How to Choose the Right Vet for Your Pet

I've owned a lot of different pets over the course of my lifetime. Everything from frogs and reptiles to hamsters and parakeets, and the usual assortment of cats and dogs.

I've owned a lot of different pets over the course of my lifetime. Everything from frogs and reptiles to hamsters and parakeets, and the usual assortment of cats and dogs. Owning a multitude of different animals from my childhood on up has presented its share of joys and challenges, but there has been one constant throughout: the need for having a good veterinarian.

For me personally, I've found that country vets are the best. One in particular, a Dr. Jones, comes to mind. A large, friendly man with a gentle smile, Dr. Jones worked out of his house in a small town that I once lived in about an hour's drive from St. Louis. His home phone number was also his office phone number and he always seemed available, night or day.

And he made house calls. I guess this was because he took care of a lot of the farm animals in the area and it would be kind of hard to get a horse or a cow into the office. When I lived out there I had a couple of dogs and a cat and there were a few times I had to avail myself of his services well after midnight, but he never seemed to mind. Maybe that was because he was the only vet in town. That made it easy to choose. Here are a few tips on finding your own Dr. Jones

A good starting point is to get referrals from friends, family, and coworkers. If that's not an option, in most states the local veterinary medical association can provide you with a list. Just like with the human medical profession, the trend nowadays in veterinary medicine is more toward specialization. There are vets that specialize in purebreds and others who specialize in exotic pets.

Increasingly, larger cities are offering clinics that are especially designed for cats. A lot of people feel that cats get particularly stressed out when they are taken to waiting rooms that are filled with other types of animals. There are also groups like the Association of Avian Veterinarians and the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians. If you have exotics like rabbits and ferrets, there are specific clubs that have vet recommendations online.

One thing that everybody seems to agree on is the importance of choosing a vet before your pet has a medical problem. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that you choose a vet even before you get your pet. They can answer any questions that you may have and make recommendations about which type of pet will fit your lifestyle.

After you have your list, then it is a good idea to shop around a little. Location is important, but it's more important that you find a vet that you feel comfortable with. Some questions that you may ask are: does the vet have emergency service on site? Do they make house calls? Does the doctor's office hours fit in with your schedule? If you are interested in alternative medicine, does the doctor do so? Do they require payment up front? Do they accept pet insurance? Having the answers to these questions beforehand can go a long way to help you make your decision.

And finally, you may want to take your pet in to visit and see what kind of interaction the doctor has with it. If the vet comes across as the type of doctor you would like to have looking after your own health, then chances are they will be a good choice for your pet.