Choosing the
right vet for
you and your
Choosing the right vet for you and your pet (c) 2009-2018 Frania
Shelley-Grielen all rights reserved

When it comes to choosing a veterinarian for your pet you are also deciding on a
professional and a practice that you can feel good about working with.  Here's how to
make sure the vet you select is the right one for you and your pet:

  • Ask other like minded pet owners which vets they prefer and which
    they do not and why. The Humane Society of the United States and PetFinder.
    com suggest asking around for recommendations and opinions on local vets.
    Every vet has a different approach as well as different strengths and
    weaknesses. Identify what you need in a veterinarian: do they need to treat a
    variety of companion animals or be a dog or cat specialist? Is being open to and
    able to practice complimentary medicine important? What size facility do you
    need; small and personable or up to the minute with the latest technology?

  • Are the offices clean? Is the front office staff helpful or off-putting and
    intimidating? Establishing a caring relationship for your pet starts with each
    individual you or your pet interacts with being both respectful and
    compassionate towards the both of you. PetFinder.comoffers additional questions
    on the office and staff: "Do they acknowledge you when you walk in or are you
    ignored? What is the overall appearance of the clinic? Is it clean? Odor free?
    What is the attitude of the staff toward the other clients who may be present?
    How about to those on the other end of the phone line? You can learn a lot by just

  • Ask for a tour of the entire facility, including the back.
    has additional tips: "It is also legitimate to request a tour at a time that is
    mutually convenient. There may be times of the day when a tour is not
    advisable but your request should be granted at some point". On your tour do
    pay extra attention to the condition of the areas not normally in public view;
    they should stand up to the same scrutiny the front office does.

  • Is appropriate time dedicated to each visit? Do technicians and doctors
    take the time to begin a relationship with you as the authority on your
    pet before commencing an exam? An initial conversation should be with
    you, your concerns for your pet and inquiry made into your pets temperament
    and prior vet experiences. For instance, you should be asked about your pets
    health concerns, reason for your visit and how your pet should best be handled.
    Remember, you are the advocate for your animal. Your pet cannot speak-you
    are their voice.

  • Is the veterinarian (and the technicians) good listeners and willing to
    answer questions? urges vets to utilize the ask-tell-ask
    technique:  "This approach is based on the notion that client education requires
    identifying what the client already knows and building on that knowledge, it
    shows that you are willing to listen to and negotiate the clients agenda".

  • Any professional approaching your animal should first address the pet
    by name and offer a soft touch before anything else. And if your pet is shy
    or fearful, handling should always be done with you present in order to offer
    additional assurance to your animal. Your presence is comforting in a stressful
    situation. Animals associate most vet visits with intrusive pokes, prods and
    painful injections from strangers (all in the name of health but still
    uncomfortable). Keeping surroundings as familiar as possible will also mitigate
    anxiety for your pet, a worn article of your clothing placed in your pet carrier
    will help to ease fretfulness. The American Association of Feline Practitioners
    suggests: "With respectful handling, even fearful cats are often calmer and
    easier to work with if at least part of the examination is done within the bottom
    half of the carrier" (the cat came to the practice in).

  • Make sure the vet provides a thorough physical exam:  Some vets will
    skip steps to get to the next patient or because they are fearful of handling an
    animal.  There are nine basic steps for the exam.  Know them so you can make
    sure they are provided:

    1) The technician or vet if there is no tech will first take blood pressure,
    temperature, and respiratory rate.  The next part of this step is to evaluate the
    animal's movement in the room or off the table before touching them.

    2) Examine eyes, ears, nose and throat.  Along with a visual exam of all, this
    includes opening the pet's mouth to look inside the mouth and along teeth and
    gums, depressing gums and using an instrument to examine the inside of the

    3) Examine the heart and lungs by listening through a stethoscope.

    4) Palpate or touch the abdomen. Palpate kidneys, liver, spleen, internal lymph
    nodes, and intestines.

    5) Perform an exam of the muscles and skeleton to check for abnormal walking
    patterns and deformities.  Palpate all joints, and perform an orthopedic
    examination to check knees and other joints for cracking or swelling.

    6) Palpate all lymph nodes.

    7) Check the covering of the body- the fur and skin by looking for abnormalities
    and dehydration (done by tenting or lightly holding the skin together for a
    second on the upper back).

    8) For intact male dogs and older males dogs only: a rectal exam and palpation
    of animal glands should be performed. Cats should not receive a rectal
    examination unless they have been x rayed or have ultra sounds showing prostate

    9) Perform a basic neurologic examination to test how aware the pet is at
    judging objects in space.  Dr. Douglas Mader after discussing how a thorough vet
    exam is the cornerstone of vet medicine, suggests: "Dropping a cotton ball and
    watching the patient follow its movement is an excellent way to evaluate vision
    and tracking."

  • Are you present for routine procedures: vaccines, blood draws, etc. or
    are these done in the back room? Be extremely wary of the practice keen to
    whisk your pet away for routine procedures. While this may be easier for
    personnel working with your pet remember that your presence and oversight is
    necessary for the welfare of your animal. Some vets report that when an owner
    is present technicians are often gentler in their handling or "under restrain" the
    pet they are working with. You would not send another family member in your
    care off for a vaccination without your hand to hold or your presence in the
    room. You have the right to ask these procedures be done in front of you;
    competent, caring professionals will be willing to work with you and your pet.
    Of course, if you cannot stand the sight of blood or faint at the sight of a needle,
    please look away and do not act as if the sky is falling because it isn't.

  • Does the vet explain procedures, medications, vaccinations, etc. and
    ask for permission before commencing treatment? Make sure you are
    clear on and have agreed to what the plan of care is before it is underway.
    Vaccinations are always less taxing on your pet when spread over a course of
    visits and vet costs add up, find out what is a priority and what can wait if your
    budget is tight.

  • If your pet need be hospitalized, does the practice permit visits? The
    College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State University advocates visiting as
    often as the clinic allows.  Make sure the clinic does.  Being hospitalized is
    extremely stressful for your animal; visiting will offer the comfort so necessary
    in supporting your pet during recovery time and healing.

  • Not every practice will be a match. Do vote with your feet and make sure a
    complete set of your pets records go with you.  If things are not right, do try and
    communicate this to your vet.  Sometimes differences cannot be resolved but
    often simple clear communication is key; the Humane Society writes: "If you feel
    that your veterinarian isn't meeting your needs as a client or the needs of your
    pet as a patient, it may be time to find a new one.  But sometimes simple
    misunderstandings cause conflicts, which you and your vet can resolve by
    talking things out and looking for solutions".

  • Make sure the vet you choose is able to establish rapport and respect
    with you. advises vets: A great deal of communication
    in small animal practice involves providing information, although this does not
    mean that communication should be largely one-way.  As your pets guardian
    you are the expert on your pet, your careful observation, knowledge and
    experience of your companion animal should be relied on as valued information
    from your vet.  According to the Humane Society: You're doing more than
    searching for a medical expert.  You're looking for someone to meet your needs
    and those of your pet, a doctor who has people as well as animal skills".

With time, some groundwork and a bit of luck you are sure to find the best partner in
caring for your pets health.
Make sure to choose the right vet for both you and your pet
Christopher Furlong
"Establishing a caring relationship
for your pet starts with each
individual you or your pet interacts
with being both respectful and
compassionate towards the both of
Request an individual consultation
A good vet asks first before performing a procedure on your pet
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
"Make sure the vet provides a
thorough physical exam:  Some vets
will skip steps to get to the next
patient or because they are fearful of
handling an animal.  There are nine
basic steps for the exam.  Know them
so you can make sure they are
Know the steps to a vet exam so you can make sure your vet does them all
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
212-722-2509 / 646-228-7813

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