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Finding a Veterinarian for your Best Friend

cat and vetChoosing a veterinarian for your pet is much like selecting a physician for yourself: the doctor must meet your needs.

In selecting a veterinarian, recommends the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), your goal should be to find the doctor with whom you can establish a long-term relationship. We all want a well-trained professional to care for our best friends, but we each have other requirements as well. Those personal criteria include things like location, office hours, fees and type of practice. Do you want a solo practitioner or a group practice? Is the friendliness of the staff important to you?

When you’ve decided what’s most important to you, ask family, friends, and neighbors for recommendations. Be sure to ask "why?" they like a particular vet. The rescue group or breeder from which you adopted your pet may also be a source of referrals.

Visit the vet
Schedule a visit to meet the veterinarians who have been recommended, to see their facilities and to discuss your pet and your expectations.

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends asking for a tour of the facility, and using your eyes and nose to detect cleanliness. Also check if the facility is well lit. Does it have laboratory equipment? If it doesn’t meet your expectations, turn around and leave.

It’s important that you and your pet are comfortable with the doctor. The veterinarian should be able to communicate with you and make you feel at ease asking questions. Even if the doctor is highly qualified, if you don’t hit it off, you may need to go elsewhere.

Finally, when choosing a veterinary hospital, make sure the office hours and payment policy are convenient for you. Ask for a hospital brochure or welcome letter that explains the hospital policies and procedures.

Don’t wait ’til your pet is ill
It is a good idea to start thinking about selecting a veterinarian before a new pet becomes a member of your family, recommends the AVMA. In fact, a veterinarian can assist you in selecting a pet that complements your personality, work schedule and home life.

If you’ve just moved, you will want to locate a veterinarian soon. Don’t wait until your pet becomes ill; you want to establish a relationship right away.

The veterinarian will maintain a history of your pet, including health records that detail immunizations, reactions to medications, behavior traits, etc. So, it’s important to see your veterinarian for all your pet’s health care needs. Your veterinarian will know the best preventive medicine and critical care methods for your pet’s health care needs.

For more on choosing a veterinarian, visit the website of the American Veterinary Medical Association at www.avma.org/careforanimals/or the American Animal Hospital Association at www.healthypet.com. The AVMA site includes a list of questions to ask during your screening visits. AAHA offers an animal hospital locator on its site.