Skip to main content

How to find the right veterinarian for your pet

Making veterinary appointments during the pandemic has been stressful for many pet owners. Having to part with dogs in the parking lot and watch as they walked nervously through the hospital doors filled pet parents with anxiety, too. It helped if the pets were being treated by a specialist whom they knew and liked. This experience has taught pet owners just how important it is to find the right veterinarian for their beloved companions.

Referrals can help you find a good veterinarian

When choosing a veterinarian, talk to family, neighbors, and friends to see who they use and if they would recommend them for your pet. Ask how long they have been using the vet and what they like about him or her. You can also talk to breeders or breed club members who probably know veterinarians knowledgeable about your breed and the types of problems they experience. Groomers, managers at local animal shelters, members of local animal rescue groups, and local dog trainers can also help when it comes to recommending veterinary professionals. Once you have a list of names, you can visit the animal hospital website and read client reviews.

If you don’t find what you are looking for through referrals, you can turn to your state’s veterinary society for a list of reputable professionals, many broken down by specialty. For example, the New York State Veterinary Medical Society (NYSVMS) offers search functions that include such categories as emergency hospitals, avian/exotic/reptile, and equine, and it even has a category for practices that cater to low-income clients or offer reduced fees. According to the NYSVMS, all veterinarians listed on the site are actively involved in the profession through membership in the society. All members are required to take continuing education programs and join regional groups where they discuss the latest techniques with colleagues.

Friendly veterinarian examining dog.

Questions to ask the veterinarian

It’s important to make sure your veterinarian’s treatment philosophies match your own. You may want to meet and speak with a few professionals before deciding on a match. Here are some questions to ask before making a final decision:

  • How long have you been in practice, and are you a member of a professional veterinary association such as the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the state or local veterinary association?
  • Are you open to prescribing holistic or alternative medicine when appropriate?
  • Do you encourage preventive care and offer advice and information to pet owners?
  • Are you available by phone for pet owners who have questions, and are you willing to take the time to explain difficult medical terms when needed?
  • If you have children, you might want to ask if they can come to appointments. This is a great way to teach your children about responsible pet care. Many vets welcome children into the examining room and enjoy answering their questions.

What to consider when choosing an animal hospital

In addition to the qualifications and treatment philosophy of an individual veterinarian, you’ll want to consider the credentials of the facility where he or she practices. For instance, is the hospital accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)? Unlike human hospitals, animal hospitals are not required to be accredited. According to an article published on the website, a lack of accreditation doesn’t mean that a veterinary practice provides subpar health care. However, it does mean that the practice hasn’t been measured against the AAHA’s approximately 900 standards to achieve accreditation. To maintain accredited status, hospitals undergo comprehensive on-site evaluations every three years.

Before choosing an animal hospital, American Kennel Club experts recommend taking a tour without your pet. Your goal is to:

  • Observe whether the office is clean and well organized.
  • Ask about the services they provide, the hours of operation, and provisions made for emergencies. Confirm whether they offer in-house digital X-rays, dental X-rays, pet dental care, ultrasounds, and radiology, as well as veterinary surgical services. Find out what arrangements are available for specialty referrals.
  • Discuss fees and payment plans. If your pet is insured, confirm that the facility will accept that insurance plan.
  • Ask about the average wait time for making a non-emergency appointment.
  • Make sure that you can request an appointment with the veterinarian you plan to use.
Veterinarian examining cat while little boy watches.

Once you’ve chosen a veterinarian, the next step is to make an appointment to visit with your pet. This is where you’ll get to observe his or her bedside manner. Is the visit rushed, or is the veterinarian willing to take the time to comfort your pet before beginning the examination or giving shots?

Experts at the AAHA say that when choosing a veterinarian, you should use the same care and criteria you would when selecting a physician or dentist. Your goal should first and foremost be to find a veterinarian who you feel can best meet your pet’s medical needs. In addition, though, you want to have a comfort level with this professional and know that you can reach out whenever you have a question or concern about your pet’s health.

Editors' Recommendations

Vera Lawlor
Vera was the pet columnist for 201 Family magazine and has contributed pet and animal welfare articles to Bone-A-Fide Mutts…
Looking for a fluffy and affectionate pup? Give the American Eskimo dog a try
Considering a spitz? Take a look at the American Eskimo dog
American Eskimo dog smiling at the camera

At first glance, you might confuse an American Eskimo dog with a shih tzu or even a Pomeranian. Or you might mix them up with the Canadian Eskimo dog, a 4,000-year-old animal that's native to America and was bred by the Inuit to pull sleds. But the American Eskimo dog (or Eskie) is a totally separate breed that's both beautiful and family-friendly. While no dog is right for everyone, you should consider this beastie if you want a unique and lovable pup. They might be exactly what your home needs to become complete.
Where does the American Eskimo dog come from?
Don't be fooled by the name, this pup came about in the 1800s and was bred by German immigrants as a farm dog. That means it's one of many spitz dogs, which also includes the malamute, Icelandic sheepdog, and Samoyed. The name was changed because of anti-German sentiments around World War I. Interestingly, this was a very popular show dog, and many performed in the circus and on stage! If you do wind up adopting an Eskie, you could get a regular old diva.
What is this breed like?
These fluffy friends can stay as small as 6 pounds in the toy size or up to 35 pounds, which can be standard, but they all have huge personalities regardless of stature. Because the American Eskimo dog was a working breed, they need a lot more exercise than you'd think just by looking. But they're highly trainable, loving toward people, and very energetic, so you should have no problem taking them on walks and to outdoor gatherings. If your routine already includes hikes or even strolls, the American Eskimo dog might be your perfect companion.

Who should get an Eskie?
This is a family dog through and through. Eskies require a lot of interaction and love — they sometimes misbehave if not given enough attention, which could include chewing up your favorite furniture or barking incessantly at seemingly nothing. That means you want to think carefully before committing to them, as you would with any pup.

Read more
All about the incredible greyhound dog
Love the greyhound dog breed? Here's what to know about these canines
A greyhound on a fuzzy rug

The greyhound dog breed has a sweet but noble demeanor. These large-sized hounds are built for speed with a narrow, aerodynamic body perfect for running down prey. History traces these dogs back to ancient Egypt.

Today, the pups like to track down treats. However, the breed has been at the center of controversy -- through no fault of their own. Because of their speed, they’ve been used as race dogs, a practice now illegal in most states in the U.S.

Read more
7 Japanese dog breeds that could be your perfect pet
Getting to know Japanese dog breeds: Shiba Inu, Akita, and more
A black and white Japanese Chin stands outside in the grass raising one paw

If you were to ask someone to name a Japanese dog breed, we'd be willing to bet that they'd mention Shiba Inu dogs first. And for a good reason! Shiba dogs are becoming increasingly popular around the world, especially after one lucky "doge" went viral in 2013. But they're not the only breed worth mentioning.
There are more than seven Japanese dog breeds out there, of course, but we chose these seven so you can compare and contrast these pups' unique qualities. From gentle giants to teacup cuties and everything in between, there just might be your perfect fit right here on this list!
Here are seven Japanese dog breeds we know and love.

Shiba Inu dogs are quite possibly the most famous Japanese breed, thanks to a meme
Whether you knew it at the time or not, you've probably seen a picture of the famous "doge" internet meme which features a Shiba Inu giving some major side-eye. And as it turns out, this infamous sass can be common in this self-assured breed!

Read more