How do you find the best vet? It can be overwhelming and confusing. A great veterinarian is critical in your dog’s (and all pets’) care. Every pet and pet owner deserves to have their own best vet. While there are a ton of veterinarians, there are also a ton of veterinarians’ philosophies (I’ll explain this later). Not to mention a wide range of vet prices. How do you know which vet is best for you and your dog? How do you find the best veterinarian for you? Today let’s dig in and discover the 10 steps to find the best vet for you and your dog (and a great backup vet for emergencies).
Plus, while we’re at it, let’s cover the best questions to ask your vet on your first visit with your dog.
*Updated: July 4, 2023
Budget Tip: Yes, veterinarians can be expensive. However, when you get a dog or any animal, it's a lifelong commitment. So, just as you would for your human kids, you have to find the best available care for your furry family member. One you can trust. Basically, a vet who would treat your furry kid as if he or she was their very own. And moveover a vet with great bedside manners. When you find that person, that's a value-added to your family. That's priceless! One good tip is to set aside money every month into a pet savings account or emergency fund. Of course, you can also get pet insurance to cover a lot of your vet expenses. Interestingly, many larger companies are offering vet insurance as an incentive to their employees, like health insurance. Whichever option you take, don't be caught off guard. Sometimes you have to ask your company though if pet insurance is part of their benefits package.
Where do I look for a great vet?
You’ll want to come up with a list of potential vets to interview. The best way is to ask for recommendations from:
- Family and friends
- Your local shelter
- Online reviews
What specific steps do I take to find the best vet for my dog?
When you’ve narrowed down your list of potential vets, you’ll want to interview them. Those names that keep popping up are the ones, you’ll want to consider. Once you have that list, then you’ll want to visit their clinic. These are the items to look at and questions to ask on your visit.
1. Cleanliness of the clinic
The facility should be impeccably clean. The staff, except for some patient fur, should be professional and clean.
2. How long has the vet been practicing – where did he/she go to school?
While many new graduates are well educated and many established vets are well experienced. An older veterinarian could lack new technology and new vets will have more experience in new methods. You’ll have to decide what’s important to you and your dog.
The school will tell you more about philosophy as well. That’s been my experience at least.
3. Why did he/she become a vet?
If your vet tells you he became a vet because he loved animals and it was a career where he could work with animals. That’s a good answer. However, if your vet says, he stumbled upon it during a career day. It was either vet or engineer and vet seemed easier. You may want to re-think this vet option.
4. Watch for how the vet and vet techs handle animals
This is a big one. Just like you watch how your date treats the waitress, this tells a lot. If they are talking and petting the animals without even really thinking about it, then that’s a good sign. If they are moving animals more robotically or roughly, then you may not want to see this vet again. Keep in mind that your dog will be nervous and scared at the vet’s office. This is to be expected. You’re looking at how the staff and vet respond to your dog.
5. Is the vet available on weekends?
While this isn’t a deal-breaker, it’s definitely a bonus. You’d be surprised how many unexpected vet visits occur on the weekend. Keep in mind that even if your vet recommends a weekend emergency clinic, check them out first. Don’t let the emergency pop up and you be forced to go there because your vet recommends it. From experience, I can tell you, this isn’t a good idea. I now have two backup emergency veterinarians. Neither of them is who my vet recommended. I did not care for the clinic my vet recommended when my pup was in need of urgent weekend care and I didn’t do my homework.
6. How quickly can you get an appointment to be seen by the vet?
Sometimes once you’re established with the vet, then she’ll see you the same day, if it’s an emergency. Other times, it’s like seeing a regular doctor and you may have to wait a month or two. This should play into your decision-making.
7. When you call with questions, who will return the call and how quickly?
This will depend on how big the facility is where this vet is practicing. For example, I’m in a fairly small city. When I call my vet with a question generally he will call me back the same day during his lunch hour or after hours. If he’s overly busy and my question doesn’t require him to call, then he’ll have a vet tech call back. Either way, it’s the same day. Every vet should have a policy on phone call inquiries. This should also weigh into your best veterinarian decision-making.
8. What is the vet’s philosophy on vetting?
This is a little confusing. But let me break it down a bit. Basically, how does the vet approach an issue? Is the vet overly aggressive in procedures, more conservative with doing what’s necessary but not going overboard, or completely hands-off? For example, my vet is more conservative in his approach, which fits me and my dog, Henry’s needs best. He will say, “Let us get a baseline, but we don’t need to through the kitchen sink at anything right now.” I tell him, “I would rather be proactive, than reactive.” He understands my position. And I understand his. It works perfectly. Great communication. Perfect for what my dog and I need.
Meanwhile, I had a mobile horse veterinarian once, who was very much the opposite. She came out when my regular vet was on vacation. She looked at my colic horse and said, “We need to put him down now!” I turned to her and said, “NO! You need to give him a shot for pain and tube him with oil.” She did with a lot of attitude and my horse, naturally, was fine for another 12 years. That’s what I mean by aggressive.
9. Alternatives and holistic options
Some veterinarians offer alternative services and treatments for their patients, such as acupuncture, nutrition, massage, and homeopathy. This might be something that’s important to you. Some people like doing things that are more natural for themselves and their animals. Of course, I would encourage you to always thoroughly research the vet and the procedures before you commit to anything.
Some vets will require full payments with a check or credit card. Others will allow you to make payments, depending on the size of the bill. This is a good question to ask straight away so you are not caught off guard later on. You may want to even inquire with your vet about pet insurance or CareCredit. A good vet will be able to tell you if your dog’s breed or your dog, in general, is prone to any issues, which would make these options even more attractive. However, this is something that can be decided on the first visit or even later.
What do I ask my vet during my dog’s first visit?
1. How’s my dog’s overall health?
How’s my dog’s dog’s overall health? This includes his teeth, heart, lungs, skin, coat, ears (hearing), and weight. You want a baseline for all of these.
2. What kind of food is best for my dog?
What food is best for my dog? After the vet has evaluated your dog, he’ll know more about what to suggest for your dog. He may say what he’s currently eating is fine and not to change.
3. What vaccines does my dog need?
You want to get on a vaccine schedule for your dog. The vet should apprise you of when they are due, but I like to know on my own calendar as well. Puppies will need additional shots.
4. When should my dog be spayed or neutered?
If your dog has not been altered, now is the time to take to your vet about when is the best time to schedule his surgery.
5. Do you detect an ID chip in my dog? What’s the number?
If you’ve adopted or rescued your dog, it’s possible that your dog is chipped and you don’t know it. For example, when I adopted my dog, I was told he was not chipped. However, my vet scanned him and he was chipped. I was able to switch everything to my contact info since his original human parents were deceased. Your vet can scan for the chip. If he’s not chipped your vet will be able to chip him as well. I highly recommend chipping your dog. A chip can reunite a lost dog when otherwise he would just be lost.
6. Do you offer any financial services in your office?
Some vets have a financial benefits system set up within their offices. It could be a secondary service. Such as you need to have pet insurance or CareCredit. Meanwhile, others will set up a payment system after you’ve been with them for a certain amount of time. Additionally, most vet’s offices offer discounts when you take in multiple pets for care on the same day. Knowing first what the vet will offer and won’t cover, prevents any future heartaches.
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Summary of how to find the best vet
It can take a bit of effort to find a great vet that meets your dog’s and your needs. But it’s well worth it. You need a partner in your dog’s medical care. A vet should be able to communicate with you openly but in a way that gives you comfort. Overall, you need to feel as if your dog is in good hands when you take him/her to your vet and not worry that the staff or vet will mistreat your dog. When you follow these 10 guidelines, you’ll find a vet that fits your needs. I know I have a great vet for my dog, Henry, and a wonderful emergency vet too.