Dr. Audrey at Petfolk

by Petfolk Care Team

Choosing The Right Veterinarian For Your Pet

The Other Family Doctor

Our pets are part of our family. You rely on your family doctor to be there when your human family members get sick or need care. The same holds true for your family veterinarian when your pet needs care. So, how do you make sure your veterinarian is a good fit for you and your pet? Consider some of the following questions when picking the medical team to care for your pet!

What type of pet or pets do I have?

If you have multiple species of pets, you’ll need to ask if they can all be seen at one veterinary office. Most general practitioners see both cats and dogs, and some veterinarians will see other species such as small mammals, reptiles, and birds. If you have a great connection with a vet that doesn’t see your non-feline or canine pets, there are often practices that specialize in more exotic species. Finding a vet office well-versed in your pet’s specific species will be helpful should your pet get sick, as some general practices aren’t equipped to see exotic pets. 

Does my schedule match theirs?

Check with the veterinary office to understand when they are open and how far ahead you’ll need to make an appointment. Some hospitals work only on an appointment-basis, while others encourage walk-ins. Some hospitals thrive on having pet parents included in the appointment, while others work best with drop-offs. Ask if they perform surgical and other procedures, and what days those occur. Finally, ask what happens if you run late or if a pet needs overnight care. Some veterinary facilities provide after-hours care and some do not, and it is important to understand if overnight care is allowed and if there is staff dedicated to monitoring pets. If your vet does not provide overnight care, see if they can provide recommendations of other hospitals that can care for your pet outside of business hours.

Do years of experience or education matter?

When deciding on your veterinarian and vet hospital, it can be tempting to equate age or years in business with quality, but this is not always the case. You may also gravitate toward graduates of certain veterinary schools or regions of the country. Before deciding on these factors, consider a few things: 

  • Both less experienced and more experienced veterinarians can provide outstanding medical care. While more years in practice may mean more cases seen, it also means that it has been more years since being in intensive academic training. More recent graduates may not have as many medical records under their belt, but they are often well-versed in the most current medications and scientific advances. 
  • It is important to understand that all practicing veterinarians are required to have passed an extensive assessment and graduated from an accredited veterinary school. If they received their training from a foreign institution, they must pass a series of both written and practical exams before gaining their license. 
  • Finally, all veterinarians must complete continuing education every year, which means they go to lectures, labs, and seminars to stay up-to-date on new medications and techniques.

What else should I look for?

It may seem simple, but take note of the hospital environment. Are the exam rooms and lobby clean and sanitary? Does the veterinary staff seem happy to see you and your pet? How do they handle your pet? It is now considered standard practice to use gentle handling for all pets to reduce stress, fear, and anxiety. At Petfolk, all of our professional staff undergo extensive training on Fear Free® and gentle handling techniques to make pet visits more joyful. 

Ask what type of appointments the veterinary office sees. Some see their own emergencies, and some refer to an emergency hospital. Some offices only see urgent or emergency cases and don’t offer preventative and wellness care. Websites and hospital descriptions will often provide a list of services offered, some even offer virtual care or telemedicine now!

If your first visit is when your pet is sick, be sure to share as much information with your vet as possible. Also, remember that having a sick pet is stressful, so you may not remember or get to ask all the questions needed to know if this is the right vet for you. A routine, non-emergency appointment is likely a better option for assessing if you and your veterinary team connect. This can give you the time to prepare questions ahead of time and for your veterinarian to be able to answer them completely. 

Your veterinarian can be an important part of the health care of your family, as our pets often share spaces in our homes. Making a connection with your veterinary team will lead to a relationship of mutual trust and support to give your pet the best life possible. Use the information discussed to help guide you to the best fit for you and your pet.

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