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How to Choose a Vet

I don't say this often because it is frowned upon by the powers that be when vets speak ill of each other, it's considered unprofessional. To me, this is goddamn hysterical because the opposite is true in vet school and this rule apparently only takes effect after the White Coated Baptism and Holy Transformation happens. The reason I went to vet school in the first place is that prior to that I had seen 33 vets in 5 years; all of them, except #33, were awful. I could care less about what the powers that be might think about anything I have to say.


While I was in vet school, one of the morons teaching and practicing there killed one of my dogs through sheer stupidity, then frosted that particular cake by failing me in her class because I had the gall to complain about it. That same year I saw her cry and fall apart because the pressure of doing a spay on a dog was too surgically challenging for her. My point in telling you this is:


Not everyone who is a vet should be a vet.

That sort of thing leaves a permanent impression, and for the most part, I don't think too highly of most vets. On the other hand, I've met some who deserve to have the ground they walk on be worshipped. Literally. I've done some of the worshipping. Deciding who is which can be tricky.


The symbol of all that is supposed to be good and holy in the world. Well, sometimes.


I've helped a number of people lately who have had things happen to their dogs that shouldn't have happened. These have all, without exception, been the result of stupid vets doing stupid things, and I'm talking about both sides of the pond, not just the US. When you're not medically trained it can be agonizing to decide if your vet really sucks or if you're being too critical.


In the majority of cases, you're not being too critical. If you think your vet sucks, then they probably do.


I have slated for the near future to start adding articles to the VetRef portion of this site, all the non-emergency articles I have been collecting and writing over about 20 years. The article below will be included, but I thought it would be best to post it here in the meantime.


-mn



CHOOSING A VETERINARIAN by Mico Nelson, DVM


Choosing a veterinarian is one of the most important decisions you will make. It’s important to realize that, as in all other professions, veterinarians are not created equally: Some are excellent; some are less so. The single most important aspect of your relationship with your vet is that you are comfortable with him or her.

The single most important aspect of your relationship with your vet is that you are comfortable with him or her.

Having been on both sides of the fence – both as client and practitioner – I’ve noticed specific trends and characteristics that are common to every practice which send clear signals regarding the attitude and spirit of that practice. With that in mind, the following checklist may help you in selecting your dog’s health care provider:

How were you greeted by the staff when you walked in?

“A” Cheerful, polite, someone smiled at you

“B” Grumpy, surly, indifferent, rude, no one smiled at you

What was the cleanliness of the waiting room? Look at the floors in particular and especially the edges of the floors.

“A” Clean

“B” Less than clean

How comfortable was the waiting room? Was it crowded or was there enough space around you and your dog to be comfortable?

“A” Comfortable

“B” Not comfortable

Was your dog weighed when you arrived?

“A” Yes

“B” No

Were payment policies and accepted forms of payment clearly stated and in plain sight?

“A” Yes

“B” No

How did the waiting room smell?

“A” Not bad

“B” Awful

Did you have to wait more than 30 minutes past your appointment time to be seen?

“A” No

“B” Yes

Did you feel comfortable with the veterinarian?

“A” Yes

“B” No

Did the veterinarian thoroughly examine your dog, including teeth, eyes, ears, skin, limbs, abdomen, and listening to the heart and respiration with a stethoscope?

“A” Yes

“B” No

Was the veterinarian’s examination of your pet brief and hardly included any hands-on examination and petting?

“A” No

“B” Yes

Was the exam room clean? Look at the floors in particular and especially the edges of the floors.

“A” Yes

“B” No

Did the exam room smell bad?

“A” No

“B” Yes

Was the vet comfortable with your dog?

“A” Yes

“B” No

Did the vet get on the floor with your dog?

“A” Yes

“B” No

Was the vet’s physical appearance neat and clean?

“A” Yes

“B” No

Did the vet explain things to you clearly and in plain English?

“A” Yes

“B” No

Did the vet answer your questions clearly and in plain English?

“A” Yes

“B” No

Was your dog comfortable with the vet?

“A” Yes

“B” No

Did the vet seem knowledgeable?

“A” Yes

“B” No

Did the vet seem relaxed or tense?

“A” Relaxed

“B” Tense

Was the vet friendly to you and your dog?

“A” Yes

“B” No

Was the staff polite to you?

“A” Yes

“B” No

Was the staff comfortable with your dog?

“A” Yes

“B” No

Were any of the technicians snotty and condescending?

“A” No

“B” Yes

If any blood was drawn, was the dog removed from the exam room?

“A” No

“B” Yes

Keeping in mind that veterinary care is expensive, was the bill reasonable for the services provided? (If you don’t know, skip this question.)

“A” Yes

“B” No

Was your dog ever handled roughly by anyone at the clinic?

“A” No

“B” Yes

Did you feel angry at any time during the visit?

“A” No

“B” Yes

Did you feel offended at any time during the visit?

“A” No

“B” Yes

Has the vet been working for 10 years or more?

“A” Yes

“B” No

Did the vet seem in a hurry to end the examination and leave the room?

“A” No

“B” Yes

Did the vet try to impress you with the services they offer, such as CT, MRI, ultrasound, etc.?

“A” No

“B” Yes

Did you at any time feel you were being pressured to buy services, products, or medications?

“A” No

“B” Yes

Did the vet make suggestions and offer options, or did they tell you what they thought you should do?

“A” Suggestions and options

“B” Was told what they thought I should do

TOTAL SCORE:

Questions answered “A” :_____________ Questions answered “B” :_____________


These are just some of the considerations that are pertinent to choosing a veterinarian, but over the years I’ve gotten to recognize that these are the most important ones.

If you’re using the sheet above, mark each correct answer and add up the number of all the correct answers in each column in the row marked “total score”. Column “A” represents all of the desirable or expected experiences you should have as a client. Column “B” answers are all red flags and may indicate a problem.


Keep in mind veterinary care is expensive, and a fat bill is not usually an indication that anyone is trying to rip you off. Like all relationships, the one you form with your vet is a two-way street: If you are rude to the staff, demanding, insulting, condescending, or try to appear as being more knowledgeable than you are you’ll probably have a bad experience no matter where you go. I’ve fired clients for consistent bad behavior; most vets do.

The last, and perhaps most important factor in this decision is this: A veterinarian’s job is to collect all the data they can by tests, examination, and talking to you, to consider various causes for a given problem, to determine the cause for a given problem, and then to inform you of what the problem is and what your options are. At no point should a veterinarian ever tell you what you should do or what their personal opinion is unless they suspect neglect and/or abuse. Remember that.


Finally, the question so many clients ask veterinarians is: “What would you do if this were your dog?”. It’s a very reasonable question, and to this you should always get a very reasonable answer.

A veterinarian’s trust should never be assumed; it should always be earned.

-mn

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