Choosing your partner for good health

VetsChoosing a vet is a lot like choosing a pediatrician for your children. You want good credentials obviously, but you also want to feel comfortable with this trained professional. You want a person who will answer all your questions, even insignificant questions. You want a person who loves animals and cares about your pet's well-being. Here are a few things to consider to help you decide on a new vet:

Seek out recommendations

Ask friends and neighbors. They can be a great resource, especially if they're concerned pet owners. Ask around. If the same vet's name comes up more than once, that's good. Call the local humane society or breed association for additional suggestions.

Location, location, location

Choose a nearby clinic so you can get there quickly in an emergency. You don't want to drive far with a sick or injured pet.

Are their hours compatible with your hours?

If a trip to the vet means you'll have to take off work, there's a good chance your pet won't get care when needed it. Verify office hours work with your lifestyle. Many vet offices offer evening and weekend hours.

Do they offer 24-hour emergency care?

Emergencies always seem to occur late at night or on weekends, usually when your vet is unavailable. A good vet will be associated with a 24-hour emergency care plan that can put you in touch with someone in your area. Ask the doctor for the address and phone number of the nearest 24-hour facility. Keep the number handy and become familiar with its location.

Go for a get-acquainted visit

You can tell a lot about a veterinarian by visiting. Is it clean and neat? Look for a friendly staff that seems knowledgeable and helpful. Do patients in the waiting area seem a little nervous, but comfortable? Does the vet seem open and interested in you and your pet? This visit will probably be a deciding factor. If possible, make visits before you bring your pet home for the first time.

You and your pet's first visit to the vet

If you have a new pet, no matter where the pet came from, it should be checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Here's what you can expect at your first visit:

Be prepared to give a health history

During the first visit, give your veterinarian as much information as possible about your pet, including birth date and any vaccinations he may have had.

Take a stool sample

Scoop a recent sample from the yard and take it along in a little plastic bag. This will enable your veterinarian to immediately test your pet for possible internal parasites.

Expect a thorough exam

Your doctor should check your dog carefully and report on his general health. Your vet will take weight measurements, check its heart rate and temperature, check teeth for tartar or gum swelling, ears for ear mites and other fungus problems, eyes for normal pupil response and retinal appearance and body for ringworm using a black light. Standard blood work will probably be part of the first visit. Necessary shots to bring your pet up to date will be given.

Ask the veterinarian to set up a vaccination schedule

Routine vaccination requirements vary but usually begin sometime after six weeks of age. The doctor will advise you. The initial rabies vaccination is essential and should be given sometime between 3 and 4 months, depending on state regulations. Remember, most vaccines must be given over a period of time and require multiple veterinary visits.

Talk about neutering or spaying

Your pet will reach sexual maturity during the first year, so it’s never too early to discuss neutering or spaying to prevent unwanted puppies.

Ask questions

This initial visit is a good time to ask about grooming, bathing,housebreaking, nutrition, behavior issues, exercise, play time or any other questions you might have. In fact, it’s always a good idea to jot down observations about your pet’s behavior and mention them to the veterinarian when you visit.