How do you know which veterinarian is the best choice for you and your pets?
Do you ask friends? Ask your old vet (depending, of course, on why you need a new vet)? Call the local animal shelter? Just go to the closest clinic?
All of those alternatives have been tried, of course, and with some success. But why are those successful ways to locate a new doctor for your beloved pet?
If you have a normally healthy dog or cat and only need to see your vet for annual exams and routine shots, etc, chances are if you are treated politely and the expense is reasonable, you will probably recommend that veterinarian to others. But what if your pet has a life-threatening or debilitating condition that stretches the veterinarian’s knowledge? Now the choice is of paramount importance. What do you do?
If you are new to where I live, you will find a plethora of choices in Lewisville and surrounding areas from which to choose. All of our local veterinarians boast the latest in equipment, clean clinics, and ample staff. And no, I’m not going to recommend a vet for you. This is where your work begins.
Google “veterinarians in Lewisville, TX” and see what turns up. Probably the first result you’ll see is a map with the locations of seven or more flags showing the locations of veterinarians in the immediate vicinity. Now, obviously, you’ll probably want to choose the clinic nearest where you live. That makes the most sense, particularly when your fuzzy friend has ingested something horrible or fallen down the stairs or suddenly starts having convulsions. You know what I mean. That awful moment when his life flashes before your eyes and you realize you could lose him forever.
That’s why it’s important to become acquainted with your new vet long before any of this kind of thing occurs.
Now that you’ve got that map in front of you, notice that in light blue to the right of the telephone number you see a link for reviews. CLICK THAT LINK. Really. Do it. And read every review. What you find there might surprise you, or even better, might save your animal’s life.
What you’ll see in these reviews will range from people who have used the same vet for generations and only wish their own doctor was as good, to those who lost a pet due to what is apparently the neglect or ignorance of either the staff or the vet himself.
While I find the positive reviews helpful, what I think is more so are the ones who tell the stories of bad experiences. (It’s interesting to note that the positive reviews seem to “gush,” while the negative ones present the facts of the situation.) What I found was in some cases heart-stopping. Figuratively speaking for me, but quite literally for some of the pets.
One of the reviews I read told about a tumor that concerned the owner but not the vet until it was too late. If you aren’t comfortable, go elsewhere.
Lesson: Follow your gut.
Another cited a story of a stray kitten that was pronounced healthy but then infected the rest of the owner’s cats with a fatal disease.
Lesson: Know your veterinarian’s practices for examining a new animal coming into your home.
Several reviews told of pets who died after being pronounced healthy by the veterinarians who apparently did not do more than a cursory exam when a more exhaustive one was indicated. Lesson: insist that the doctor tell you what he did in the exam and why. You’re paying for it—you have the right to know.
Money will always be an issue. I found it amusing that every complaint about money said that the veterinarian charged two or three times as much as “other vets,” but I didn’t read a single one that said that this was the “other vet” who charged reasonably.
Lesson: Ask your vet for a services schedule with prices.
Discuss his fees at each visit, for each visit. Don’t assume that because you paid a specific price once means that you’ll always pay that price. Make sure you know what tests will be performed and the cost of each, and leave a written letter in your file asking the doctor to call you to discuss any tests or procedures not authorized in the initial visit. (I write down—in front of my vet— everything he says he will do and which tests he will run, and then ask him to read it and make sure I understood each thing correctly. Believe me, he’ll be much less likely to do unauthorized procedures if he knows you are fully aware of what is being done.)
Reviews are very helpful, but don’t rely on them for all of your information. Before you need it, make an appointment to visit your vet of choice and have him (or her) do a tour with you. Be willing to pay for this appointment, as this choice could mean life or death to your beloved pet.