Ten questions to ask when shopping for a new veterinarian
First question: Will the new veterinarian will accept services provided by your old veterinarian? For example, will they accept the vaccines that your veterinarian provided or insist on starting things all over? Over vaccination is a tremendous problem and leads to health issues. The perception is if a patient is ill it needs to be revaccinated. In truth, because that patient is ill, the last thing it needs is more vaccines. Vaccines should be given to healthy patients, not sick patients. When unhealthy patients are vaccinated, or a vaccine series is repeated by a new veterinarian, it is simply a moneymaking procedure. Beware!!
Second question: Does the potential new veterinarian believe in three-year vaccinations or vaccinating every year? Some veterinarians argue that annual boosters get the pet in for annual exams. The reality is annual vaccinations get the pet in for annual exams. Every year of life for a dog or cat is somewhere between five and eight years for a human. It’s good to have things checked out as they can change in that period of time. However, using unnecessary procedures is dangerous for the pet and only lines the pocket of the veterinarian.
Third question: How does the new veterinarian’s office interact with your pet? Is she (these days, most veterinarians are women) down at eye level with your dog? Or is she standing with the table in between you? Does she play with your cat and scratch it under the chin? Or does she leave it in the carrier and let her assistant hold? For most pet owners, dogs and cats really are part of the family and most pet owners want to see that same emotion shared by their veterinarian.
Fourth question: Does your new veterinarian take your dog or cat out of the room for procedures? Or involve you and explain what’s going on? Most pet owners wonder what happens behind closed doors when their pet is taken away unless it is fully explained.
Fifth question: Does your potential new veterinarian follow protocols or deliver procedures specific for your pet and your pets’ needs? An example would be with puppies. Puppies and kittens are pretty much always born with worms; it’s just part of the lifecycle of parasites. It is understood by just about the whole world that puppies and kittens should be dewormed when they are weaned. But what comes next? Does your potential new veterinarian follow protocol and insists on more medication? Or does your veterinarian tailor to the needs of your animal and perform a fecal exam? If there are no worm eggs in a fecal sample then there is no reason to deworm.
Sixth question: How about heartworm medication? These days there are monthly chewable preventatives that treat everything under the sun from heart worms to intestinal worms to tapeworms. If your dog does not have tapeworms he does not need to be treated for tapeworms. Makes sense. Only time your dog would have tapeworms is if he ate a flea or he ate a mouse, or you saw a little segments of rice on the outside of his poop. All-in-one products increase the revenue of the veterinarian and add more chemicals into your pets’ body. These chemicals build up and can cause health issues down the road, including cancer!
Seventh question: How about year round preventatives? It depends on where you live, but many parts of the United States do not need to administer heartworm prevention in the winter. Your veterinarian should tailor his or her protocols to your needs. Many times, the recommendation to give heartworm prevention year round is simply a moneymaking process.
Eighth question: does your new veterinarian listen to your entire issue? Does she answer all of your questions and fully explain to you how and why things happen? Our job as veterinarians is to be an information source. This means we should explain how the body works and how illness happens. The point is to help pet owners be better pet owners. When a client understands why their pet keeps having an issue, then they can get to the bottom line, rather than treat symptoms time after time. Veterinary medicine should aim to address the underlying issue, not do the same thing repeatedly for the rest of the animal’s life.
Ninth question: does your veterinarian ask what you feed your pet? Better than that, what food does your potential new veterinarian sell? Does your new veterinarian sell veterinary prescription food that contains byproducts and harmful ingredients that could shorten your dog or cat’s life? Or does this new potential veterinarian sell quality food with healthy ingredients? Does this veterinarian support you sharing your food with your pets?
Tenth question: is it common practice for patients to spend the night after surgery? Spending the night after surgery is rarely indicated. The only time that is needed is if your veterinarian needs to make sure things still work. An example would be bladder stone removal. Because the bladder is opened to remove stones, your veterinarian needs to make sure that the bladder works after surgery. So it is typical to keep a dog or cat one night. Same thing with intestinal surgery – need to make sure things move the right direction. However, after a routine dental cleaning, spay, or neuter, there’s no reason for an animal to spend the night unless it is for the clients convenience. Most dogs and cats preferred to wake up at home and wake up better under their owners care.
When selecting a new veterinarian, don’t forget that many veterinary services can be shopped – what this means is that some veterinarians are less expensive than others. If your veterinarian charges for every single tooth to be extracted during a dental procedure, your $200 dental can easily become $1200!
Basically, when you go to your veterinary appointment, it should feel like home. It should feel like your veterinarian is part of the family. If your veterinarian does not treat your pets like you do, or you get the feeling she hears dollar signs when her door opens (rather than happy panting or painful whining) then you might want to keep looking.
Dr. Cathy Alinovi DVM
As a practicing veterinarian, Dr. Cathy treated 80% of what walked in the door — not with expensive prescriptions — but with adequate nutrition. Now retired from private practice, her commitment to pets hasn’t waned and she looks forward to impacting many more pet parents through her books, research, speaking and consulting work. Learn more at drcathyvet.com