How to Choose a Veterinarian

Story by Mimi Greenwood Knight

Once you welcome a dog or a cat into your home, your life will never be the same. From that day forward, you’re responsible for their nutrition, safety, health, comfort, and care. But the more you give, the more you get back. One of the first things you’ll want to do for your new best bud is find a stellar veterinarian — someone who’ll partner with you to give your cat or dog a long, full, rich life. Veterinarians are special folks who speak the language of our pets and educate us on how we can do right by them as their owners.

Start your search for a vet as a family. Mom, Dad, and the kids should each have an equal voice in deciding what qualities you’d like to find in a caregiver. Compile a list of questions you’d like to ask potential veterinarians. Make note of any special needs your pet may have. Including the kids is a great way to drive home the point that a pet is the responsibility of every member of the family.

If you got your pet from a breeder, ask them to recommend a veterinarian. You may also ask your local animal shelter, animal rescue service, and other pet owners you know. Once you have your list of candidates, call each and inquire whether they’re American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP) or American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) accredited. (Membership ensures a certain level of medical care.) Ask about the veterinarian’s education and experience.

Then make an appointment to meet serious contenders and watch them interact with your pet. Ask about their practice philosophies. Notice how they respond to your question and concerns. Do your communications styles match?

Does the practice have access to X-ray, ultrasound, dentistry, in-house lab tests, IV pumps, blood pressure, and eye pressure monitoring? Ask whether you’ll be able to call when you have a question, and who’ll be providing answers. If your pet is hospitalized, how will they keep you updated? Ask about any areas of healthcare specific to your pet. Does the doctor offer those services?

Your visit should include a tour of the practice. Is it clean and relatively fresh smelling? If possible, engage the staff to ascertain whether they seem knowledgeable about and sensitive to your pet’s needs. Ask about the longevity of the medical and nursing staff. Long-time employees can indicate a positive environment.

Ask about the clinic’s hours, to make sure they’ll work with your schedule. Do they offer early morning, evening, or weekend appointments? How long is the average wait time? Also, get a feel for their pricing, to make sure it’s within your budget.

You might also inquire about availability of boarding services. If you need to board your pet, far better to leave him somewhere where he’s already known and where he feels comfortable.

Once you find a veterinarian who checks all the right boxes, you’ll have a partner in keeping the four-legged members of your family as happy and healthy as they deserve to be.