Good Vets Shouldn’t Be Hard to Find

Thank you all so much for your kind words of support and advice. I am happy to report that Shiva and her nail are just fine. She doesn’t appear to have experienced any trauma, other than the embarrassment of my over-protective hovering. Even though I am still worried about her re-injuring herself, I think her poor little nail is on the mend. There just won’t be any more off-leash forays into the woods until I can be positive it is fully recovered. In the meantime, Shiva will just have to take out her excess energy on her poor elephant.

It’s odd how she only has dew claws on her two front paws. The ones on her rear legs must have been removed at some point. The area there is smooth so it wasn’t a hack job. Just interesting. There is so much from the first year of her life we will just never know.

This whole episode, as minor as it probably was, has got me thinking a lot about our current level of medical care for our animals. Many of you helpfully suggested we call our veterinarian for advice, instead of rushing her in for a costly visit. A very smart idea, no doubt. Unfortunately, we don’t really have this kind of relationship with our current clinic. In fact, we don’t really have any kind of relationship with them. We have seen a different doctor every time we have gone in for annual check-ups. Every time I call to make an appointment I have to explain to the receptionist that we only have one dog, not two like they seem to believe.  It’s all very impersonal. The level of care is acceptable but I certainly don’t feel comfortable just ringing them up.

This is something we are now going to look into changing. Since the cat is due for his yearly round of shots and Shiva will be due in April, it is a great time to shop around for a new vet. Perhaps this time we will have a name and a real person, not just a clinic. We selected our current place based solely on its proximity to our house. I can walk there if I have to, which is nice. Now I am thinking there are more important things in a good vet than location. I am going to ask some of our dog-owning friends where they go; I am sure they will have some great advice for whom to avoid and whom to court.

If you have any suggestions on what to look for in a vet, please let me know. Unfortunately, I am not nearly as knowledgeable as I should be. The health of our animals is vital to us and I can’t take it so lightly. We may not always be so lucky. It will be good to have someone we trust on our side should the worst ever happen.  

If Shiva is going to be a world-class agility star one day, I have a feeling we are going to need a vet we can put on speed-dial.

26 thoughts on “Good Vets Shouldn’t Be Hard to Find

  1. you need a vet who is honest with you – we have had two vets one who was upfront – for example – when the cat was ill he said I can do this – he will probably live another six months max – but he will not be comfortable – it is better that you put him down not – the second vet was much closer to home – walking distance – but she would not be honest – when Senta was getting bad – she would not tell me her honest opinion – we spent the money and got xrays done – which was stressful on the dog – and found she had hips that were ready to break – we had her put down. the vet said after we made the right choice – and something she was going to recommend but didn’t as she wanted to avoid stressing us out. Because she would not be upfront and honest with us – I put Senta through a more stressful situation ( the xrays) – she didn’t deserve that. We went back to vet number one – even though it was a 40 km drive to see him. Second tip – get a vet you can understand. Some are very technical – get one that will talk to you in plain English – Glad Shiva is ok – now how is her mom doing – recovering from the trauma yet? I hope so because you are great with her.

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  2. Finding a vet is like finding a mechanic– it’s hard to know whom to trust! I went with a personal recommendation, and I like our clinic, even though we don’t always seem the same vet; they all seem caring and competent, and they’re all up on the file. I would not hesitate to call them and bring in Our Best Friend for a situation like yours the other day. BUT– they are pricey. I think I’m over-paying. On the other hand, do I want to run around interviewing vets to save a few bucks? Proof that being lazy will cost you money.

    Ask around. Call the local SPCA– they usually have a handle on who the good vets are. Or ask your agility trainer (if she’s in the neighbourhood.) Or, each year, try a new one ’til you find one you like!

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  3. It is really hard to find a good vet… It is sad, but so many of them don’t really seem to care enough about the animals, and instead care more about preforming costly tests and procedures. We are very fortunate because Marc’s cousin is a vet, although he lives across the country. Whenever we have a question, or are unsure of what our vet tells us, we can check with Marc’s cousin. Unfortunately, not all vets like that (we don’t stay with those long). We were very lucky to find a local vet who makes house calls and works out of his house. He is an extremely caring man…. My best advice is to ask around and get people who live nearby honest opinion….

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  4. Very timely. I am going through the second breast cancer surgery in a month for my 16 year old, and am having difficulty communicating with the vets at the practice-a large one-that we go to now. All of the fosters have to go there per the rescue, so I switched to them when my former( awesome )vet moved out of state. I love one of the vets in this practice , but post-surgery, when the new hotshot surgeon deigned to speak with me for a few seconds, his reply to my questions about my girl’s prognosis was not to think too far ahead.

    With a large , super-busy practice, I find there is more of a personnel turnover and communication is spotty at best. Once when I called to check on another surgical patient foster (let’s call him “Chuck”), I finally got some info. but it was for a dog I do not know or own named “Oswald”…I guess if you say it enough times, maybe “Oswald” the chocolate Lab COULD sound a little like “Chuck” the Rottweiler mix.

    My search is on, too, for a less impersonal clinic where my dogs and cats will be seen as much-loved individuals and not another procedure to be assembly-lined. My plans are to arrange for a physical and ask to do a couple of quick front-office visits with one of my healthy dogs in advance of the appointment. That way I can see the place, get my dog (s) to associate with good stuff (I’ll bring treats for the staff to give him or her) and I can observe their interactions wh my dogs. If I’m not happy or comfortable, or my dog isn’t, I can cancel and pay the exam fee as a courtesy for their time.

    Glad Shiva’s nail will be OK, and good luck with your search.

    How about a post on “how to break up with your vet”?

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  5. My vet clinic closed rather suddenly last fall, and I had to find a new one. Here’s the post I wrote about the experience: http://reactivechampion.blogspot.com/2010/09/choosing-vet.html

    I also found the book “Speaking for Spot” helpful- there’s a chapter on choosing a vet, and it helped me figure out what to ask when I toured clinics.

    I’m very, very happy with the clinic I ended up choosing. I’ve referred some friends to them, too, and they have loved the clinic. One is even referring HER friends to the clinic. It took a fair amount of work up front, but I’m really happy with the clinic I chose.

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  6. I’ve been pretty lucky with my vet. Our family has had the same vet for over 30 years and the new vets that have come into the clinic are pretty good, too.

    this site might be of some help finding a new vet. http://www.vetratingz.com/ it has customer ratings of vets for USA & Canada. Might be a good place to start.

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  7. Over the years, we’ve changed our vets a few times. The medical problems we encountered necessitated the changes. We used to go to a practice just 2 minutes walk away. There were 2 vets there, one regular, the other holistic. Both were friendly and they were hugely convenient but, over time, we realized they just weren’t very good for anything other than booster shots and simple problems. Rufus was way too complicated a case for them.

    Our current practice is a bit further away, about 20 minutes walk. It has a few vets. We have 2 favorites, one of whom sadly just left. I’ve learnt it’s always good to have a backup in case one is busy/on holiday etc. This one makes detailed reports on the computer during the session, so everyone is in the know. He’s patient, honest and realistic about what can/should be done, and likes animals. The last point may sound ridiculous but I have met vets who don’t seem to have a affinity with animals.

    We also have one good holistic vet (unfortunately there are too many iffy ones) – expensive, but she helped diagnose the cause of Rufus’s many complicated and conflicting medical symptoms. They practise in a different way and may be worth checking out (though Shiva sounds like a very healthy and resilient dog)!

    I should point you towards Dr Finch’s blog as well, where she lately had a series on vets. You may find some good tips there…from a vet!

    Good luck! xox

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  8. Glad to hear she is ok! It is hard to find that report with a vet or doctor. I hope you find someone wonderful. Sounds like you are going about it in the best way.

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  9. Unfortunately, really good vets indeed ARE hard to find. We are so thankful that we now do have one. But had the misfortune to go through a lot of mediocre ones for years before that.

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  10. I don’t think any dog has dew claws on their back feet. I might be wrong about this, but none of ours ever have.

    I think a lot of choosing a good vet is finding one that has a good fit with you and your dog. We have to be very careful because Greyhounds have a different physiology than other dogs — the wrong anesthesia can kill them. I want a vet who understands that and is willing to listen to me and allow me to be an active participant in my dogs’ care. When our dogs have had problems in the past, I’ve done a lot of research on the subject so that I could make educated decisions on their care, and I don’t want to go in and be ignored or talked down to. All vets are not created equal and good ones are worth their weight in gold!

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  11. My aunt was our vet growing up. She was great for our family and had a great practice with top of the line equipment and staff. I “worked” with her as a kid running stool samples, running snap tests, observing surgery (all under supervision), restraining patients, and cleaning kennels/tables/runs. When she decided to leave private practice to pursue other avenues, we stuck with her clinic for a while (since she owned it) but I quickly decided I wasn’t pleased with the vets there.

    I got some suggestions and pretty much “interviewed” vets during a regular visit–asking about their thoughts on limited vaccines, services they offer (xray, surgery, etc), if they offer prescriptions to be filled at a human pharmacy (much cheaper), how they feel about phone consultations, asking how they’d care for performance dogs any different than pet dogs, how involved they are in continuing education (are they up on the latest treatments), and I watch how they relate to my dogs, how they work with them etc. I “judge” their facility, staff, etc to see if THAT is a place i feel comfortable.

    Shayne is a fearful dog and she (and I) prefer a vet who isn’t going to try and win her over or dilly dally, who will be pleasant and efficient with their work. When I moved to NY, the first time we needed a vet was a semi-emergency (ironically, a broken nail) so we just went to the closest one that was open. Boy was I lucky… I walked in and told the vet she was a fearful but to just go about his business as she will tolerate the handling no problem but will never be his friend. He did… he didn’t try to woo her over, didn’t try to kissy-noise her to say hi, he just did his job and spoke honestly with me about things. To some, he would be seen as … cold … but for me he was great, using technical language, treating me like I was knowledgeable (which i’m assuming he gathered I was), LISTENING to me when I told him about my dog (her fear). It really bugs me when vets try to speak down to me or when they ignore my instructions/suggestions regarding how they handle my pups.

    Good Luck with finding a new vet… take your time and make sure you feel comfortable with them!

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  12. The problem with finding a good vet these days is probably the same everywhere, most vet clinics have multiple vets. If you do find one there who you feel a rapport with and who you trust with your precious kids what are the chances you’ll get them when you need them?

    With Beryl’s tail docking last week I drove an extra 25 minutes to take her to a vet clinic near the GAP kennels as they deal with all the GAP Greyhounds and are very experienced in things Greyhound. It will be our 5th trip, since Thursday afternoon, there and back this afternoon for the bandage change! But I’m quite happy to take my chances with Frankie at our local vet clinic which is 5 minutes away. Not that he is any less special than Beryl at all! If he did need specialist treatment then I would take him to a specialist vet.

    Glad Shiva’s dew claw is all good again. Those front ones can be a nuisance. When I was breeding Shelties, many years ago, a friend used to come and snip off any (front and back) dew claws when they were a few days old. Some breeds of dog are required to have hind dew claws, is it the Great Pyrenees that should have double hind dew claws?

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  13. I have switched vets a number of times in the last few years … it’s been hard to find a practice I like, and feel respected at. I’ve landed in good company — ahousecallvet.com — she practices in the Boston area, all housecalls, and not much more than a regular vet’s office visit. Best of all, she doesn’t try to strong-arm me into extra tests, vaccines, or pricey/junky “prescription” kibble.

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  14. In Philadelphia, I chose a vet who was close to our home and I really regretted it. That bad choice resulted in additional surgery for Christie after her spaying and months of flea treatments. But in my 20s, I wasn’t as good as advocating for my dogs as I am now.

    Getting references from people who share your understanding of proper animal care is helpful. I also found a lot by reading the yellow pages ads. Vets use the phrases they feel really express something about their practice. Vets that hype “full surgical suite and 24 hour care” are going to be different than those who say “caring for pets and their people.” Which one meets your needs better?

    When I first moved here, I didn’t know anyone well enough to get referrals. So I used the yellow pages method and I decided to look for a woman vet–just because I like supporting women-owned businesses. I was very fortunate. My current vet (who is a 15 minute walk from my home) was in that practice. She’s great and she’s very supportive of seeking out additional help (like accupuncture or homeopathy) if I want to investigate alternative treatments.

    Glad you and Shiva survived the ordeal. Shiva looks adorable in her little white bandage and I’m sure she’s soaking up all kinds of guilt-ridden attention from you.

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  15. We are lucky because our Gramma and Grampa (and now our Mama) have been using the same vet’s office for over 20 years now. Our big sisters at the Rainbow Bridge went to that vet their entire lives, including the sad endings of having to be put to sleep. The thing they like about that vet is that the staff members are friendly and loving. Many of the employees have gotten to know each of us pets personally and will greet us happily when they see us. So our humans really trust them. It is also clean and well kept. But since our Mama has never used another vet, she has no clue if there are even better offices out there!

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  16. I have had some bad experiences with past vets and now I am completely comfortable with our current one. They are honest and practical, which I really love. But the I think the biggest thing I love is the trust, that exist between our vet and us and the dogs. Our dogs aren’t easy to take to the vet, but our vet handles them with ease. Brut is almost the best one, if you can believe that.

    If you can find one that you are comfortable with all around that’s like hitting the jackpot. We are very lucky. I hope you are as lucky as well. Just keep looking. There is nothing wrong with changing vets, how many times you have to until you and Shiva are happy.

    And in reply to houndstooth, dogs can have back dewclaws. Both Brut and Fiona have one on their back left legs. Most people get them removed, but we thought it was so unique we kept them.

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  17. Heehee, most dogs only have dew claws on their front legs. A lot of working dogs get their front dew claws taken off when they’re little. Some dogs have them on the hind two as well, but it’s much less common. There are even some breeds of dogs (the names escape me) that have TWO dewclaws on each foot. They’re some kind of mountain dogs and I think the idea is that it helps them keep their footing on the mountain ledges. Pretty cool, right?

    I’m a big know-it-all when it comes to my animals’ health. I do a LOT of research beforehand so I know what I’m talking about when I get to the vet, so I need a vet who’s willing to listen to me and work with me. Because I feed raw, I also need a vet that won’t blame everything automatically on diet. I found my vet a few years ago and love her dearly. You have to decide what’s important to you.

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  18. I found my vet through a friends referral. I just started asking who people took their dogs to. In that practice, there are 4 vets and by visiting them I found my first and second choice within the practice. Of course, having two sickly dogs helps me get to know them-if you only go in for yearly exams, it isn’t easy to develop a relationship. (and in a emergency, any of the 4 do to get the girls well again)

    Also, are you sure she was even born with rear dew claws? Most dogs don’t have them when they are born.

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  19. Good vets are HARD to find. I remember asking EVERYONE I KNEW who their vet was and what their favourite and least favourite thing about them was. I also had a list of non-negotiables for what I wanted in a vet (ie. someone willing to accept our philosophy on diet and try to force us to one of the “prescription diets”.). I also wanted someone willing to talk to me – explain the diagnosis, what it means and what the treatment options were not just write me a prescription and ask to see us again in two weeks. I really do my research before we go to the vet, so I want someone willing to talk through it with me – and I am happy to pay a little more for the extra time I know that will take. We ultimately went with a holistic vet who when I met her I just knew she was “our” vet.

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  20. Hi! Good luck with your veterinary team search. I am so encouraged that you are making it such a priority. And great advice from all your commenters! Get referrals, make a list of what is most important to you, visit and call some. When you find YOUR vet team, they will be as happy to find YOU as you are to find THEM. Even the routine vet stuff is more rewarding to experience with the right vet team.

    Thank you Georgia Little Pea : ) And someone said “Speaking for Spot” which I LOVE – Dr. Kay has excellent advice for finding YOUR vet.

    I will be anxious to hear what (and who) you find. You are already SO on the right track for being proactive. I just know you will find an awesome pet-loving, medically excellent team who loves your Shiva (almost!) as much as you do! : )

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  21. When I moved to a new area and didn’t have anyone to ask about a vet, I looked up all the vets that looked good and went to each, asking for tours of their office, patient rooms, and surgical rooms. I wanted to see if everyone seemed happy and professional and than everything was clean. It really helped me solidy my vet and I made a great decision. Good luck, it’s a pain, but it’s worth it!

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  22. Pingback: In Search of a New Vet, Part One « Rescued Insanity

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