Most people like to choose a vet or pet clinic that is close to their home. Not only does this make it more convenient, but it is also important to have a vet or animal hospital nearby should your pet experience a medical emergency. Most cats don’t like to be confined for a car ride, so a shorter trip to the vet is less stressful for your feline friends.
If you are choosing a vet for the first time, word of mouth is probably the best way to get started. Ask your pet-owning friends, relatives and neighbors if they can recommend a local vet that they’ve used. If you don’t know anyone in the area, a groomer, dog trainer or animal shelter professional should be able to give you some tips. If you contact a veterinary school, they will be able to provide you with a list of vets in your area.
Veterinary care should be a routine part of your dog or cat’s life. It’s always best to see a vet for a routine examination or vaccines first, so if you have to come in for a serious pet illness or emergency, you’ll know that you have a medical professional with whom you feel comfortable. Finding a vet who relates well to the human owner is just as important as finding one who works well with your pet. During a medical event, the pet owner is often just as nervous and upset (if not more) than the dog or cat.
If you can’t afford a veterinary clinic, there are sometimes more economical options through a local pet shelter or animal rescue group. With costs for pet medical care increasing, there are many different types of pet insurance available now too.
Web searches can be helpful to help determine the best veterinary option for your pets. Dogster.com and Catster.com have local recommendations that you can search through to find someone suitable in your area.
Veterinary medicine is a highly-specialized field. Veterinarians have to complete the same number of years in medical school as human physicians and the competition to get into a top veterinary college is extremely intense in North America. Top vet schools in the U.S. include the University of California at Davis and Cornell. Some veterinarians are board certified in particular areas of medicine, such as cardiology or ophthalmology. They have studied an additional two to four years to get this specialized degree.
Veterinary offices may be small, single-doctor operations or very large animal clinics. Services will vary according to size. Many of the larger operations offer boarding facilities as well as pet grooming in addition to medical care.
What are some details I should look for when choosing a vet?
- Is the facility clean and comfortable?
- Are the technicians and front office and other clinic employees friendly and professional?
- How many veterinarians are available at the clinic? Are you able to choose one as your permanent vet so that you can see the same individual each time you come in?
- You should be able to see the degrees and credentials of your veterinarian posted on the walls of the clinic.
- Are tests such as blood work, X-Rays, and ultrasound done on the premises, or farmed out to other clinics?
- Are services such as grooming, nail clipping and dental cleaning available?
- Ask to visit the kennel area. If your pet has to spend the night, you want to make sure the cages are clean and odor free. Cat cages are usually separated from dogs to minimize stress for the animals.
Most veterinarians and animal clinics are open during regular office hours from Monday through Saturday. Some larger clinics are open on Sundays too. Most are not available after hours. It is important to ask your vet for the name, location and telephone number of the nearest 24-hour animal emergency clinic. If a medical emergency occurs for your pet in the middle of the night, you will not want to waste valuable time hunting for an open clinic.
While not essential, you might want to see if your vet hospital includes an “office cat.” These are usually placid, friendly adult cats that live at the clinic and serve as emissaries and greeters. They usually sleep on the front desk, and are wonderful for calming nervous owners while they spend time in the waiting room. A front office cat conveys friendliness and good will to the customers and gives worried trembling dogs something to think about other than their pending examination!