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Choosing a Veterinarian

Learn what to look for when choosing a veterinarian.

Choosing a Veterinarian

Your dog's vet is an important person in his life, even if he doesn't much like going to see her. With your help, she'll give him regular examinations and provide vaccinations and preventive medications to keep him healthy. If he's sick or injured, she'll diagnose the problem and offer treatment options.

You should be comfortable with your dog's vet, and confident about the care she can provide. If you find you're uncomfortable with your vet, or you don't care for the atmosphere or policies of the practice, find a new one. It's to your dog's advantage to see the same vet most of the time. The veterinarian will keep a medical history of your dog, including a record of vaccinations, illnesses, injuries, treatments, and so forth. Your dog will also be more relaxed if he sees the same vet each time, especially if you both like her.

Finding the right veterinarian for your dog is a lot like finding the right doctor for yourself. If you already have a vet you feel comfortable with, great. If not, start looking as soon as you decide to get a dog and, if possible, select a vet before you bring your new canine buddy home.

If possible, choose a vet who has worked with dogs of your breed or who is open to input from you about peculiarities of the breed. Dogs of some breeds are sensitive to certain drugs, and it's important for vets working with those breeds to know that. If you are active in canine sports, look for a vet who is familiar with the stresses experienced by canine athletes.

How can you find such a terrific vet? If you're getting your dog from a local breeder or rescue program, ask who they recommend. Ask friends and neighbors who have dogs—particularly dogs like yours—about their vets. When you sign up for obedience or other training classes, ask for recommendations. Contact local kennel clubs and breed clubs for referrals. As a last resort, check the telephone book or Internet for local veterinarians.

Ask people what they like and don't like about their vets and about the practices in which their vets work. You might also ask whether they have used other clinics in the area and, if so, ask why they changed. Your approach to your dog's medical care may be different from someone else's, and what they don't like may be exactly what you do want. That's okay. Individual personalities are important in the vet-client-patient triangle. Some vets are better with big dogs, and others with toys. Some like input from well-informed clients, and some don't.

If possible, arrange to interview two or three veterinarians and ask for a tour of their facilities. Some will charge for an office call (usually around $25), but many will talk to you for a few minutes at no charge.

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