On Selecting your Veterinarian…Part 1: The investigation.

Posted: August 2, 2011 in Choosing a German Shepherd., Veterinary Considerations, Working Dogs

Don’t take choosing your new dog’s Veterinarian lightly.  Do your research, interview the Doctor(s), the Techs, and the Office staff.  Do it BEFORE you bring the puppy home.  Weeks BEFORE.  Prepare them for your puppy.  Let them prepare YOU for what’s ahead.

“Mom says I gotta go to the Doctor…”

There, that’s as plain as I can make it.  I couldn’t come up with a snappy intro to this post, so I’m hitting you square in the pie-hole with it.  Here’s how to proceed so that you, your dog, and your Vet have the most productive relationship for your dogs life.

First and foremost, If at all possible please find a Veterinarian that has accreditation from the AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association)  This is a professional organization, who’s credo reads this way:

“Certified by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). AAHA represents the Gold Standard of veterinary practice in the United States.Nationwide fewer than 15% of veterinary practices qualify for AAHA certification.Pet safety is paramount with cardio-pulmonary monitoring during all surgical procedures, and use of Isoflurane anesthetic.We also endorse and practice strict standards of pain management for pets.”

Look up the AAHA website and read for yourself why this accreditation means so much.  I hope you can find such a Vet for your Pack.  If you are close to Columbus, Ohio, I can help you…

Now, on to the meat of the matter, and the steps I hope that you will take for your own choice.  Before starting, let me remind you that finding a time when the offices you visit are not busy can be difficult.  On your first visit, ASK if they are currently busy, and when a visit might be more convenient.

First, arm yourself with knowledge.  How do I feel about Vaccination protocols generally accepted in the, (Yes, I’m using the word) INDUSTRY?  LEARN about vaccination  ” necessities”, and  “possibly harmful”  vaccination practices!  The differences in Vets is staggering, and often motivated by MONEY.    What do I know about “Best Practices” with regular check-ups and Preventative Care?  Do I even know how a Vets office functions?  These questions are best answered by YOU reading and understanding.  Develop a working knowledge of them for yourself, as you will be making the decisions.  Most people don’t do the homework, and rely on the Doctors decisions. (“He went to Veterinary college!  Shouldn’t He or She know best?”)  The truth is this:  The Doctor is running a small business, and is best served by knowledgable Customers, with enough sense to ask GOOD Questions.  Honor the Doctors professional achievement by being ready to help him.

Secondly, get in your car and visit Vets offices in person, without a pet in tow.  Take notes.  Take pictures if you are allowed.  Be straightforward with the front desk staff, by telling them, “I am interviewing Veterinarians and their staff in preparation for my new puppy that is coming home on ———-.”    A Good front office staff person will immediately welcome you, ask about your future puppy, and show you around the public area of the office.  A Good staffer may offer you information in the form of brochures, and other handouts.  A  Great Staff Member, will do those things as well, but will continue on by introducing you to the Vet-Techs that may be around, and to any Doctor that is not in the middle of a patient.  A Good Vet-Tech will tell you their name, maybe where they went to school, and tell you how they are involved in your dogs care.  I like to ask if they have experience with “Working Dogs”, and the special needs that they require.  If they say “No”, don’t necessarily dismiss them.  They might be young, inexperienced, fresh out of school.  Hopefully they will say that they WANT to learn more about that type of dog…Enthusiasm counts!  If they say “Yes” to experience, question them a bit further.  What do they know about Search & Rescue, Tracking, or Schutzhund?  Don’t be afraid to be direct, “What type of injuries do you normally see from dogs that do this work?”  Use YOUR knowledge to gauge the knowledge of the staffer.  Again, YOU must be fully armed with knowledge!

As you become familiar with at least one staff member, hopefully they will offer you a more comprehensive tour of the facility.  Think like a dog as you take this tour!  Use your nose, and your ears, as well as your eyes.  Does the office smell clean and well tended?  Are the patients housed in clean facilities, and seem calm?  Is the office quiet and calm?  Does the facility have a “Path of Patient Movement”?  By that, I mean do patients and family enter thru one door and then exit thru another?  This keeps separation possible, and the anxiety level low.  Most Vets attempt to keep too many patients from being together at one time.  Are the office staff calm, and projecting the same atmosphere?  Observe how patients react to the employees as well.  Remember, this can be a scary place for pets, OR it can be a place of healing and well-being.  This is NO DIFFERENT than you or your human childs’ Physician when it comes to the atmosphere that you want.

Take note of equipment available as well…but understand that having the latest bling  medical machines does not necessarily make this the best place for you.  The point is to learn if your tour-guide knows what equipment is on hand, and how it benefits you and your dog.  Well Trained and Accurately Informed employees indicate a Doctor that continuously trains and helps his employees to do their jobs better!

Now, ask yourself, “Does this office give me a good feeling?  Does the atmosphere give me confidence?  Do these people project that my dog would be well cared for if necessary?  Go with your “Gut feeling” on this, supplemented with your knowledge of what you expect. If NOT, don’t bother going any further.  This is NOT the Vet for you!  Thank the employee for their time and leave.  But take note of “Why” you were not comfortable and bank that knowledge as you visit other offices.   If you DO feel comfortable, set up an appointment to meet the Veterinarian.  You may have to pay for a 15 or 20 minute visit, but the visit will pay big dividends in the future.  The Doctors time is valuable, and deserves to be honored. Make an appointment, informing the office staff that your purpose is in “Interviewing the Vet” and asking questions in an unhurried manner.  Thank the entire staff for your visit, and their help, leave a GREAT impression with them, they may be valuable in the future!!!  NEXT:  How to Hire a Veterinarian!

  1. Dharma Gsd says:

    Ask if they have a quarantine exam room with a separate entrance;
    Ask if they abide by the most recent AAHA vaccination protocols for core/non-core vaccinations;
    Ask if they will titer instead of vaccinating.

  2. Rogue9119 says:

    Thanks Robert complete Awesomness helps alot!!!