Selecting a veterinarian
Your veterinarian is one of your most important partners in the health and care of your dog.
If you don’t already have a veterinarian, one of your best resources is referrals from people you know who have pets.
Some good questions to answer about potential vets include:
Is the practice in a location convenient to you?
Are their hours convenient for your schedule?
Do they offer after hours or emergency services? If not, get a referral for an after-hours or emergency vet BEFORE you have an emergency
What are their spay/neuter recommendations for puppies? Most breeders have specific spay/neuter requirements in their contracts, so be sure you have discussed this with both your vet and your breeder before committing to a puppy. More on spay/neuter decisions here.
Decisions should not be based entirely on cost, but make sure your vet is affordable to you. Also make sure that when they quote prices, those prices are inclusive of other costs. Some vets will quote you a price for a service, but when you go to pay the bill you may find that the price has doubled because they added on a whole slew of other items.
Does the vet accept your pet insurance plan?
What range of services does the vet provide?
Does the vet offer non-medical services like grooming, boarding, or training? These aren’t necessary, but for some families are an added convenience.
Is the clinic accepting new clients?
Will you be allowed to speak directly to a vet if you feel you need to? Some vets won’t call back for a few days, others within 2-3 hours.
Schedule an appointment to view the facility and meet some of the staff. Some things to look for:
[COVID note: most veterinary clinics have closed their waiting rooms during the pandemic, so visiting may not be an option. Most have gone to a "curbside" model where you wait in your car while they take your puppy. This is not a red flag and has become common and accepted practice. In this instance, please check reviews carefully for comments about pre-covid facility conditions.]
Are there potty areas for the dogs? Are they clean and well-maintained?
Is the facility clean and organized?
Is there an unpleasant odor?
Is the clinic relatively peaceful or is it chaotic and noisy?
Is there ample room for pets to wait safely and separately, if desired, or are all waiting patients in one small area and on top of each other.
Are you allowed to remain with your dog during treatment? Simple procedures such as vaccines, blood draws, and ultrasounds should be easy to do with you there. Others, such as x-rays and surgical procedures require your dog to go with clinic staff.
Did you feel welcomed in the clinic and did the staff answer your questions to your satisfaction?
Did you feel comfortable asking questions?
Once you find a vet, you are the paying client, so ask questions. It’s not at all unreasonable to ask questions that include:
Is there a less expensive treatment option?
If prescribed a medication, is there a less expensive medication or over-the-counter option?
What would happen if we decide not to move forward with the treatment?
Definitely, definitely, definitely, take care of your puppy. But realize that you are your puppy's best advocate and you can ask for treatment alternatives so that you can make informed decisions.