All About Pets

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How to find a veterinarian

Pets owners must make several important decisions with regard to caring for their pets, not the least of which is finding a veterinarian. First-time pet owners may not know where to look when the time comes to take their furry friends for their initial vet visits, while long-time pet owners whose pets develop specific ailments may be on the lookout for vets who specialize in treating such ailments.

Finding a veterinarian may take some trial and error, and pet owners should be prepared to try new veterinarians if their pets don't seem to have much of a rapport with a given vet. The following are a handful of additional tips for pet owners looking for the right healthcare provider to care for their pets.

• Ask around. Neighbors, friends or family members with pets may be great sources of information regarding veterinarians in your area. Recommendations may be especially valuable to pet owners who own less common pets, such as birds and reptiles. Many veterinarians will have extensive experience treating cats and dogs, but owners of more exotic animals may be comfortable visiting vets who have significant experience treating their particular type of pets.

• Visit a facility before booking an appointment. Visiting a facility prior to taking pets in for an appointment can shed light on the facility and give pet owners more opportunity to digest what they are seeing, which can be difficult with pets in tow. Make note of how clean and organized the facility is, and inquire about how many vets are on staff. If your pet gets hyper around other animals, observe the waiting room and try to imagine how your pet would respond to the room. Pets may already be jumpy or nervous about vet visits, so an environment that would only stoke those nerves may not be best for your animal.

• Ask questions. Pet owners who take an active interest in their pets' health are welcomed by many veterinarians, so don't be afraid to ask questions on your initial visit to the facility. Be specific when asking questions, asking about overnight stays for sick animals and how much experience staff vets have treating specific animals and ailments. Veterinarians or veterinary staff personnel willing to take the time to answer your questions will probably take the time to go the extra mile caring for your animal as well.

• Learn about emergency protocol. Many pet owners may need to one day take their pets in during emergencies, so it makes sense to learn about a veterinary practice's emergency protocol. Do any veterinarians work the overnight shift? If not, are all vets on call in case of emergency? A practice that has a detailed emergency protocol in place may be better equipped to handle emergencies, which can calm pet owners' fears.

Finding a veterinarian is an important step for pet owners. A combination of strategies can help pet owners find vets who will provide the best care to owners' furry friends.