Choosing a Veterinarian for Your Dog

From the time your dog is a little puppy, you are the center of his universe. You are the source of his food, his affection, and any other care he needs. Great! Unconditional love is one of the top reasons that most of us get a dog to start with. But your veterinarian should be right there at the top of the list for favorite people for both of you.

Choose a Veterinarian You Both Agree On

I had a beagle mix that I adored from the time I was three years old until she died of heart disease during my teens. I lived in a rural area where we had a limited number of veterinarians who saw dogs. When our regular vet retired, there was only one other choice. That doctor ended up being the only person my dog ever bit in her life.

In retrospect, I know I should have made the effort to take her to another doctor It wasn’t just that she didn’t like him. I didn’t really like him either. He had an odd disposition and didn’t really take the time to talk to me or get to know my dog. (Honestly, I think the white patent leather shoes put me over the top!)

I’ve learned a lot about dogs since then, and about what it takes to keep them healthy and happy. More than once, I’ve relied on the relationship with my vet to help me make decisions or get what my dog needed fast.

If you wait until your dog needs a veterinarian for an injury or illness, you might end up in a jam. Make a concerted effort to find somebody you and your dog both feel comfortable with. Go for regular checkups and for vaccinations. Get to know them, and give them the chance to get to know your dog.

Some tips for finding the right veterinarian for your dog include:

Ask your friends, family, and coworkers for recommendations

This works especially well if someone you know has an older dog who has been going to the same vet for years. Don’t just ask them who to go to; ask them why they recommend them. If they made their choice based on which practice is closest to their home or the one that charges less, it might not be the best choice for you. Instead, ask for a lot of recommendations and look for names that you hear repeated from a variety of resources.

Choose the right kind of veterinarian

Some clinics have multiple veterinarians while others are single-veterinarian practices. Others have multiple veterinarians. Some specialize in small animals while others specialize in large animals.

Make sure you get a veterinarian who specializes in small animal care with a lot of experience treating dogs. If there are multiple doctors in the practice, ask about their policy for assigning appointments. Do they switch between doctors to suit their schedule? It’s better for you and your dog if you can see the same doctor each time you visit. Of course, you want the option for fast emergency care from whomever is available if it’s ever needed.

The same is true for any technicians or assistants working in the office. What are the staff’s credentials and to what extent do they provide care for your dog?

Get a list of their services and read online reviews

The rule of thumb for reading online reviews is to always drop the best one and the worst one. The ones in-between are more likely honest reviews from actual customers.

You can learn a lot from them, not just how well other people like them. A lot of times, people talk about the services they received or the special products the clinic provided them with. You might find out more about the list of services they offer from those talked about in reviews than from the services page.

One example of this is when my dog developed liver disease, her vet recommended putting her on a low-protein diet. Although the office didn’t keep the food in stock, they took care of ordering it and keeping it available once she started eating it.

The thing is, when I first started taking her there, all I needed were her regular vaccinations. I didn’t realize how beneficial some of their other service would be. Now, they handle things like her dietary needs, providing supplements, and clipping her nails. While grooming and bathing aren’t an option here, some clinics have in-floor bathing for dogs that are seniors and/or ill and can’t climb a ramp or steps. It’s also helpful for dogs that have conditions which make it painful or uncomfortable to be lifted.

Cleanliness Is Next to Dogliness

Even if your dog has a penchant for dirt, mud, and anything with a repugnant odor at home, the vet’s office should be clean. This is the place where your dog and others receives medical treatment. It’s just as important to protect him from potential germs and viruses as it is for people. Pay attention to whether the floors and other surfaces appear clean, and whether there is a bad odor that says cleaning isn’t a priority for them.

Find Out About After Hours Care

Some injurie or conditions require immediate care. What should you do if your dog gets ill or injured in the middle of the night? Some clinics provide after-hour care but you should expect to pay more. Others might take turn about being on call with other veterinarians in their area. Make sure you know what to do if your dog needs help that can’t wait.

Special considerations for an anxious pet

Some dogs get anxious about going to the vet no matter how much they like the veterinarian. If anxiety is a problem for your dog, talk to the vet about possible causes and solutions. Sometimes dogs act anxious because of an underlying illness.

If your dog is just the nervous type or they’ve had a bad experience at a vet’s office before, ask your vet if it’s okay to just bring your dog in with you for a visit. Many offices are limiting customers from coming inside during Covid, but that, too, will eventually change. It might help to get your dog used to going to the vet’s location when there isn’t any invasive interaction between him and the medical staff.

There are many ways to help reduce anxiety in nervous dogs. For one, give your dog a comfortable bed of his own where he will feel safe. Sometimes feeding your dog the wrong balance of protein and carbohydrates causes anxiety. Talk to your new veterinarian about choosing the right food for your dog. Also, limit your dog’s treats to healthy snacks that don’t have any chemical ingredients.  

There are lots of decisions to make that will affect your dog’s health and well-being. The most important decision you will make is in a veterinarian who will guide you throughout the lifelong process.

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