A great veterinarian ensures better health for your pet and peace of mind for you. Use these tips to find one who's knowledgeable, friendly, and committed to giving your furry, feathered, or scaly friends good care.

Don’t Wait

The worst time to look for a vet is when you really need one. Even before you get a pet, a veterinarian can help you decide which type is best for your family’s needs and lifestyle.

If you already have an animal but you’re moving to a new town or you’re not happy with your current vet, start exploring your options before your pet gets sick or has an accident. That gives you time to do a thorough search.

Ask Around

Do you have a friend who loves her pet as much as you do? Find out where she takes him. A personal reference can be more reliable than review sites, especially if the pet owner’s standards are similar to your own.

If you have a purebred dog or cat or a nontraditional pet, consider checking with a local breeder or specialty group. Its members may have a strong relationship with a practice that will know your animal’s needs and any potential health problems.

Check Credentials

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) accredits clinics that show that they provide the highest standards of care. You can visit their website to find an accredited facility near you.

You can also visit the website of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners to find a certified vet, which means she has spent 2 to 4 extra years studying a specialized field, like care for cats and dogs, birds, reptiles, or exotic animals.

Schedule a Visit

Once you’ve found a practice you like, request a meeting with a veterinarian there to discuss any questions you have. Write them down before you go. A few things to consider:

  • What are the office hours, and do they work with your schedule?
  • Can you reach the staff by email?
  • Does the facility offer after-hours emergency services? What about grooming and boarding?
  • Does the vet have a network of specialists that she can refer you to if necessary?
  • Do you feel comfortable bringing up your concerns with the vet?
  • How long does it usually take to make an appointment?
  • If there are multiple vets on staff, can you request a specific one?
  • If you have pet insurance or are considering it, does the hospital accept your plan? 

Also ask whether you can bring your pet to the meeting, so you can get a sense of how the vet interacts with him. And make a note of how long it takes you to get there and how easy it is to find parking.

Take a Tour

While you’re there, ask if you can check out the office. You can see if it’s clean (you shouldn’t smell bad odors), whether the cats and dogs are comfortable and kept separately, and how organized the waiting area and treatment rooms are. You can also observe how the receptionist, veterinary technicians, and other staffers interact with the animals.

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