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Before bringing home a new dog, it's smart to choose your vet in advance. If possible, you may even wish to schedule a preliminary appointment during the first week in their digs. That way, you can establish care and make sure your new friend is off to a healthy start. The question remains, though: How do you find the best veterinarian for you and your new dog?
While reading online reviews of your local vet clinics is a good way to start, here are some other tips for finding the right person for your pup:
Ask For Recommendations
Even in the age of the internet, word of mouth continues to be the best form of finding a service you need.
To begin with, if you're adopting a dog from a local shelter or rescue group, ask the staff if they have any vet recommendations. Often times, shelters work with a team of trusted veterinarians. Or, a local vet clinic may even offer free or discounted check-ups to newly adopted pups. Furthermore, if you buy your dog from a breeder in your area instead, consider asking them as well. Advice received from people working with dogs every day is often knowledgable and trustworthy.
To widen your search, also ask dog-loving friends, neighbors, and nearby relatives. Although some people may have a bias for or against a certain vet or clinic for shaky reasons, you can often get a sense of which local veterinarians are reliable, and which ones are not.
Shy Away From Unfriendly Staff
When you call a clinic to inquire about an appointment for your new dog, feel free to judge. If the staff member who answers the phone is curt, unprofessional, uninformed, unwilling to thoroughly answer questions, or just all around rude, this place might not be your best option.
Why is this so important? These are the people who you'll be dealing with every year for check-ups and vaccinations. Not to mention, if you ever want to call and ask questions or inquire about a potential health problem, you'll be chronically dealing with this cold attitude over the phone. Thus, if possible, seek a clinic that boasts a team of people who are thoughtful, kind, and invested in the health and happiness of your dog.
Don't Be Deterred By Long Waits
Unless you need to get your new dog in for care ASAP, settling for a veterinarian who has a packed schedule is not a bad idea. Just like other businesses, vet clinics that see a lot of clients are usually popular for a reason. The administrative and clinical staff is apt to be hard-working and highly skilled. This keeps their old clients satisfied and their new clients (like you!) continually coming in.
That stated, it's wise to confirm that your busy new vet clinic prioritizes serious health issues over routine visits. Nothing is worse than waiting hours for your very sick pup to see the vet. If they won't accommodate an injured or ill dog in need of immediate attention, then this might not be the right clinic for you.
If Applicable, Discuss Issues Of Care
If you're adopting a dog with behavioral and/or physical health issues, it may be best to quiz your potential new vet with some questions at your initial appointment. Pet care philosophies can differ in regards to hip dysplasia, arthritis, anxiety, spaying and neutering, cancer care, aggression, end-of life care, and euthanasia, among other issues.
While most vets will probably follow a similar standard of care for routine care, you might find yourself disagreeing on more serious issues. Thus, if it's relevant and important to you, gauge the beliefs and opinions of your vet first.
Location And Hours
When deciding on a vet for a new dog, most people will list location high above all other factors. Driving more than 10-20 minutes to a vet is not only time-consuming, but can be dangerous if your dog is in trouble. Having said that, the hours that your vet clinic operates are also vital. If your vet doesn't practice on weekends, has a four-day work work, or generally has short or limited hours, you'll need to come up with an "in case of emergency" plan.
Therefore, search around your area for the nearest pet hospital. If it's not in close proximity and/or charges exorbitant fees, it might be best to go with a vet who has more flexible hours. When in doubt, talk to your potential new vet about what to do if your new dog needs medical care after hours.
Money, Money, Money
Factoring money into the decision making process seems obvious, but here's the truth: vets charge very different amounts for their services. The cost of living in your area is usually the largest determining factor. Vet services in big urban areas are much more expensive than, say, a country clinic.
And while vet bills are usually as high as they are for a good reason, they can also be surprising or even dismaying. While many people resist asking about money before their pup's first appointment, it's important to get a sense of the range of fees. Overpriced services can add up fast. Thus, it might be best to stick with a more reasonable competitor.
For those on a tighter budget, research affordable animal clinics in your area. Some vets will work on a "pay how much you can" scale for basic services. Others will provide more serious treatments or even surgeries for a reduced price, as long as you prove that you have a financial need. Even with all of the other factors you'll be considering when choosing a vet for your new dog, don't forget that you'll have to take out your pocketbook at the end of the appointment.