Finding A New Veterinarian

cat sitting on scale at veterinarian's office

 (Photo: IvonneW/iStockphoto)

Once you have found a breeder you are going to get your new Persian kitten from, it is time to choose a new veterinarian. It is not only important to have spent time researching responsible breeders, but also researching who will be responsible for providing your new kitty with medical care. How do you find a veterinarian? What questions do you ask? What do you look for in a new vet?

A common mistake is to open the telephone book or to use a search engine to find the veterinarian that is closest to your home.  That should not be your only criteria for a new vet.

So what should you do?

  • Do use a search engine or telephone book to find veterinarians or animal hospitals within a comfortable distance from your home and make a list of those vets or clinics, telephone numbers and addresses.
  • Look on the internet to see if any of the veterinarians or clinics have web sites, Facebook or Twitter accounts and check out those accounts or their website.
    • How many vets are in that clinic?
    • Is there any feedback on the internet about a potential veterinarian or clinic?

While using Facebook or Twitter is not a reliable way to ascertain if the vet or clinic is a good one, it does show that clinic and/or veterinarian are possibly more comfortable with newer technology which may translate into newer veterinary procedures and techniques.

Contact the Better Business Bureau to check about complaints.

  • Contact the veterinarian or clinic and ask if the veterinarian is a specialist in any area. Sometimes, veterinarians spend between four and eight years after veterinary school to become a specialist (i.e., orthopedics, nutrition, dentistry, cardiac, etc.). Most veterinarians are not specialists. Instead, they are what would be considered in human medicine as a "General Practitioner". In other words, the vet knows a little bit about a lot of different species; including large animals (horses, cows, etc.), small animals (dogs, cats), and exotics (reptiles, birds, etc.). The normal pet owner does not need a specialist, they usually require a "small animal veterinarian" if they are a dog or cat owner.
  • Is the veterinarian and staff trustworthy and knowledgeable? That is a more difficult question to ascertain.  While all veterinarians complete the same basic medical education, they can vary in how much continuing education they do after completing veterinary school (do not confuse "continuing education" for the education required to become a "specialist").
    • It is perfectly alright to ask:
      • Where did you do your veterinary training and when did you graduate?
      • Did you practice veterinary medicine in another clinic or animal hospital before opening your own office? If so, for how long did you work there and what is the name of it?
      • What continuing education have you done and how often?
      • Are all the vet techs certified?
    • Price may be a consideration. As pet owners, we all feel the economic pinch nowadays, so it is important to weigh the cost of services with the quality of service. Sometimes, it can be better to pay a bit more for quality service and peace of mind. However, exorbitant prices do not necessarily go hand-in-hand with exceptional veterinary knowledge and expertise.
    • Consideration of a clinic or veterinarian should include what equipment is needed to diagnose and treat your cat. All general veterinarian clinics will have radiograph (X-ray) equipment which is used to diagnose problems with bones, heart and lungs. They may also have digital ultrasound which is used to examine your pet's stomach, small intestines, kidneys, liver, and bladder. Ultrasound may be especially important in older cats. Does the clinic use laser surgery equipment? Not all veterinarians have made the switch to laser equipment which may be cost prohibitive for a single practitioner office. That does not mean the veterinarian is not good just because he/she does not utilize laser surgical techniques. In our opinion, surgery is dependent on the skill of the surgeon not the equipment. Yes, laser surgery equipment has a quicker recovery time with less pain than traditional surgery. However, laser surgery is also more expensive than traditional surgery. Nowadays, pain medication is usually given to a pet to manage post-surgical pain no matter the surgical technique used (laser or traditional surgery).

    While comparing veterinarians and clinics, ask the prices for:

    • Office visits, (brief and extended office calls, is there a different price?)
    • Vaccination costs,
    • Brand of Vaccine used (Merial is the only brand we use and recommend),
    • Rabies costs (Merial PureVax Rabies is the safest brand),
    • Fecal exams,
    • Whether they give discounts if you own multiple pets,
    • Is blood work required when a pet has surgery or can you "opt out"?
    • Are yearly blood draws to determine heartworm infestation (even if your pet has always been on heartworm medication) required? What is the cost for the heartworm test and for the heartworm medication?
    • What, if any, requirements do they have when a new client comes to their clinic (i.e., office exam, vaccinations, wormings, fecal exam, etc.). If your pet is routinely wormed and it is documented in your pet's Health Record booklet, it is my opinion the new veterinarian should not require either a fecal exam or worming.

    It is perfectly alright to ask for a new patient consult in order to:

    • Get to know the veterinarian,
    • Meet their staff,
    • Check out their office and how it seems to run,
    • Observe how they treat the clients in their waiting room,
    • Observe how the clients are treated as they leave,
    • Is payment always required at time of service or are payment plans offered, and
    • Where do you go or who do you call if it is outside normal office hours.

    IMPORTANT:   Ask the prospective veterinarian what brand of vaccine do they use and where do they give the injections? Nowadays, due to Vaccine Associated Sarcomas (VAS) or Injection Site Sarcomas (ISS), the safest vaccine is made by Merial and the recommended place to vaccination a cat or dog is as low as possible on the hind leg or even the tail.

    For the most part, it will come down to how comfortable the veterinarian and their staff (vet techs and front office staff) make you and your pet feel. Do they remember who you are when you call? Do they remember your pets' name when you call? Is your pet accurately diagnosed the first visit? Does the veterinarian always go with the most expensive battery of tests or use a more moderate and less expensive approach to common ailments?

    IF at any time, you feel uncomfortable with a veterinarian (whether it be what they are telling you or what procedures they are asking to perform on your pet) - ASK QUESTIONS. You do have the right to refuse treatment and go elsewhere to get your cat treated.

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