When choosing a veterinarian New Yorkers are fortunate to be in a city full of competent caring professionals to pick from. From Pelham to St. George, here’s how to make sure the vet you do choose is the right vet for you and your pet:
–Ask other like minded pet owners which vets they prefer and which they do not and why. The Humane Society of the United States and PetFinder.com suggest asking around for recommendations and opinions on local vets. Every vet has a different approach as well as different strengths and weaknesses. Identify what you need in a veterinarian: do they need to treat a variety of companion animals or be a dog or cat specialist? Is being open to and able to practice complimentary medicine important? What size facility do you need; small and personable or up to the minute with the latest technology?
-Are the offices clean? Is the front office staff helpful or off-putting and intimidating? Establishing a caring relationship for your pet starts with each individual you or your pet interacts with being both respectful and compassionate towards the both of you. PetFinder.com offers additional questions on the office and staff: “Do they acknowledge you when you walk in or are you ignored? What is the overall appearance of the clinic? Is it clean? Odor free? What is the attitude of the staff toward the other clients who may be present? How about to those on the other end of the phone line? You can learn a lot by just observing.”
–Ask for a tour of the entire facility, including the back. PetFinder.com has additional tips: “It is also legitimate to request a tour at a time that is mutually convenient. There may be times of the day when a tour is not advisable but your request should be granted at some point.” On your tour do pay extra attention to the condition of the areas not normally in public view; they should stand up to the same scrutiny the front office does.
-Is appropriate time dedicated to each visit? Do technicians and doctors take the time to begin a relationship with you as the authority on your pet before commencing an exam? An initial conversation should be with you, your concerns for your pet and inquiry made into your pet’s temperament and prior vet experiences. For instance, you should be asked about your pet’s health concerns, reason for your visit and how your pet should best be handled. Remember, you are the advocate for your animal. Your pet cannot speak-you are their voice
-Is the veterinarian (and the technicians) good listeners and willing to answer questions? CompendiumVet.com urges vets to utilize the “ask-tell-ask technique. This approach is based on the notion that client education requires identifying what the client already knows and building on that knowledge…it shows that you are willing to listen to and negotiate the client’s agenda”.
-Any professional approaching your animal should first address the pet by name and offer petting before anything else. And if your pet is shy or fearful, handling should always be done with you present in order to offer additional assurance to your animal. Your presence is comforting in a stressful situation. Animals associate most vet visits with intrusive pokes, prods and painful injections from strangers (all in the name of health but still uncomfortable). Keeping surroundings as familiar as possible will also mitigate anxiety for your pet, a worn article of your clothing placed in your pet carrier will help to ease fretfulness. The American Association of Feline Practitioners suggests: “With respectful handling, even fearful cats are often calmer and easier to work with if at least part of the examination is done with the bottom half of the carrier (the cat came to the practice in).”
-Are you present for routine procedures: vaccines, blood draws, etc. or are these done in the back room? Be extremely wary of the practice keen to whisk your pet away for routine procedures. While this may be easier for personnel working with your pet remember that your presence and oversight is necessary for the welfare of your animal. Some vets report that when an owner is present technicians are often gentler in their handling or “under restrain” the pet they are working with. You would not send another family member in your care off for a vaccination without your hand to hold or your presence in the room. You have the right to ask these procedures be done in front of you; competent, caring professionals will be willing to work with you and your pet. Of course, if you cannot stand the sight of blood or faint at the sight of a needle, please look away and do not act as if the sky is falling because it isn’t.
-Does the vet explain procedures, medications, vaccinations, etc. and ask for permission before commencing treatment? Make sure you are clear on what the plan of care is before it is underway. Vaccinations are always less taxing on your pet when spread over a course of visits and vet costs add up, find out what is a priority and what can wait if your budget is tight.
-If your pet need be hospitalized, does the practice permit visits? The College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State University advocates visiting “as often as the clinic allows.” Make sure the clinic does. Being hospitalized is extremely stressful for your animal; visiting will offer the comfort so necessary in supporting your pet during recovery time and healing.
-Not every practice will be a match. Do vote with your feet and make sure a complete set of your pets records go with you. If things are not right, do try and communicate this to your vet. Sometimes differences cannot be resolved but often simple clear communication is key. The Humane Society writes: “If you feel that your veterinarian isn’t meeting your needs as a client or the needs of your pet as a patient, it may be time to find a new one. But sometimes simple misunderstandings cause conflicts, which you and your vet can resolve by talking things out and looking for solutions.”
-Make sure the vet you choose is able to establish rapport and respect with you. CompendiumVet.com advises vets: “A great deal of communication in small animal practice involves providing information, although this does not mean that communication should be largely one-way.” As your pet’s guardian you are the expert on your pet, your careful observation, knowledge and experience of your companion animal should be relied on as valued information from your vet. According to the Humane Society: “You’re doing more than searching for a medical expert. You’re looking for someone to meet your needs and those of your pet, a doctor who has people as well as animal skills.”
With a bit of groundwork and a bit of luck you are sure to find the best partner in caring for your pet’s health.
The author is an animal behaviorist, for more information or to contact her visit /www.animalbehaviorist.us