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How to choose the right veterinarian

Whether you’re moving to another state, or you’ve just adopted a new friend, here’s everything you need to know about finding a veterinarian that’s right for you.

Look for AAHA accreditation

It’s a good idea to choose an animal hospital that’s been accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Animal hospitals that choose to be accredited show they are committed to meeting -- or exceeding -- standards in a variety of different areas (approximately 900 standards, to be exact). An AAHA-accredited hospital goes above and beyond. They must prove to a third-party (AAHA) that they consistently provide the safest, highest quality care.

Hospitals that are accredited by AAHA meet high veterinary care standards. Each hospital voluntarily completes a detailed evaluation of its services and equipment. Then a practice consultant thoroughly evaluates the hospital to make sure it meets AAHA’s high standards in the areas of:

  • emergency services
  • pain management
  • contagious diseases
  • surgery and anesthesia
  • radiology services
  • pathology services
  • nursing care
  • diagnostic and pharmacy
  • dentistry
  • examination facilities
  • pet medical records
  • medical library
  • housekeeping and maintenance

An easy way to find AAHA-accredited hospitals is with the American Animal Hospital Association Hospital Locator.

Ask people like you

Get recommendations from friends or coworkers who feel the same way about their pets as you do. If you consider your pet a member of your family, ask people who think the same way.

If you’re moving far away

If you’re moving to another area, ask your current veterinarian for a recommendation. Area veterinary medicine associations also have lists of active members, often with special interests such as avian and exotic medicine.

Tour the practice

When you find an animal practice you think you like, ask for a tour. The hospital should be proud to show you its facility. During the tour ask yourself the following:

  • Is it clean?
  • Do the animals seem comfortable and safe?
  • Are dogs and cats separated?
  • Does the equipment look up-to-date?
  • Is there too much clutter?

Schedule a "get acquainted" meeting

The worst time to find a veterinarian is when your pet becomes ill and really needs one. Instead, schedule a brief get acquainted meeting so you and your pet can meet with the veterinarian. This meeting will allow you to ask about hospital practices and determine if this hospital is the “right fit” for both you and your pet. An effective veterinarian-owner-pet relationship is a partnership and communication is key.

Should your veterinarian have a specialty?

If you have a bird, you’ll want to find an avian animal veterinarian. If you have a fish, look for an aquatic animal veterinarian. Veterinarians should be able to care for all other types of animals. This includes the many different breeds of cats and dogs.

7 questions to ask a veterinary hospital

When considering a veterinarian, some basic questions you might ask:

  1. Can you request an appointment with a certain veterinarian? The answer should be yes.
  2. Do you have a large network of specialists if needed? The answer should be yes.
  3. What is your telephone policy? They should have educated staff available to answer your questions over the phone. But you should always be able to leave the veterinarian a message to call you back.
  4. What is your response to emergencies? If your pet has a serious emergency (automobile accident), the hospital should be able to see you immediately or arrange for your pet to go to another hospital that can.
  5. How long should I have to wait to schedule a routine appointment? Most practices should be able to schedule an appointment within a couple days to a week, depending on how busy they are, and how urgent your pet’s needs are.
  6. What types of payment methods do you offer? Ask the practice to make sure that they are set up to accept the types of payments you need.
  7. Do you have an email system where I can schedule appointments and ask questions? An increasing number of practices offer online services. Ask to see if they offer these types of services.

Keeping your pet healthy is very important. But your veterinarian can’t do it alone. It’s up to you to work in partnership with your veterinarian to give your pet the care he/she needs to live a healthier, happy life.

More tips on what to look for when choosing a vet:

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