Once you have talked to several vets and have narrowed down the list to the ones you feel comfortable with (at least as much as you can without an actual visit) you will need to set up appointments – if you have not already. There are many elements that can affect your, and perhaps your pet’s, opinion of a veterinary practice, but the following six are some of the most important things you should look for as a pet owner. And, just as a parent would only take their children to a doctor that they were comfortable with, the same applies to your veterinarian.
1. How Clean and Organized is the Veterinary Practice? As you wait to see the vet, note the level of attention given to the following areas:
· Is everything in the waiting area tidy?
· Does it smell clean-within reason-for an animal clinic?
· Does the front desk have paperwork and records organized?
· Once you see the examination room, is it well kept?
· Is the equipment being used well maintained?
· Are the employee’s uniforms neat and clean?
Once you enter the patient area, you will also need to pay attention to these elements as well.
· Is there plenty of lighting?
· Are the cages clean and dry?
· Do the cages have bedding or paper inside of them?
· Are the floors and tables free of used medical paraphernalia or bodily fluids?
2. Are Medical Records Up to Date and Detailed? Appearance is important, but having records that are thorough is vital. This is because if the records are incomplete, it is fairly safe to believe that the care received was inadequate as well. At the end of the visit, ask to be given a copy of the record. It should include your pet’s full name, their medical file, exam findings and any notes made. This will give you an idea of the type/level of records the practice keeps.
3. Are Prescriptions Dispensed Properly and with Appropriate Monitoring? Pet medication, just as with people, should not be given out without an examination. In addition, pets taking medication should be monitored closely, so as to be aware of any side effects. When you are trying to find a veterinary practice, be sure to ask to see how drugs are dispensed. Be sure to note the following:
· Are meds in child-resistant containers? This should always be the case.
· Is the label complete? The label should contain the following information: Name, address and telephone number of the vet; pet owner’s last name and pet name; date, name, quantity, and strength of the medicine; any cautionary statements; dose and duration for taking the medicine and the expiration date of the medication.
4. What about Personnel Surgical Procedures? If your pet will be having surgery, it is important that the following modern practices be employed. The vet and any assistants should wear:
· Surgical masks
· Surgical cap
· Sterile gown
· Sterile gloves
5. Are Animals Evaluated before Being Anesthetized and Are They Monitored during Surgery? These are precautions that should be taken with surgery, but especially in animals that are more than 5 years old, as older animals are at a higher risk of complications (just like with people). Recommended time for a pre-surgery evaluation is sometime within a month before the surgery. Older pets should have blood work done to ensure the level of organ function, as well. During surgery, the pet should be monitored so the medical team is aware of any changes or reactions caused by anesthesia or procedure.
6. Do the Patients Receive Pain Medication? There was a time when many vets did not believe in the use of pain medication. If the vet you are interviewing is of this opinion, proceed to the next one on your list! Just as you would want pain meds after a surgery, so does your pet…they just can’t come out and “say” it! Be sure that the vet recognizes the need for using pain relievers. Modern day pet pain medications include COX-2 selective NSAIDs, slow release skin patches or injections of narcotics.
Choosing a vet can take a bit of time but it is an important part of pet ownership. As you interview prospective vets, don’t be swayed by a fancy building or cute decor. Trust your instincts. If you feel at any time during the interview that the vet is not being forthcoming or if you are dissatisfied with the answers to any of these questions, move on to the next vet in your list. Having a vet that you, and your pet, like and are comfortable with will make doctor’s visits easier. Take your time now, so that you can rest easier later!