By Dr. Shannon Leggieri, DVM, MS of Claremont Veterinary Hospital, Oakland.
Finding the right veterinarian can be a stressful process. It is important that both you and your furry companion connect and trust the doctor you choose.
The journey to finding the right veterinarian begins within your close circle of dog loving friends and family. Chances are your loved ones already have a veterinarian they work with and like. You should gather a few different recommendations and meet with those veterinarians for an appointment to see if there is a good fit. You want to choose someone who is a good communicator, empathetic to your concerns, hears your needs and above all has a good connection with your animal.
It is essential to bring records of your dog’s past medical history including but not limited to vaccinations, microchip information, current and past medication use and any lab work previously completed. If possible hand carry or email these records to your new veterinarian. It is quicker and more effective than trying to coordinate past hospitals to send them. Bring your dog's favorite treat, something unique he or she doesn’t otherwise get to make the first visit a positive experience.
Arrive at least five minutes early to your appointment and bring a good book or something to do while you are waiting. A busy veterinarian means they have a strong following and take time with their clients; this is a good sign. Sometimes emergencies and other unforeseen issues arise and your patience is always appreciated. When it’s your turn for the appointment have a list of concerns and questions you’d like addressed. If your dog has a complicated medical history every issue may not be solved or even addressed in the first meeting but being prepared helps to ensure you and your new vet are on the same page.
It is important to understand the history, philosophy and typical business practice of your new veterinarian. For example, how long have they been with the practice? Do they practice one or five days a week? Are they actively taking on new clients? Do they practice western medicine or other types of medicine you might connect with? Are there certain aspects of medicine they are more trained in or passionate about? These are just a few questions which might help you understand your new veterinarian. There will be more specific questions based on your dog’s history and current needs.
Ease of communication is of the utmost importance between you and your new veterinarian. Your dog can not speak for himself and therefore you are his advocate. It is important that you and your veterinarian are able to speak openly and honestly to ensure that you and your dog's needs are being heard and addressed.