How to choose the right veterinarian for your dog

Manage your dog's health now

As soon as you become a dog owner, you'll need to find a veterinarian. Why? Well, because you don't want to spend the time looking for a vet when you really need one.

veterinarian for your dog

Perhaps you won't make this decision just once. Every time you move to a different area of when your vet retires, you'll find yourself in the same position again.

Hopefully, you'll only ever need him or her for routine checkups and preventative procedures; but just in case, it's worth taking the time to develop a good relationship with a suitable vet, before you need their services.

Your vet is a pretty significant figure in your dog's life – and thus, in yours. I have been with the same veterinarian for 10 years now. He knows me and my pets, we get along really well and the most important thing is that I trust him.

Where to look for the right veterinarian

You could just pick a vet at random from an internet search or from an ad in the Yellow Pages; but having the right vet is crucial to your dog's health and happiness.

I have come across dog owners that weren't happy with their vet but stuck with their initial decision none the less. Don't make the same mistake. If you notice you are complaining about something… anything… then DO something about it!

Your vet isn't just your dog's doctor; he or she is also the dentist, manicurist, psychologist, and – hopefully! – a friend.

A bad vet experience


We need a vet that can look past the breed and take a look at the individual.

The other day my dog was staying a week at my mother's. He had scratches around his nose from an allergic reaction and since these got infected my mum wanted these to be checked out by a vet. Since we don't live in the same area she took my dog to the nearest vet.

This veterinarian did not look at my dog, and I mean Look. He just registered “hey it's an Akita and these can be difficult” and so he tried to examine the infected scratches by keeping a safe distance. My dog didn't trust him as he was stared at from a distance and so gave him a warning. A clear example of miscommunication between vet and dog.

My mum was sent home with the message “to go and teach the dog some manners”. Strange as this never happens at my vet's. Kensho is a very sweet Akita and likes to meet new people.

Do you have a pet vet story you want to share? »

Ask around

The best place to start looking for a vet is by word of mouth. If you have any friends or relatives who take good care of their dogs, then that's a great place to start: ask them who they'd recommend, and why. This last one is particularly important, because everyone has different priorities: for example, perhaps they like their own vet because he/she is a specialist in their own particular breed; or they don't charge very much; or the clinic is only five minutes' drive… their priorities are not necessarily yours, so it's a good idea to make sure that your values coincide with the person giving the recommendations.

Another great place to find a vet is through local training clubs (agility, herding classes, police K-9 academies, etc.) These organizations are almost guaranteed to place a great deal of importance on high-quality veterinary care, because the health and well-being of their dogs is such a priority.

Once you've got a list of vets that you're interested in pursuing further, all you have to do is call up the clinic and explain that you're looking to find a regular vet for your dog(s): can you come in for a quick chat, introduce your dog, and have a look at the premises?

Go and have a look BEFORE you need to

Before you decide to align yourself and your dog with a particular clinic, test the waters first. Ideally, you want a chance to talk to the vet, and discuss his or her philosophies and approach to pet care.

For your dog this appointment is a great opportunity to learn to be relaxed in a clinic. This is really important. If your dog ever really needs vet-care (if there's an emergency, or if she needs an urgent short-term appointment), you want to be sure that you've made the best possible choice as far as his health and comfort levels are concerned.

dog veterinarian

Things to ask the veterinarian

While you're at the clinic, you'll want to be assessing your potential vet's overall attitude and approach to health care and animals; and you'll also probably want answers to some specific questions.

List of useful questions to help you on your way

  1. How many vets are there on staff?
    If you need to make an urgent appointment, you don't want to be waiting around while precious minutes tick past. Ideally, there'll be at least two qualified veterinarians on hand (not just technicians or assistants). I do have my favorite vet, but in the clinic of my choice there are two others which is reassuring. Everyone is friendy, the staff included and I can feel they genuinly love animals.

  2. What kind of testing and analysis capabilities does the clinic have?
    My veterinarian has all kinds of analysis instruments right there on the spot. It's amazing, especially compared to my own doctor. My own personal doctor has to send everything away to the lab and results are by definition delayed. I sometimes joke that when I need urgent help (an X-ray, an echo, a blood analysis, small surgery, an antibiotics treatment), I better visit my vet.  So make sure your veterinarian has the right tools and equipment for fast diagnoses.

  3. What after-hours services are available?
    A lot of clinics close the doors in the evenings and on weekends, which means that if there's an emergency, you'll have to go somewhere else – and subject your dog (and yourself) to an unfamiliar vet. My vet has a mobile phone for emergencies during off hours. I have used it a couple of times and I know I can count on him when it's needed.

  4. What's their price range?
    How are payments made? Is there a facility for payment plans in case of unexpected vet bills? The payment-plan option is particularly important. Even with pet insurance, vet bills can sometimes be astronomical – and not everyone has the resources to deal with large vet bills straight away. Ask the clinic how they cater for situations like that.

  5. How up-to-date is the staff with advances in the industry?
    The field of medical care is always moving forward – responsible vets make the effort to keep up with the times, and see that their staff do, too. My clinic also has expertise in regular medicine, nutrition, accupuncture and homeopathy. Only in special cases, like when my cat had a tumor and needed chemotherapy and additional surgery, he sent me to a specialized clinic.

Consulting an online veterinarian

Online veterinarians are waiting for your question

I have now partnered with JustAnswer so that you can get an answer ASAP. You can always see how many veterinarians are online, before you submit your question.

  1. Just start typing your question in this box, select 'Dog' from the dropdown list and click on 'Get an Answer'.
  2. You'll be taken to a new page where you can provide more details, such as your dog's age and breed and what you've tried so far (optional).
  3. Next you'll see the profile of the veterinarian that is online and wants to answer your question.

Customer satisfaction is guaranteed! You will have the option to view and "Accept" Experts' answers before agreeing to pay them for their work. Offline veterinarians often charge much more for their services, but… remember that an online vet cannot examine your dog, perform tests or first aid.

Had a good, or bad, experience with a vet?

Tell us your story, your experience. Let us know what to expect - the good, the bad and the ugly. This will help other dog lovers to recognize the signs when they go and look for a new vet.

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Recommended resource about dog health issues

For a complete survival guide on stress-free dog care, including detailed information on when your dog needs to see the vet, how to respond to pet emergencies, dog first aid and all common health problems, check out Ultimate Guide to Dog Health.

This is a quality handbook on dog health care, and teaches you how to take a proactive and prepared approach to knowledgeable dog ownership.

Learn how to deal with minor dog health problems before they become major ones »

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