Finding the Right Vet for Your Cat or Dog

Choosing a veterinarian is one of the most important decisions you'll make for your cat or dog. Your veterinarian will be an important partner for you in making sure your pet lives a long, healthy life. Think about the issues that are important to you, like the clinic’s hours and location. Knowing your preferences ahead of time will help you narrow down your choices.

When Should I Find a Vet?

The best time to find a vet is before you need one. Ideally, you'll choose a vet before you bring home your pet, and some offices can even help you find the best pet for your family. 

If you’re moving, you should look for a vet as soon as possible. Don't wait until your dog or cat needs a vet before you start looking for one. You don't want to have to deal with the stress of having to find a vet if your pet is sick or injured

How Do I Find a Vet?

Word of mouth is often the best way to find a vet. Ask your friends and family for recommendations. Online reviews can be helpful, but suggestions from people you trust are even better. Different pets and families have different needs, though, so consider meeting with a few vets before making your choice. 

You can also check with your state's veterinary medical association for a list of qualified veterinarians, or search the American Animal Hospital Association to locate accredited veterinary practices. If you’re moving, your current vet may be able to make recommendations.

If your dog or cat is purebred, you can check in with local breed clubs. The club members often know which vets have experience with your pet's specific breed. 

How Do I Know if a Vet Is Right for My Pet?

Here are some things to consider when you're choosing a vet: 

  • Arrange a visit to the vet without your pet so you can tour the office. This is a great time to notice if the office is clean and well-organized. You can talk to the staff and see if they seem friendly and helpful. 
  • Ask about the services they offer. If your pet needs an X-ray or other test, can they do it at the office, or will you have to go somewhere else?
  • Find out the office hours and how emergencies are covered. If it's a practice with more than one vet, you may want to ask if you can see a specific vet.
  • Find out if their philosophy matches yours. Veterinarians are simply people whose personalities can vary. Some are warm while others are very businesslike. Look for a vet whose attitude feels like a match.

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What Questions Should I Ask When Choosing a Vet?

Some of the questions you should ask will depend on your pet’s breed and age, as well as anything you know about their medical needs and history. Start with a few basics when you’re considering a new vet.

  • How many veterinarians are in your practice?
  • What are your hours?
  • Do you accept walk-ins?
  • How do you handle emergencies?
  • Do you accept insurance?
  • Do you offer dental care?
  • How much do you charge for an office visit? 
  • Can you do tests and procedures on-site?
  • Do you have a pharmacy?
  • What are your payment policies?

What Should I Do if I Have a Problem With My Vet?

If you aren’t happy with your vet's care of your pet, you can try talking to them about it. Go into the conversation with an open mind, and be willing to listen to why the vet's care differed from what you expected. It can be a difficult conversation to have, but your vet should also be open to listening to your concerns. Be prepared to share the reasons for your concerns. Your vet may be able to explain their procedures to you, or they may decide to shift their treatment approach. If you still disagree, you may need to schedule a second opinion or change vets.

If you feel like your vet is not a good match for you for any reason, request a copy of all of your pet's records and find a new vet. You can ask the receptionist for copies, and you’re legally entitled to them. If your vet asks why you’re leaving, you can give an honest, constructive answer. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on July 07, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

American Kennel Club: "How to Find the Right Vet For Your Dog."

American Veterinary Medical Association: "Finding a veterinarian." 

Animal Humane Society: "Finding the right veterinarian."

Bellweather Harbor: "Questions to Ask When Looking for a New Vet."

PETMD: "Missed Diagnoses: What to Do When You Think Your Vet Is Missing Something."

Spot Speaks: "Five Red Flag Indicators That It’s Time to Find a New Vet."

American Animal Hospital Association: “AAHA-accredited hospital locator.”

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