Thanks for your question.
There are a few pieces of advice I would give. Here are some thoughts to consider:
- Ask your neighbourhood pet owners. If you know some of the people in your community that own pets, you can ask their opinion of the local veterinary clinics. Ask if they have had to go through anything more serious than just vaccination appointments and simple injuries or infections. If a neighbour has worked with the veterinarian and battled through a serious illness, they will have a much better idea about cost, communication to the client, creating treatment plans, client service, quality of the support staff, and turn around time for diagnostic testing, to name a few good examples.
- Read the Google reviews. This will likely provide the most accurate description about the quality of a veterinarian you are evaluating. Keep in mind that the occasional bad review is completely acceptable. We have to remember that these are one-sided stories and from time to time there can be a pretty minor deficiency that a client takes very personally and proceeds to post a scathing review. You can usually tell the legitimate ones from the unreasonable assessments.
- Call the clinic and request to speak to the practice owner. You can tell them that you are looking to become a new client of a clinic and you could ask questions like: Do you treat a lot of my breed of cat or dog? What are your thoughts on vaccination (or issues you may be concerned about)? I particularly like this as a way to evaluate how much a practice owner invests in new clients and you’ll get a sense for how the front office staff handles your inquiry. I believe that great veterinarians consider this as a high priority call to fit into their schedule while others may treat it as bothersome. Receiving a call like this or a message to call a prospective new client back is really valuable because a veterinarian would know that the individual calling is likely a very committed owner that wants the best for their pet.
- Create a great veterinarian for you. This is a truly important point. Finding a great veterinarian is also about forging an honest open relationship with your veterinarian and you can do a lot to create this. I always appreciated when clients would be forthcoming with their general concerns about cost, how much they wanted to spend, what types of illnesses you would invest to treat and where you would draw the line, how you feel about vaccinations, etc. If you don’t tell your veterinarian about your concerns and expectations, it’s very hard for them to address them and live up to them. Keep in mind that veterinarians often have an analytical mind and most schools choose candidates based on marks. At the risk of making a generalization, people that received high marks may not have spent a lot of time socializing and may not be proficient at communication. And very simply, communication, or lack of it, is the biggest reason why expectations are not met.
- Lastly, I recommend you visit the website of the regulating body in your province or state that licenses veterinarians. There will be a search option to look up licensed veterinarians and it will offer some information that could influence your choice. They will show if any disciplinary action has taken place with them. More than likely, it will also show you where they graduated and how long they have held a license to practice.
By applying some of these strategies to your search effort, I believe you will gain greater insight into the prospective candidates you come up with.
Dr. Clayton Greenway
How do I find a veterinarian that is honest and right for me?
You may have a new addition to the family, moved to a new area or are simply looking for a new vet. So, how do I find a veterinarian that is honest and right for me? There are a few pieces of advice I would give and some thoughts to consider.
Dr. Clayton Greenway, B.Sc., DVM
Healthcare for Pets