Interviewing a new veterinarian

Preliminary Visit with a Veterinarian
If the clinic passes so far, schedule a preliminary visit with the vet, but without your pet.  Make sure that you ask for a reasonable amount of time so that you can get your questions answered.  Be prepared to pay an office visit fee for this appointment.

At the visit, bring a brief history of your pet, particularly if there are any relevant medical issues (chronic illnesses, allergies, vaccination reactions, sensitivities, behavioral, or personality issues) that the vet should be aware of.  Ask the vet what his/her recommendations are in light of your pet’s profile.  Even if there is no relevant medical history, ask about their recommended protocol, given the pet’s age and general physical condition.

Ask to get a tour of the clinic.

Other specific questions to ask:

Qualifications:  What are the vet’s training and any special certifications; and what kind of continuing education does s/he and the clinic staff receive?

Back-up and referrals:  What professional support does s/he use for patients with difficult or specialized medical or behavioral needs?  Where does s/he turn for help when s/he doesn’t have the answers?  (This is a critical question for owners of special-needs pets.)

Accessibility to emergency care:  What emergency support does s/he use and/or provide?

Hospitalization:  If an animal needs to stay overnight, is it supervised around the clock, and by whom?  What are that person’s qualifications and what is their access to the vet in case of an emergency?

Boarding:  Does your vet offer boarding services and can you leave your pet in his/her care if you have to be away from home?  If so, are cats and dogs boarded in separate areas?  If not, can he/she refer you to a pet sitter qualified to care for your special-needs pet?

House calls:  Does the vet make house calls in an emergency and will s/he make a house call for a home euthanasia?  If the vet does not make house calls, ask him/her for suggestions – can he/she refer you to a vet who does home emergency calls and/or euthanasia?

Nutrition: Does the vet recommend only super-premium foods?  How does s/he feel about homemade and/or BARF diets?

Preventive care:  What is the vet’s approach to preventive health care for kittens/puppies, for adult pets, for geriatric pets?  Does the clinic have a blood pressure monitor, and do they routinely check BP on animals that are at risk for hypertension?

Holistic/alternative care: What, if any, methods does the vet use, and what are his/her views on alternative and complementary medicine for animals?  Is he/she willing to work with a holistic vet if you request that?

Vaccination protocols:  Particularly for cats, it’s important to find out whether the vet follows the latest vaccination guidelines by the Vaccine-Associated Feline Sarcoma Task Force. Ask whether they follow the stringent guidelines, including:

  • careful labeling on the charts
  • using the recommended sites for injection
  • using single antigens when possible
  • using single-dose vials
  • spacing between vaccinations
  • doing 3-year versus yearly vaccinations
  • following the recommendations re risk-benefit assessments for the non-core vaccines such as FeLV

Declawing, ear cropping, and tail docking:  If the vet does it, how often and for what reasons?  How easily can a client get a cat declawed or dog’s ears cropped or tail docked?  What, if anything, does the vet do in terms of educating clients and persuading them not to elect these procedures?  (I prefer vets who do not perform these procedures except when medically necessary).

Other clinic policies:

  • What is the clinic’s policy in terms of you being with your pet during certain procedures such as blood draws?
  • What is the vet’s stance when a client wants an animal euthanized for behavioral problems?

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