The Introductory Office Visit
If the vet and clinic pass the above steps, it’s time to take the “patient” in for an introductory visit. Be sure to bring a copy of your pet’s health records to this exam. This is the critical final step in the process of assessing the vet.
How thorough is the exam? The vet should at least check the following during a first exam:
- heart/lung auscultation
- heart and respiration rate
- ear, eye, mouth, gum, and teeth check
- general body/skin/hair condition check
- palpation for lumps and lymph node enlargement
- Depending upon the animal’s age and physical condition, a blood screen, blood pressure check, urinalysis and/or fecal exam might be needed as well
How does the vet interact with your pet?
- How is the vet’s bedside manner?
- Does s/he genuinely seem to like animals?
- Does s/he handle your pet gently?
- Does s/he talk to and reassure your pet?
- How does s/he deal with frightened or aggressive animals?
- Is s/he focused on your pet or is s/he easily distracted?
- Does s/he take her time, or does s/he seem to be in a hurry to get to his/her next appointment?
- How do the vet techs and other clinic staff treat your pet?
- Does your pet seem to like the vet and the staff?
How does the vet interact with you?
- Is s/he courteous?
- Does s/he explain what s/he is doing, and why, during the examination?
- Does s/he encourage you to ask questions, and answer all of your questions clearly and completely?
- Does s/he explain his/her observations and findings to you, and tell you what you need to monitor or watch out for?
- If medications are prescribed, does s/he explain what they are for, and explain about possible interactions and side effects?
- If your pet is going to require any kind of home nursing care, does s/he make sure you are sufficiently prepared and equipped to handle that responsibility?
- Does s/he make recommendations regarding follow-up visits and/or follow-up care?
- Does s/he tell you to be sure to call if you have any questions later?
A truly excellent vet is going to score high on all three of the above criteria, and is going to be someone with whom you can communicate clearly and easily. Ideally, you will find a vet that will meet all of your criteria, but if you find yourself having to choose between vets that have different qualifications or strengths, you need to be clear about what the most important decision criteria are for you.