In Search of a New Vet, Part Two

Part one can be found here.

Three weeks ago Shiva was due for her annual exam. It was time to put this new vet to the ultimate test. If she could handle the Shivster with grace, we knew we’d have a keeper. Shockingly, Shiva behaved herself amazingly well. So well I didn’t even have to bring up her “stranger danger” fears. She didn’t bark at the vet once! Our typically docile cat gave the vet more trouble than Shiva did.

She stood so nicely throughout the entire physical exam. Her body remained fairly relaxed and, other than jumping up on the reception desk, she maintained a fairly calm demeanor. It surprised me so much, I didn’t catch the brief moment her tail tucked between her legs. Thankfully, my PH was paying attention and popped her a couple treats in reassurance. We have been able to convince Shiva that people usually have good intentions. And food. After sneaking the vet a few cookies, she and Shiva were best friends.

It was such a huge difference from our former vet who took one look at Shiva’s frightened face and asked “do I need to muzzle her?” Grrr. It wasn’t that he asked the question, I understand he didn’t want to get hurt, but it was the way he asked it that really rankled my nerves. He was abrupt, rude, assuming. He seemed much more concerned about his own comfort than my dog’s. There was even a moment where he made a few disparaging remarks about rescue dogs. Why we went to him for two years I don’t know.

If there is one thing I have learned throughout this whole veterinary exploration, it’s that one’s vet doesn’t have to be one’s vet for life.

My childhood dog only ever saw one person. We went to the exact same clinic every single time, every single year, for seventeen years. I’m not saying he wasn’t good, I don’t know, but if he wasn’t I also don’t know if we would have thought to take her elsewhere. My parents chose the clinic based solely upon location. They chose our family doctor in much the same way. There was this sort of unwritten understanding that a person was supposed to use the clinic located in her neighbourhood. To go outside of that neighbourhood was just weird. At least, that’s the kind of sense I got. So when we adopted Shiva, we looked around, found the nearest veterinarian, and didn’t look back.

I’ve also had this idea that vets, like family doctors, are permanent. Given that I’ve never stuck with the same hairdresser for more than six months, it’s funny I felt so tied down in this way. Now I don’t think that is true at all. In fact, I think it is important to seek a second, or even third opinion. something doesn’t sound or feel right, one should definitely ask around. Even though I think we’ll continue seeing this new vet, in no way does that mean we will always go to her. Things change. Animals change. There is no law saying we have to pick one vet and stick with her. We’re paying her, after all, and have the right to choose.

Now I know what the level of care can and should be I don’t think it will be nearly as difficult in the future. I have expectations now:

  • A vet should at least pretend to like our animals
  • A vet should refrain from obvious outward judgment
  • A vet should offer alternative solutions
  • A vet should explain what each vaccination is for in a way I understand
  • A vet should patiently answer questions and not check her watch every five seconds
  • A vet should encourage us to call with any concerns (bonus if the vet also calls us the next day to make sure all is well!)
  • A vet should take our concerns seriously
  • A vet should care about the health of all animals

These may seem like no-brainers but apparently these are not qualities found in every vet. I make a vow to never accept anything less from now on.

Brief flea update: Since the day my practically husband returned, the cat has stopped losing his fur. There haven’t been any clumps of hair on the floor after I vacuumed Saturday morning. I am very relieved, if a little insulted. Am I that bad of a cat mom?? We’re going to keep checking him ourselves with a comb and then bring him to his scheduled appointment in three weeks. *crosses fingers* Thanks for all of your great advice!

26 thoughts on “In Search of a New Vet, Part Two

  1. I love your “good vet” list. I think that’s a great way to figure out if your vet is working for you outside the stress of the appointment.

    Two things I’ve noticed from my favorite vets–they always have their own cookies close at hand and they are willing to work with a dog on the floor since it’s less scary than the shiny, metal table.

    Of course, it doesn’t sound like jumping upon a table is at all scary to Shiva. I wish you had a picture of her on the reception desk. 🙂

    And it sounds like you and the PH make a great team. Tag-team cookie popping, huh?

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    • Those are also two great points! Cookies on hand is a smart idea, shows the vet cares about making the dog comfortable. So far, both vets we’ve been to have allowed Shiva to remain on the floor – mostly because she is too big to expect her to jump on the table. Little do they know…

      Shiva thinks every surface is littered with fun things meant just for her. It’s more than a little embarrassing and why we keep her on a tight leash during outdoor festival. 😛 Ugh.

      LOL. If you want to be on Team Shiva, you learn to be very fast with the kibble!

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  2. Our vet just made #5 on the list of top 5 vets in our city! (Don’t think it was a very scientific survey, thought). I should be more clear– our clinic made the list. We usually see the same vet, but we’ve had a different one from time to time. We’re a patient of the clinic, not a specific vet. But so far so good, and I love the fact that Our Best Friend gets letters addressed to him reminding him of check-ups!

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    • Right on! Even if the survey was just client-based, I think it still tells you a lot. I wouldn’t go to a vet everyone told me was bad. If so many others have bad experiences, I expect to as well. It’s good to know your clinic is obviously very popular!

      I love the animal-addressed letters as well. Our clinic even has an online program to email us reminders about medication and appointments. We can log in and see all their health records. It’s pretty cool and it’s all free.

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  3. What a great list! My family too had one vet that we used since I was a child. I didnt even weigh other options until my cat developed a chronic illness. Obviously not an expert, I simply took the treatment and prognosis at his word. As time went on, however, I just felt there had to be more we could do. A friend referred me to their chosen vet who then offered me multiple options that turned out to be better on my budget AND made Dinker’s remaining years much more comfortable and easily managed. I have been with them (a clinic) ever since. It’s a longer drive but my furballs are worth it. I must admit I did feel guilty leaving our original vet which seems ridiculous but thankfully I did.
    PS…love your blog =)

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    • Yikes, that’s pretty scary. I am so glad your friend was able to recommend her vet and improve Dinker’s quality of life. The health of our animals is so vital to everything. I feel guilty for not making our choice of a clinic more of a priority for so long.

      I don’t feel guilty for dumping our old vet. He didn’t even know our names so I highly doubt he will notice we’re gone.

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  4. Good for you on have expectations and sticking to them, your babies are worth that! Our family is so lucky though we won the jackpot of vets. I tell people that my relationship with Dr. C is my longest running sucessful relationship with a man!! LOL He’s been our family vet for 30 years! We found him just as he was starting his Vet practice. I wish you all the luck in finding the perfect fit because when you do it takes a world of worry off you as a pet parent to know their care is in the perfect hands!

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    • That’s fantastic! How lucky you were able to find someone you could have a real relationship with. I’d love to actually get to know our vet better so that we can become friends. That is definitely the most ideal situation.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  5. I had always used one particular vet for my animals. When Delilah joined us and we realized she hadn’t been spayed, I scheduled an appointment with our vet.

    We were closing on our house and I thought it would be a great day to have her fixed. The vet’s office called and said she had a urinary tract infection and couldn’t perform the surgery. We couldn’t go and get her because we were closing on the house.

    When we finally got her in to be fixed, I was so upset because they insisted on keeping her overnight with the reason being they “didn’t want her to do something rude like rip out the stitches.” Yet, no-one stayed with her at the vet’s unlike her mother who sleeps in the same bed with her! After her surgery (during one of the calls) the vet told me my dog was a “behemoth.” When I took her to get get stitches out, she called her “the spay from hell.”

    Someone recommended a different vet and I switched and I absolutely love them. If I ever finish the story of Delilah’s mystery illness, you will hear more about this wonderful clinic.

    The Drs we have seen are very open to alternative treatments and our specific vet, tends to lean towards holistic medicine.

    I’ve rambled and raged making absolutely no sense, so I am signing off. Glad you found a great vet!

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    • She actually said that? The “spay from hell”? Jeepers. I understand they don’t have a very easy job but that just doesn’t strike me as very professional.
      Our former vet seemed to have a similar attitude to yours. When we took Shiva in for her first appointment, days after adopting her from the shelter, he went on about his wife’s terrible rescue dog and how he wasn’t sad when they put it down. It bothered me due to it’s sheer rudeness yet I kept going back because I figured that was just the way all vets are.

      So glad I was wrong! And so glad you have found someone that works so much better for you.

      It’s great when all medical practioners, human and animal, are open to alternative treatments and can make some great suggestions.

      Thanks for sharing your story!

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  6. I find having a “team of vets” works best for me. However, they all have to listen to me and trust that I really know my dogs. Without trust, you have nothing.

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    • True, trust is very important. I hope as time goes by I can build that with our new vet. If not then we may have to look elsewhere again.

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  7. thank you for this checklist! we have a first visit with a new vet this weekend and I am sort of dreading it. here’s hoping it goes well! if our new vet has all the criteria you listed, I think we should be fine 🙂

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    • Good luck!

      I used to dread going as well, almost as much as my animals do. Though luckily Shiva seems to take it all in stride these days. The cat, however, despises the entire ordeal.

      You really just have to trust your instincts. If something about them is off or if they don’t help you feel comfortable then maybe they aren’t the right choice. You are paying them a lot of money, after all.

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  8. We are super picky about the vets we see. We went through a lot of vets before we found one that we really wanted to stick. Now that we have though, we’ll stick with him until he retires! With as many dogs as we have we know we’re good business for a vet’s office so we’re willing to shop around 😉 Your list is a great one.

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  9. Your list is perfect! Why shouldn’t we take as much care in picking out a vet as we do a doctor for our kids? Pets are family too. I’m so glad it was a less stressful visit.

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  10. Ah ha, stress induced hair loss. That is much better than fleas. Maybe a little rescue remedy when dad has to leave?

    I so agree about choosing a Vet. We are our pets advocate and we need to choose wisely and change when it is appropriate. I have said it before and I will say it again. Shiva is a very lucky girl to have such a great home.

    ~Sandy

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  11. Based on your requirements, I’m pretty sure I found My Vet 🙂

    You would think that liking animals would be a pre-requisite but I actually know someone who told me her son was keen to study vet science. The only problem? I”ve NEVER seen him have the slightest interest in animals. He lately got a dog that he doesn’t even look after particularly well and which has zero social skills. So there you are…if he ever does become a vet, I won’t be recommending him, friend or not.

    It IS strange that we’ve gone through several vets before landing The Big One. But are still with the same so-so GP!

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  12. Our vets move more often than we do! N has two highschool friends that are vets, so when we moved closer to a clinic that one of them worked at, we started going there. We saw different vets all the time there but they were all nice. Anyway the highschool friend stopped working there a few months ago because they wouldn’t let her go part time. We will probably continue to go to the clinic though!

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  13. I fully agree with your good vet list. I think all those points are important in building a good relationship. You’ve obviously found a good vet who cares, and Shiva must have felt that and decided to be a good girl. I’m happy for both of you, as it’s great relief to have someone reliable to turn to if anything goes wrong (touch wood).

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  14. Pingback: www.dogs3.com/blog - how can i stop my whippet puppy being so carsick?

  15. Great list! My family always went to the same vet when we were growing up. I don’t think I’d be that complacent now – we started Bella at a big local practice, but even that was hard as we saw a different doctor every time and some were better than others. Eventually, we found one doctor there we loved, and would always try to make our appointments with him. He left to open his own practice, so now we go to his new place (that he shares with another great vet). It’s much farther from our house (not great with the Carsick One), and I pass so many other vet clinics on the way there… but I can’t imagine switching and trying someone unknown!

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  16. We’ve only taken Charlie to one vet but she meets all those expectations you had written there and knew how to deal with dogs with stranger issues like Charlie. He only gave one warning growl the entire visit.

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  17. Oh, I feel for you. We’ve been there way too many times recently, what with our move to Australia and then constantly moving cities. We really took our lovely vet for granted back in Auckland with them knowing Honey from a pup – it’s been a struggle finding good vets since moving over. We had to change 3 times in Brisbane – but luckily, found a good one on 2nd attempt here in Newcastle. We’ll be moving again at the end of this year and I’m not looking forward to having to through the whole vet search yet again!!

    Hsin-Yi

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