Wondering if you need to take the plunge and find a vet? How do you know when it’s time for a new vet? Maybe you’ve been with your vet for decades and they’ve seen nearly all your pets. Perhaps you’ve even built a relationship of sorts with your vet. But still, something is nagging at you that doesn’t feel right. You may be torn by your loyalty to your long-time vet and your love for your dog. Well, there may come a time when you need to cut your losses and find a new vet.
In this article, I’ll walk you through 15 of the most common red flags to look for if you are pondering making a vet switch.
If you don’t feel like you are able to be a partner with your vet helping to achieve your dog’s health goals, then it’s time to get a new vet. Remember you can look into such things as Pet CreditCare or Pet Insurance for your dog’s vet care services. But one of my favorite tips for pet healthcare costs is with a pet savings account.
Basically, you open a savings account, and add a little each month, maybe $10-25 or more depending on your abilities and your dog’s needs. It will add up over time. The key is that it’s only used for your dog’s medical care. So, whenever it’s time to go to the vet, you pay with it from that savings account. It’s very similar to a Health Savings Account for humans, but for pets. You can even add the monthly payments into your dog’s budget. Or the best way to do it is to have it automatically withdrawn from your checking or savings and added to that account monthly. Either way, make sure you account for it on your dog’s budget.
1. Vet is a long car ride away from home
If you’ve recently moved 30-60 minutes or more away from your vet, but you’re debating about keeping your vet then it may be time to look more locally for a vet. Keep in mind those emergencies and bad weather situations. It’s nice to have a great vet within 10-15 minutes of home, if at all possible.
Note: As an example, Henry’s current vet is less than three minutes away from home. One of his emergency care vets is 20 minutes away from home. Although, with snow, an emergency vet visit can easily become 40 minutes.
2. Veterinary office, facility, or rooms are dirty, unsanitized, or smell nasty
This is just completely unacceptable. Remember this is a health facility for your pets. So, it must be clean and sanitized. Otherwise, your dog could get sicker. In fact, if your vet, staff, or any vet tech is exhibiting an unhealthy veterinary practice, I’d advise you to contact your state veterinary board. It could prevent your dog or another pet from becoming sick unnecessarily while visiting this veterinary clinic.
3. Rude vet, vet tech, or staff
There is no excuse for the vet, vet tech, or staff to be rude. Although, keep in mind, that you also shouldn’t be raising “canine” without just cause. With that being said, I always say it’s much easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar. So, try to keep the temperature down. But if the vet or staff is nasty by nature, then it’s time to move to different veterinary services. You can rest assured if the staff is rude to you, they’ll be rude to your dog as well. Thus, you’ll want to find a new vet.
4. You feel like you are put on the defense
Generally, when you take your dog or pet to the vet, you want to get help for your furry friend. You should be considered a partner in your dog’s health care. Not an adversary. For example, if the veterinary team says your dogs teeth are great, but then rudely lectures you on dental care that’s not acceptable. You’re obviously doing a great job with your dog’s dental care.
This goes for any part of the vet appointment or even asking for your dog’s medical records. The veterinary team should always be professional with you and your pet. If you feel like you’re put on the defense at any point and especially if it’s a continual type of experience, then it’s time for a new vet.
5. Your dog isn’t shown any TLC by the veterinary team
No matter the reason your dog or pet is visiting the vet, he or she shouldn’t be treated like a moving box. Your furry friend is precious and deserves respect. You can easily relate this one to how your date treats the waitress at a restaurant. If your date ignores or mistreats the waitress, then the date probably isn’t worth a second date. So, for your vet, it’s a good idea to notice if the medical staff is talking to or petting your dog. Or if the vet is interacting with your dog in a friendly matter. If not, then it may be time to find a new vet.
Note: Henry’s current vet even has a line on his bill called “TLC”. Which, of course, is free. It always makes me smile though to see that little note. I know Henry is well loved by the vet and the entire veterinary team.
6. Ownership change and veterinary clinic changes
You probably won’t find this happening a lot, but it does appear to be occurring more than it used to a few years ago. This is when a bigger veterinary group will buy out a smaller vet office. When this happens the entire policy of the smaller office will most likely change. You may notice changes that you don’t like, or you don’t feel comfortable with these changes. If this occurs, then it may be time to find a new vet.
7. Nearly impossible to get your dog a timely vet appointment when you express a concern
If you call your veterinary office in the morning with a concern about your dog, how quickly can you get your dog into be seen by the vet? Is it that day or weeks later? For example, I recently called my vet’s office early in the morning with a concern about Henry itching in parts he never has itched in the past.
Since he’s on a very strict diet, I was worried about what to give him. The veterinary team was able to book an appointment later that day. Henry was with his current vet a few hours later. If you are put off by the veterinary team on more dire issues, such as not eating, not drinking, vomiting, or worse, for days or weeks, then it’s time to look for a new vet.
8. An unwillingness to help give options with the bill
If you’re on a tight budget, will your veterinary office give you suggestions for helping with your bill, especially if you’re handed a large bill? This could be Pet CareCredit or even in-house financing or some other option. You can even ask the front staff and they should be able to provide you with payment options. If no options are given and this is a big concern for you, then it may be time to start your search to find a new vet.
9. Rushed in and rushed out with little attention
Do you feel as if you’re on a timer once the vet enters the room with your dog? For example, your vet will address the one issue or what the main concern is, make a few notes, and quickly dash out before anything else is even mentioned. Remember your dog’s health is at stake. There shouldn’t be a time clock. The examination of your pet should be done thoroughly. However if this quickie rushed appointment sounds familiar, then it may be time to look for a new vet.
10. You don’t feel comfortable with the vet
Does going to the vet give you anxiety? I’m not talking about your dog. But you. How do you feel about going to your dog’s vet? Not about what’s wrong with your dog, but the vet, staff, and office. Do you not like something or someone, but you can’t put your finger on it? Your reaction is a “gut thing”. It’s your intuition. It’s been said many times, never go against your intuition. If YOU feel uncomfortable with your vet, the staff, or even the building, then it’s time to find a new vet.
Note: The last time Henry was at his regular vet, I handed him a poop bag from Henry and said, “You always scare the poop out of him.” It was meant as a joke. However, the vet thought I said, “You scare the poop out of me.” which caused his face to turn bright red and his eyes to get as big as saucers. He was going to fix the issue immediately! Actually, a great response to what he thought he heard. I quickly explained it was Henry and he chuckled.
11. Vet and vet tech aren’t available or won’t answer questions
This should be an easy red flag. If you ask a question of your vet and he or she won’t answer it or avoids it, that’s a giveaway. Or you call the veterinary practice and ask the veterinary team a question and they won’t answer or refuse to find an answer and get back to you, it’s another giveaway. They don’t know, they don’t want to know, or they don’t care. Any of those answers are unacceptable. It’s definitely time to find a new vet.
Note: When I’ve called Henry’s current vet office even with a simple question, often the vet himself will call back at lunch or in the evening. This is the type of vet you want in your corner for your dog’s health.
12. Veterinarian and veterinary team don’t listen
This is one of my biggest pet peeves in life in general. You talk, discuss something, and whomever you’re talking to tunes you out even though they are feet away.
For example with your dog, you may want to know exactly how much new food or how to properly give a new prescription to your dog. Yet, you don’t get an answer. Or you tell your vet you are walking your dog daily and the vet turns around and says “you need to walk your dog daily”. Of course, if he were listening, he would’ve heard you say you already are doing that with your dog.
Now, think of this in a more life-threatening situation. For example, if you asked if you should give your dog a Benadryl daily and only received a “sure” it could be dangerous. When I asked Henry’s vet about Benadryl, his ears perked up and he said, “Only give him 1/2 of a 25 mg twice daily. And only when he has allergy symptoms.” It’s all in the details. If the vet hadn’t said how much and how often for Henry’s weight, it could be harmful to him.
Basically, if you feel like you’re talking to a brick wall, it may be time to find a new vet.
13. Vet doesn’t give you options on your dog’s care
Your vet should have many options for helping your dog. Not just a shotgun approach to your pet’s healthcare. This could even be with basic pet care tips or preventive care.
As an example, Henry’s current vet even gave me a suggestion for how to successfully change his bedtime routine with was changed with his new diet.
Note: As another example, a few years ago Henry was attacked by a couple of dogs. There was a possibility he’d need additional eye surgery. We finally got to the point of having to make a decision. Henry’s vet laid out three options. One was to continue to wait a year or so and then proceed with surgery. Another was to do the surgery now and possibly more in a few years with scars and no guarantees of success.
The final option was to do daily compresses, monitor his eye, and stay the course. Each option had its own unique pros and cons. I asked the vet what he’d do if Henry was his dog. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Henry is a great dog. If he were mine, I’d take option three. He’s doing great with this approach. I wouldn’t put him under undo stress.” That’s a great vet partner to have in your dog’s healthcare.
Another example of a lack of pet care options given by a vet
I used to have a mobile vet for my horses. Unfortunately for me, every once in a while she’d go on vacation. One time she was out of town when one of my horses got colic. I called her on-call backup vet. The mobile vet came out and simply said, “you’ve got to put him down immediately!” There were no options! I rebutted her and told her the steps she needed to do for him. These were the steps I’d seen my regular vet take many times.
Once I convinced her to do that, Macho was back to his normal self. And yes, I was firm with her, but I had no choice at that point. Macho’s life was at stake. Rest assured that vet never returned to my barn. And my regular mobile vet didn’t put that vet on her call list. So, if your vet doesn’t give you any options for your pet’s care, it’s probably time to find a new vet.
14. Vet or staff made an error with your pet
This one goes without question. If you’re taking your dog to a veterinary clinic and the vet or vet tech makes an error, especially if it’s a critical one, then you MUST find a new vet.
For example, a few years ago, I took my cats to have their teeth cleaned. I told them one of my cats didn’t do well with anesthesia and to watch her very carefully.
Unfortunately, they overdid the anesthesia, then tried to correct their error, and in doing so, blew out her kidneys. She died shortly thereafter. As a result, I got a new vet.
So, if you’ve had a vet who made any errors with your dog, even if not a critical error, it’s time to find a new vet. If you give your vet or veterinary practice the chance, the next error might be critical.
15. Your dog doesn’t get better or gets worse
If your veterinarian keeps prescribing different things for your dog, yet your dog is continuing to get worse or isn’t improving. Then it’s time to switch gears. Think about it, are you helping your dog by staying with this vet? Even if the vet is nice? No. So, if you’re not helping your pet by taking them to the vet, which is the purpose of a great vet, then it’s time to find a new vet.
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Summary of 15 red flags to know when it’s time for a new vet
Most likely you are not experiencing all 15 of these red flags. Or at least I hope you are not. If you are, then run to find a new vet! My goal is to show you a few red flags that will indicate that it’s time to look for a new vet. You may even want to stay with your current vet while you’re in the search process, depending on the red flag.
Remember, sometimes it’s difficult to break a relationship, even with your vet. Especially, if you’ve been a lifelong client. Unfortunately, time changes everything and it can change your veterinary care, the veterinary services, the vet tech services, or the veterinary practice overall. If you aren’t comfortable with your current vet, anything is setting off your “doggie senses” then it’s time for a new vet. You know it. However, change can be difficult. In the end, know that it’s best for your dog. You’ll be happier and less stressed in the end as well.