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This is How to Choose the Best Veterinarian for Your Pet

This is How to Choose the Best Veterinarian for Your Pet

Wondering how to choose a vet for your family pet? Expert Carly Fox, D.V.M., a veterinarian in NYC, shares what to look for.

Unlike your kids, you can’t talk to your pet about choosing a veterinarian—or how to feel about going to the vet. Once you’ve chosen what pet your family should get, it’s up to you to decide which primary care vet is right for your pet and your family. Just like choosing any other health care professional, it can be overwhelming: There are a lot of vets out there! Luckily. Carly Fox, D.V.M., a staff doctor at the NYC Animal Medical Center in Manhattan, has several tips that will help you choose a quality vet. Read on for how to choose a vet, including the right questions to ask any prospective veterinarian, what to do if your pet has a condition that requires special care, and how to help your pet feel better about going to the vet’s office.

This Is the Most Important Thing to Look for When Choosing a Vet

When visiting prospective primary care vets, pay close attention to how you feel about everyone working in the office. The process is similar to choosing a pediatrician for your children.

“Having a good rapport with the vet is important,” Dr. Fox says. “That’s more of a feeling you get when you interact with them—most people can tell quickly when you trust someone with your pet.”

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Questions to Ask When Choosing a Vet

You have to make sure your prospective vet is practicing good quality medicine and has direct answers to your questions—but how can you determine that? Dr. Fox recommends asking these questions.

Is the office accredited through the American Animal Hospital Association?

To be accredited, the office has to have certain care protocols in place, the right equipment for every situation, and more. Getting accredited is a rigorous process. It tells you this vet’s office cares about the quality of its medical care, according to Dr. Fox.

Did the vet and her colleagues complete an internship program after graduating from veterinary school?

Unlike with medical school to gain experience with real people, vet schools do not make an internship program mandatory. Choosing to complete an internship after graduation is an elective decision that guarantees your vet has more clinical and emergency experience, could be more comfortable with emergency situations, and generally has more knowledge with which to treat your pet.

Does the vet see emergencies, and is the vet reachable after hours?

A primary care office might not have time to treat emergency situations, and so should have a good relationship with a nearby animal hospital you can trust. When asking about emergencies, get to know the people in the office who would be administering anesthesia or other emergency medicine, as well.

Has the office undergone the Fear Free certification program for veterinary professionals?

This elective certification process means the office will have protocols in place to help pets be less anxious, such as specific ways of handling frightened dogs, extra comfortable bedding in crates, and non-slip mats on the floor. These practices might seem inherent in any office, but they’re not, Dr. Fox says—and they can really help your pet.

What if my pet has a special medical condition?

If your pet has a condition that will require ongoing care, such as diabetes or epilepsy, talk to your prospective vet about the condition and make sure he’s comfortable with it. Having extensive experience with rare conditions is not necessary, Dr. Fox says, but then it’s even more crucial that your vet can collaborate with specialty vets such as veterinary neurologists. Make sure your vet has a good relationship with specialty hospitals, too.

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Signs a Vet Isn’t Right for Your Pet

“Your vet’s and the staff’s biggest concern should always be your pet’s well-being and comfort level,” Dr. Fox says. Most of the time, you will know if that’s not the case. The biggest signs to look for include poor communication or lack thereof (your vet can’t explain the progression of your dog’s disease or doesn’t return your phone calls, for example).

“Owners, a lot of the time, know their pet and know when something is wrong, even if they can’t put their finger on it,” Dr. Fox says. Your vet should listen to your concerns—if she doesn’t, that’s a major red flag, too.

Most importantly, you should feel comfortable at the vet’s office. If you don’t for any reason, that’s a sign to pick a different vet. 

How to Reduce Your Pets Anxiety About Going to the Vet

You can’t exactly talk to your cat about the vet, or read him a book about how helpful and kind vets are! And because you can’t, the best way to make an anxious pet feel comfortable is using positive association. Dr. Fox suggests you stop by your vet’s office on a random day just to say hi. Let your pet interact with staff, get a treat, and show him that the vet’s office isn’t just a place to go for shots or surgeries. The two best methods of positive association are usually praise and food, Dr. Fox says, so make sure your pet receives both and learns to associate the vet with everything he loves.

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Jacqueline Neber

Author: Jacqueline Neber is a social journalism MA candidate at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. When she’s not reporting, you can find her petting someone else’s dog. See More

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