By Dr. Jess Trimble
Wondering how to find the best vet near you? Tip #1: don’t just pick the first veterinarian that shows up on Google. You want to be assured that your fur-baby is in the best possible care, rather than find yourself rage-writing a Yelp review a couple of weeks later. With such a long list of vets in any given area, it can seem overwhelming to know which one is the right one. We’ve broken the process down for you!
Before you get yourself into a vet review spiral, there are a few steps that you can take in order to find the best pet vet near you. Some of your best resources can be right under your nose.
Ask For Referrals
Ask, ask, ask. Family members, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and even pet parents at the local dog park—basically, anyone that you know in the area with a pet. Advice from locals, or, better yet, other pet parents you trust, will often be more helpful than faceless reviews. However, if you are new to the area or your referral list is a bit thin, hop on your social media networks to ask around.
When asking for referrals via social media, start by making a post asking for the best pet vets near you on all of your social media profiles. Facebook, in particular, makes it simple to ask for reviews within a designated area. A post like this can result in your friends and family leaving their own suggestions, or @mentioning someone who may have more information. Take advantage of social media groups, pages, forums and discussions. Join an online community related to the specific thing you are looking for, in this case, pet parents in your area.
Now that you know where to start asking for advice and have a list, it’s time to start making some phone calls, going on websites and planning on visits based on the recommendations you receive.
Start With The Basics
- Is their office clean and organized? Could you see your pet being comfortable there?
- Do they offer any emergency services?
- Do they accept walk-ins, or are appointments always required?
- What do their overnight areas look like?
- Is the staff approachable and helpful? Do they take the time to explain things to you?
- Do they specialize in specific areas that are relevant for your pet (e.g. geriatrics or behavior)?
- If your pet needs blood work, x-rays, etc., are they able to provide these services in-house?
- How many vets are at the practice?
- Is the location convenient – especially in case of an emergency?
Beyond The Resume
Make sure the vet has all their paperwork in line. At a minimum, your veterinarian should have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree (DVM) from an accredited veterinary college, typically after receiving a bachelor’s degree in a supporting field. In order to actually practice medicine in the United States, the individual must also pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). Many states also require that the individual pass a state-specific exam that covers the local laws governing the veterinarians in that state. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Just like any other interview, in addition to “checking all the boxes” of certification and knowledge, you’re going to want to make sure you like this person. You want someone to whom you feel comfortable asking questions and someone who can communicate an in-depth answer. If a vet doesn’t know the answer (that can happen too!), they should be willing to do the research and follow up with you.
Getting To Know Your Vet
Putting your pet’s health in a stranger’s hands can be really nerve-wracking. That’s why it’s so important to get to know your vet on a more personal level. Ask them what they’re passionate about and why they wanted to become a vet in the first place. Find out their philosophies around pet care in general. If you’re looking for a more holistic care, you’ll want to know that the vet you’re talking to takes that approach in their practice.
It’s also important to remember that veterinarians are human, too. Your veterinarian is a surgeon, an anesthetist, a radiographer, an ultrasonographer, a pharmacist, a general practitioner, a dentist, and occasionally even a receptionist. This doesn’t mean that your vet enjoys doing all of those things, or that they’re particularly good at all of those things. Chat with your vet about their areas of expertise and what health concerns they would prefer handing off to someone else.
Do They Take Your Pet Insurance?
This should be one of the first questions you ask. Similarly to human health insurance, some vets may not accept your pet insurance carrier. The last thing that you want is for your pet to get sick and for you to get stuck with an astronomical bill because your insurance won’t cover it. Of course, you want the best care for your pet, but you also don’t want to completely deplete your bank account. If you are a new pet parent and have questions about pet insurance, you can read up on the basics here.
Ask About Next Steps
It’s great to learn what you need to do when disease exists and you have a problem to solve. It’s even more telling how the veterinarian responds to your question on how you can prevent disease in the first place. There are a number of really easy habits to follow that can greatly extend a pet’s life, including maintaining an ideal body weight and developing good dental healthcare practices. Your vet should be able to articulate these practices and help you implement them.
It is recommended to see your veterinarian at least twice per year. Dogs and cats age much faster than humans, so missing a couple of your pet’s veterinary visits can be equivalent to you not seeing your doctor for a decade!