afraid to find another one.