When you select a healthcare provider for yourself, you likely research your options first. Likewise, finding a quality vet hospital or clinic also takes forethought—but it’s well worth the effort. Here are some basic steps you’ll want to follow when choosing a veterinary practice for your pet.
1. FIND A FACILITY WITH THE RIGHT CREDENTIALS
There are numerous credentials associated with veterinarians in the United States. Below are the essentials plus some additional ones in case you need to travel, or if your pet has a health condition.
- Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM): With the exception of the University of Pennsylvania’s Veterinariae Medicinae Doctoris, this is the official veterinary degree conferred in the United States. Veterinarians usually go through four years of undergraduate school and then four years of veterinary college to earn their DVM.
- American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): The AMVA sets the national standard for veterinary schools in the United States. In fact, the AMVA Council of Education is the accrediting body for the 30 Veterinary Medicine schools in the country.
- State Veterinary Licensing: Some states require state licensing, as well. The American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) governs state licensure and can let you know which states require state certifications.
- American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA): Established in 1933, the AAHA is the only accrediting organization for veterinary hospitals in the United States. An estimated 12-15% of operating animal clinics are AAHA-accredited. Since this accreditation is considered the highest standard in veterinary care, some states accept AAHA accreditation in place of state licensing. So, if you just moved to a new area, contact the AAHA to locate the right veterinary practice for your pet.
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): The USDA certifies the health of animals that enter or leave the United States. If you intend to cross the border, you’ll need your fur baby to be examined by a USDA-approved veterinarian. Veterinarians who are accredited by the AAHA and AVMA are already USDA-approved. So, if you see travel plans in your future, you’ll want a veterinarian who is accredited by at least one of these organizations.
2. KNOW YOUR VET’S PHILOSOPHIES
Like medical health care providers, veterinarians also vary in their approaches to healing. Their philosophies on important areas like nutrition, medication, pet behavior, or euthanasia will affect treatment options for your pet. Here are some questions you’ll want to ask:
- “What should I feed my pet?”
Veterinarians with a holistic-based outlook, for example, may recommend a diet comprised of whole foods (no canned food or dried kibble) and prepared according to a nutritionist’s guidelines. Other veterinarians may allow that kibble or canned foods that bear the appropriate certifications are also acceptable.
- “How do you deal with pet aggression?”
You (and your pet) will find the office visit less stressful if your vet exudes calm competence and confidence. Look for an experienced vet who holds a holistic view of pet relaxation techniques.
- “What are the treatment options for X pet condition?”
Veterinarians may hold different philosophies about healing. If your pet has a specific condition, and you prefer holistic remedies, find out if your vet endorses and has experience with complementary interventions like acupuncture, homeopathy, and herbal therapy.
3. THINK ABOUT THE SPECIALTIES YOUR PET WILL NEED
Some veterinary practices specialize in just cats or dogs, while others cater to the needs of rare pets.
If your pet has a health condition, you may want to seek out veterinary specialists in that area. For example, if you suspect that your pet may have heart problems, make sure your vet has the latest equipment to perform echocardiograms or electrocardiograms.
Meanwhile, if your pet has skin allergies, you’ll want to ask whether your vet can provide the right treatment options. If they have little to no expertise in the area, ask whether they can provide reliable referrals to a veterinary dermatologist.
4. CHOOSE A VET WHO HAS GREAT RAPPORT WITH YOUR PET
Once you’ve narrowed down your options, you’ll want to evaluate the rapport your potential vet has with your pet. You should also feel at ease talking with your vet about your pet’s health — and you should be able to ask questions or share concerns. Likewise, your fur baby should demonstrate some level of rapport with the vet, even under the stressful conditions of a routine exam.
5. ASK ABOUT PET INSURANCE, COSTS, AND EMERGENCY CARE
Cost is an important factor. Ask your vet whether they take pet insurance. If they don’t, be sure to inquire about monthly payment options, prompt pay discounts, and the availability of a credit line. You’ll also want to make sure that any clinic or veterinary practice you choose provides 24-hour emergency care and/or tele-vet services.
Too busy to take your pet to the vet during the workweek? Inquire about the availability of evening or weekend hours. You can also ask about drop-off options.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT VETERINARY PRACTICE IS IMPORTANT TO YOUR PET’S WELLBEING
In short, finding the right veterinary practice takes some research and forethought. It’s a good idea, however, to start your search by using the word-of-mouth method. Ask your neighbors, friends, or family for recommendations. In addition, look for reviews or comments about local clinics on the social media platforms you frequent.
Above all, remember that the top veterinary clinics are AAHA-accredited. After you get a referral from friends and family, check to see if the veterinary practice is AAHA-approved.
This is important if you’re thinking of taking Fido on that family vacation you’ve been planning since January. Since an AAHA-accredited vet already meets USDA approval, you can rest easy knowing that your pet will have the right vaccinations when you travel.