The time I dreaded has come; we had to look for a new veterinarian.
We love our vet, and finding him was a long, painful journey. There were only two reasons why we would look for a new one:
- us moving
- our vet moving or retiring
We had to search for a veterinarian because were moving.
Looking for a new veterinarian
We were to Jasmine’s ranch, which is about a seven-hour drive from where we used to live. So that gave us no choice but to look for a veterinarian at our new location. However, I had talked to our vet about keeping him on board to consult with him if needed.
I looked at our options and roughly narrowed it down to a few potential candidates. I considered their education, experience, areas of interest, affiliations, and services they offered.
Our list of screening questions
I made a list of questions, which were essential for our decision. They asked me to lay it on easy in two parts.
Questions part one
- What is your vaccination policy?
- Do you titer?
- Pain management philosophy? (Do you use pain medication after spay/neuter? Dentals? Other procedures?)
- Anesthesia protocol
a. Pre-anesthesia screening
b. Anesthetic agents used (e.g. sevoflurane vs isoflurane)
c. IV catheter even for short procedures
d. Endotracheal tube
e. Anesthesia-induced and monitored by whom
f. Monitoring during and after (respiration, ECG, blood pressure, O2 sats, temperature
g. Post-anesthesia monitoring – where and 100 percent of time
- How do you handle emergencies during business hours?
- How do you handle after-hours emergencies?
- Equipment for basic testing in emergencies (e.g. basic blood panel, urinalysis etc?)
- Care for 24-hour care hospitalized dogs; who cares for them through the night/weekends?
- What is your visitation policy?
- How much time do you allow per appointment?
- Do you accept Trupanion insurance plan?
- Do you happen to use online records?
a. Do you provide a copy of records/notes from the appointment?
b. Do you provide a copy of lab results?
- Do you offer health plans?
Questions part two
- What is your policy for avoiding errors?
- Specialists/second opinions/cooperation; who do you consult with?
- What types of surgical and medical cases do you prefer to refer and to where?
- Emphasis on patient history and owner description of signs?
- Do you discuss treatment options?
- Do you discuss the owner’s internet or other research?
- Forms of communication (visits, phone, skype, email)
- Stem cell/ PRP treatments?
- What veterinary associations do you belong to?
- Do you make house calls?
- Do you allow medical boarding?
- How do you handle euthanasia? (Do you allow the family to be present? Are house-calls an option? Do you schedule the procedure for the end of the workday? Can you accommodate it in an urgent situation? What place do you use for the cremation?)
- Can we get a tour, including the back of the hospital?
- Are clients allowed to accompany their dog to the “back” of the facility?
- Does your hospital have an isolation ward?
- Do you employ registered veterinary technicians?
- Do you place large breed dogs on the examination table? If so is it a lift-table? Does it have a non-slip non-reflective surface?
- Expertise in physical therapy?
- Do you provide written estimates?
- How much do you charge for a visit/consultation?
- Advanced training (intership.residency)?
- Continued education?
The hospital at the top of my list was AAHA accredited, providing some indication of care standards.
Questions specific to our selected veterinarian
The veterinarian we were interested in was also trained in acupuncture by Chi Institute. So for her, I had some further specific questions:
Questions part three
- What TCVM diagnostics do you use?
- Besides acupuncture, do you use nutritional therapy and herbal therapy?
- How long have you been practicing acupuncture on dogs?
- What is your opinion on raw or home-cooked diets?
- How many canine patients have you treated?
I had to hope they weren’t going to run for their lives when they saw all my questions. Our vet was already used to me, but for them, the level of my involvement could have been a bit of a shock.
The other consideration was what I’d do if only some of the answers weren’t satisfactory. I had priorities, but most of the items on the list were very important to me.
On the other hand, just them answering (or not) all of those questions would say something about them too.
Of course, we followed by personal visit, and whether our dogs approve or not is also important. And we’ll keep a lifeline to our present vet active. So wish us luck.
Would you add anything to my list of questions?
Meeting our new vet
We have made an appointment for an initial visit to our new, carefully selected vet. If I liked her based on the questionnaire answers, I REALLY like her now.
The guys like her too! This is equally important. If they didn’t like her, no matter how much work I’d put into the selection, I would have gone looking for another one.
But they do like her, and she was very good with them.
The exam room was small, and we were four people and two giant dogs cramped in there. It was an extended visit, and the guys were a little stressed from the small space, new environment, and all but did very well and really took to the vet and the technician.
They asked all the right questions, and we went over the medical histories and discussed many things, including nutrition and potential future treatments.
I like how the new vet thinks about everything in depth, and we have the same views on all crucial aspects.
We are kindred spirits.
I like her approach to medicine, and we are on the same page regarding ideal nutrition. In addition, she is dedicated to her patients, does her homework, and is more than happy to discuss things.
Our overall impression was more than positive. Whew. I can sleep at night again.
Picking The Right Vet: A Cheat Sheet