Finding the perfect pet doctor with the right bedside manner is a vital part of dog-ownership. Follow our guide to finding the best vet to keep your pooch in prime condition.
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However unfair it seems, not everyone can have that nice Emma Inglis from the BBC’s Vets in Practice as their vet. It doesn't matter how much you admire her deft way with a scalpel and lovely bedside manner – when you bring your new dog or puppy home you are going to have to put your trust, and potentially his life, into a complete stranger’s hands.
Choosing a vet is not as simple a task as opening the Yellow Pages, closing your eyes and pointing to one. Making the right decision about where your pet will be treated will save a lot of heartache should, heaven forbid, an emergency arise in the future and you have to leave him in the care of the vet “that you've never really liked from the start”.
Sussing out a vet:
- If you are getting a new puppy, find your vet beforehand. If you have bought a pedigree dog you should really get him checked over in the first couple of days after bringing him home - you’ll have plenty of other things to be worrying about other than trying to find a vet at this stage
- So before young Fido comes home to his new family, do a bit of groundwork on your local veterinary surgeries. What are your main needs likely to be? What is the vet’s vaccination policy? Does he run puppy socialisation classes at the practice? Is he happy to help with guidance on feeding and general health for a novice owner? These are the basic questions you need to ask
- Another major factor is surgery opening hours and your lifestyle. It’s frustrating enough if your bank is closed on a Saturday, but if you only have transport in the evenings a veterinary surgery that only has morning consultations might be completely impractical – however much you like its facilities. Speaking of consultancies – ask if they are by appointment only or whether the practice runs a drop-in and wait system
- One important area often overlooked is emergency care. It will be panic stations if your dog suddenly becomes seriously ill and the ideal vet you have found is unable to admit emergency cases 24 hours a day, instead referring you to another practice miles away. This should be one of your first considerations if you are moving to a new area and have an older dog
- Fewer practices are offering house calls and a worst case scenario would be if your dog collapsed, the vet couldn't come to you, you had no car and the emergency practice was 10 miles away. A scary thought and one that needs to be addressed and tackled when you are vet-hunting
- If your dog already has a health problem, make sure your new vet can carry on existing treatment or is able to refer you to one who can. Or, if your dog has an ongoing skin problem, for example, can a consultant come in and treat him if the practice vet cannot?
- Once you have found a vet who sounds promising from your phone conversation, go and visit him. Speaking from personal experience, when I was vet-hunting for my new puppy, I had to choose between two practices: both had excellent reputations, were the same distance away and, when speaking to the receptionists, I felt my pup would be well looked after in either establishment. Lucky me! In the end I chose the one that greeted me with, “Ooh, this must be Holly. Isn’t she beautiful!” They had remembered my dog’s name and recognised her from only the briefest description from me – I was impressed, and young Holly became a client. The tiniest margin, but when you are placing your pride and joy in someone else’s care, the reassurance of personal attention is paramount
- Judging a practice by the amount it charges is not necessarily the best way to choose your vet. You may find a less expensive surgery that isn’t stuffed to gunwales with technology, but offers first-rate customer care; or you can be dazzled by the hi-tech, top-dollar practice on the other side of town – but always come away feeling as if you and your dog were a rather irksome distraction
- However good a reputation a practice is supposed to have, if you don’t feel happy with it don’t take your dog there. It pays to follow your consumer instincts – the public should dictate the level of service they receive, not be dictated to and certainly not when it comes to their dogs’ health
- The best piece of advice I was given when vet-hunting was to judge a practice on its veterinary nurses. The era of having one vet for many years – seeing you through all the ups and downs of all your dogs – has more or less disappeared. Vets may be moving practice more often, but vet nurses are less likely to do so. Plus your vet nurse will be the person you’ll probably see most regularly, from puppy socialising parties to well-pet clinics and at all visits in-between
- A good vet nurse you’ve built up a relationship with is just as important as a good vet!