Q: We've just moved and need to find a veterinarian. Do you have any suggestions on how to find the best match?
- Pauline Petlover
Dear Ms. Petlover: A good vet is almost as important as a good family doctor. You don't say when you moved so I'll assume you don't yet know people for recommendations and, therefore, must start your search from scratch. Thanks to Family Circle for the following tips:
• Research is key. Check www.myveterinarian.com and www.healthypet.com. These sites provide basic information, such as accredited practices, doctors' names, hours of operations, and so forth. If you live close to a dog park or see someone walking the dog or chasing their cat, ask for a referral.
• Once you've narrowed the choices, check out the office. Use your nose. Sniff out the disinfectant. If the odor is very strong, the staff may be trying to mask uncleanliness. On the other hand, if the smell of urine or "other" overpowers, then maybe other aspects of care are also stinky. Ask to see the equipment, which should be up to date even if the practice isn't a new one. Watch employees; they should be professional and knowledgeable. Pay strict attention to how everyone - from the head honcho on down to the receptionist - treats patients; otherwise, you won't know if your pet will get the attention he needs.
• Schedule a visit with Victor or Victoria Vet once you're at your final couple of choices. Most vets make time for a brief consult prior to a "real" appointment. While many don't charge for this service, check beforehand to be sure.
• Take a list of questions to the consult. Since it's important to make the right decision for a long-term relationship, ask about walk-in policies, after-hours appointments, payment options, insurance, and boarding. According to the immediate past president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Douglas Aspros, "If the place looks neat, the people seem warm, and clients have a genuine rapport with the staff, you(re)...making a smart choice."
Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears every Saturday. Email her at consumer firstname.lastname@example.org.