When choosing a veterinary practice to care for your pet it can be difficult to know how you should make the decision. I believe the main points to look out for are the following:
1. Find a vet or vets with whom you can communicate effectively.
The most important thing to look for when choosing a veterinary practice for your pet is to find a practice with a vet (or vets) with whom you can talk and communicate comfortably. Good communication between yourself and your vet is essential if you are going to work effectively together for the benefit of your pet. Therefore it is a good idea to try to build a rapport with your vet and allow him or her to get to know you and your animals well. You should ideally be able to approach your vet with all your concerns and you should feel that your opinions are valued and your individual circumstances considered. All good vets will want to hear your concerns if you feel unhappy with some aspect of your animal's treatment and you should feel able to discuss this with them if this were the case. Look for a vet who considers your opinions and tries to work with you to find the best course of action for your individual pet. Of course it is always difficult to know whether you are going to be able to work well with your vet until you have had your first consultation with them. If you feel that you are not going to be able to work well with a particular vet then it may be better to look for somebody else sooner rather than later.
2. How large is the practice?
Find out how large the practice is. A large practice may have lots of specialised equipment and possibly some vets with particular interests and maybe certificates or diplomas in some veterinary fields. However a big practice with a large number of vets may mean that it is more difficult to see the same vet at every consultation. A small practice with perhaps one or two vets may not have the specialised equipment that a larger practice can invest in but it may be easier to build a rapport with the vets and to allow them to get to know you and your pets well. All vets in smaller practices without specialised equipment will be able to refer you to a larger practice with all necessary facilities should your pet require this.
3. Are the nurses and other support staff friendly and approachable?
Receptionists and nurses should be approachable and reliably pass messages on to vets when required. In many practices the nurses and reception staff will come to know you as well as the vets and it is sometimes possible to talk things over with the practice nurses when the vets are busy. In veterinary practices some nurses will be qualified while others will not. Qualified nurses are able to undertake some tasks which non-qualified nurses are not. Larger practices tend to have a larger proportion of qualified nurses and are often also training practices for them.
4. Consider the opening hours, location and appointment system.
Will the opening hours and appointment system be convenient for you? Is there regularly a long wait for appointments and does this matter to you? If there is not an appointment system then there may often be a long wait to be seen and crowded waiting rooms can be very stressful for your pets. The location of your practice may be a factor which you need to consider. You may need to find a practice close to your home or to your workplace. A long journey to the vets may be distressing if your pet does not travel well and could be difficult in an emergency situation.
5. Does the practice you are considering regularly treat animals of the same species as your pet?
If you have an unusual species of pet then this is an important consideration since practices which do not see a large number of exotic pets may need to refer you on to a practice which does.
6. What are the arrangements for out of hours emergencies?
Many practices share the rota for out of hours work or they may use a dedicated out of hours service. You should ideally be aware of the arrangements for out of hours emergencies before you need to use them.
7. Are the premises well maintained?
If a business owner cares about his business then he will care for his premises so look for well maintained buildings. The outside of the practice should be presentable and well maintained. The waiting room should be clean and tidy, the consulting rooms likewise. Most practices take care of these areas because they know that their clients will see them on a regular basis. However I think you should always make a point of checking out the state of the toilet! This is an area which is not often used by the public in many veterinary practices. If the principal of the practice is not setting high standards throughout the building then this area is often the first to show signs of neglect. It is also an area which the general public can get to see, but often only if you ask. If the toilet is showing signs of neglect then often other areas of the building will be too. I believe that if a practice principal fails to maintain his premises then other standards will also be falling. Of course you may find some fantastic vets who are employees within practices such as these, but often the state of the toilets is a major clue to the general standards within the practice.
8. Does the practice have any specialised equipment or expertise relevant to the animals you keep?
This is a consideration which is not as important as many of the others since all vets will be able to refer your pet to other practices with specialised staff and facilities if your pet needs them. However if your pet does have a particular problem which requires specialised treatment or if you have exotic pets then this may be important to you.
9. Cost of services.
This is an important consideration especially if you have a limited budget. There are some practices which provide low cost options for vaccinations and neutering. There are also many charitable organisations which help animals in need. Generally it may be a good idea to consider insuring your pet so that cost does not have to be a major worry when your pet needs veterinary treatment.
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