The Guide to Choosing a Veterinarian

Dog licking a veterinarian’s cheek
Choosing the right veterinarian is almost as important as choosing the right pet.  Your veterinary team will be with you while you experience the joy of adding a new member to your family.  They will help you understand your options for wellness care.  If your pet has an accident or illness, they will provide a sense of calm and direction.  At the end of your pet’s life, your veterinarian will support you through the heartache of saying goodbye to a beloved companion.  
You should begin your search for a veterinarian before your new pet comes home.  A newly adopted pet should be examined within one week of adoption.  Many veterinarians book checkups a few weeks in advance, so make sure your appointment is reserved well ahead of time.  Vets are not always able to accommodate emergency appointments for new patients.  It’s wise to establish your registration and your relationship as early as possible.  Do not wait until your pet is sick to start searching for a vet.
When you adopt your pet, collect all previous medical records from the breeder, shelter, or previous owner.  This will ensure that your new vet is fully informed of your pet’s medical history.  
Your veterinarian should be easy for you to reach.  If your pet has an emergency, you may need to get to the vet quickly.  Choose from veterinarians within a reasonable driving distance from your home - no more than 30 minutes if possible.  If you do not drive, make sure your veterinarian is reachable by public transit.  Avoid choosing veterinarians in other states, provinces, or countries.  Border delays, closures, and other travel restrictions could prevent you from getting to the vet quickly.
If you or your pet have mobility issues, confirm that your veterinarian’s facilities allow you easy access.  If you have a language barrier, hearing impairment, or other obstacles, call your prospective clinic and ask how they can accommodate you.
Check your veterinarian’s office hours.  Do they work with your schedule?  Are weekend and evening appointments available?  Who handles emergencies for your veterinarian’s patients when the clinic is closed?  Make sure that your new vet will be available when you need them.
The relationship is the most crucial factor in choosing a veterinarian.  You must be able to trust your entire veterinary care team.  Meanwhile, your veterinarian must make you feel welcomed and comfortable.  All staff should show that they care about your pet. You should feel that they are knowledgeable and competent.  Most of all, you should be satisfied they listen to your concerns and answer all of your questions.  
A relationship can be a challenging factor to evaluate.  You can often test your comfort level with a phone call.  Does the receptionist ask your name, and do they answer all of your questions without rushing you?  Do they ask questions about your pet?  Do they offer to make an appointment for you?  The way the receptionist talks to you on the phone can be a great example of the relationship a clinic offers.
Sometimes, your veterinarian may need to deliver unpleasant news.  They may have to report a difficult diagnosis or share a costly treatment estimate.  There will be some occasions when your concerns can’t be resolved in one appointment.  It will be easier to follow your vet’s advice when you are comfortable with them and trust their opinion.  You are an essential member of your pet’s health care team.
Veterinary hospitals come in all shapes and sizes.  Some clinics focus on one species or one branch of medicine. While others are very large, have many vets, and offer lots of specialty equipment and services.  Other clinics are smaller and provide a more intimate environment.  Small clinics give the comfort of seeing the same staff members at every visit, but they may need to refer your pet elsewhere if special services are required.
Before choosing a vet, think about the services that are important to you.  Is a veterinarian that offers 24-hour care a priority?  Do you prefer house calls?  Are alternative medicine and specialty services vital to you?  How critical are separate cat and dog facilities?  Browse the websites for clinics in your area to see what amenities they offer.  From there, you can decide how well each clinic fits your goals for your pet’s medical care.
Finally, ask local friends and neighbours about their experiences with nearby veterinarians.  Do they know of a clinic that delivers exceptional customer service and care?  Consider asking a shelter or veterinary specialist for their opinion on who the best family vet in town is.  This will give you an idea of who the professionals respect.  
Interpret online reviews with a grain of salt.  People often write negative reviews as an emotional reaction to bad news. Reviews like this rarely represent the quality of care that a clinic offers.  Usually, hospitals that provide emergency care have more negative reviews.  This is because they must deliver bad news more often.  
Avoid choosing your veterinarian based on price.  People “price shop” for standard services like examinations, heartworm tests, and neutering. The costs for these services are usually artificially low to attract more clients. They rarely represent the fees for other products and services that your pet may require. Price may be integral to you, but the cheapest vet in town might not offer the relationship and amenities that you and your pet need.  You will have a better experience using a veterinarian who has a reputation for quality, competence, and customer service.
Congratulations on your new furry family member!  Choosing a doctor for your pet can seem like a big task.  The time spent comparing your local options can pay off in comfort and quality of care in the future.  There are no obligations when calling a clinic to ask about the services and experience they offer.  An excellent clinic will welcome your call!
Written by:
Dr. Sperry, DVM, Veterinary Advisor, Pets Plus Us
The information provided and contained herein are the opinions of PTZ Insurance Services Ltd. which are based on external publication. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice. PTZ Insurance Services Ltd. assumes no responsibility or liability for any loss, claims or damages arising out of the within content.