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How to Find the Right Vet for Your Pet

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Round Two - Office Evaluations

It is important to have a chance to speak to the vet about their treatment philosophy. Don't bring your pet with you to the visit, advises Dr. Murray. Do be prepared to pay a regular visit fee even though your pet is not being treated. While at the office, find the answers to the following questions:

7. Is the practice clean and well organized?
Arrive a few minutes early for your appointment and take a look around the office. Make sure everything appears clean and organized, including the staff themselves and the front-desk paperwork. Once you get into the exam room (ask to see one if the doctor brings you to her office), the exam table and any surrounding equipment should be spotless.

8. Does the practice keep complete and detailed medical records?
You should see neat patient files somewhere in the office, and you should feel free to ask the vet about how they keep notes about their patients. Bonus points if the office has computerized medical records.

9. Are prescription drugs dispensed properly and with appropriate monitoring?
Your vet should want to see your pet before prescribing any medications, and medications should be dispensed in an appropriate container and with complete labeling information. Beware of an office that commonly gives out a white envelope with "once a day" written on it!

10. Does the practice use modern, aseptic surgical techniques?
You can ask the vet what they wear when performing surgery. Their regalia should include: scrubs, a mask, a cap, a sterile gown, and sterile gloves.

11. Are patients properly evaluated before anesthesia and surgery?
Dr. Murray recommends that pets should have a physical exam within one month before surgery, and pets that are more than 5 years old should have blood work done to make sure they are healthy enough to undergo surgery.

12. What is the protocol for pain management?
Unfortunately, you can't always assume that pain control is a priority for every vet, explains Dr. Murray. Simply ask if an animal having an elective surgery, like spaying or neutering, is given pain medication both at the hospital and to take when they go home. You should be able to tell pretty quickly if the office makes pain control a priority.

It might feel strange as a new pet owner to ask a veterinarian about their practice, but Dr. Murray believes it can be lifesaving. Her motto for pet parents is: Love your pet, educate yourself. "The best way to love you pet is to educate yourself so you can be an educated advocate," Dr. Murray says. "Your pet can't speak up, so you have to become brave for your pet."

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