Your puppy’s relationship with his veterinarian is one of the most important in his life. Maintaining your dog’s health is essential to your long, happy life together -- and your vet will play a critical role in your pup’s well-being. Therefore, choosing the right veterinarian is essential. Dr. Tracy Dewhirst, Exceptional Canine’s resident veterinarian expert, says there are a number of factors you should consider when selecting a vet. Here’s a checklist:
- Office hours and location Understand hours of operation -- and how the clinic handles after-hours emergencies. An office close to your home could be critical if your dog is experiencing an emergency.
- Office staff Are front-desk staff friendly and welcoming? Do they seem to like animals? “Believe it or not, some people working in clinics are not always kind to animals,” says Dewhirst. Do staff members appear organized? Will they expedite your questions and concerns to the veterinarian?
- Communication Of course, you can’t pester your veterinarian with every little detail of your pup’s life, but is the veterinarian accessible to answer occasional questions? Is there a knowledgeable staff member who might help? Will the office respond to email?
- Clinic facilities The clinic should be clean and calm. Is there a place to walk your dog on-site? If you own a large-breed puppy, are exam rooms and tables spacious?
- Credentials How long has the veterinarian been in practice? Where did he or she attend veterinary school? Does he or she have specialized training? How does the veterinarian keep up with current veterinary best practices?
- References Check with family, friends and even local Humane Societies to see if they have any recommendations on veterinarians in the area.
- Anesthesia You should know how the veterinarian handles anesthesia, says Dewhirst. “Animals should be intubated and maintained on gas anesthesia with an EKG-type monitor,” she explains.
- Specialist referrals Now is the time to ask how your veterinarian handles situations that require specialists. Does he or she work closely with specialists or refer cases to specialty veterinarians?
- Surgical expertise “If your pet requires a serious surgical procedure, it is perfectly acceptable to ask how many times the veterinarian has performed this,” notes Dewhirst.
- Breed expertise Some breeds face particular health challenges or needs. It’s good to know if your veterinarian is experienced with your puppy’s breed.
Meeting the Veterinarian
“Many veterinarians are happy to meet future clients for a quick hello,” says Dewhirst. Ask the receptionist when it’s convenient to stop by, and then be prepared to wait if the veterinarian is busy with a patient. If you need more time, schedule an actual appointment. “Not only is this courteous to other clients who are waiting for scheduled appointments, but it also shows the veterinarian that you value his or her time and opinion,” advises Dewhirst.
Introducing Your Puppy
Once you’ve selected a veterinarian, give your puppy time to adjust as well. Introduce your dog to his new veterinarian by scheduling an orientation-only visit. Let the veterinarian’s staff pet him and offer him treats. If you project a calm, upbeat attitude, your dog will likely remain calm too. Some experts recommend scheduling these just-dropping-in visits on a regular basis.
Although it takes extra time and effort, consider choosing the right veterinarian to be an investment in your puppy’s future and long-term well-being.