How to Choose a Veterinarian


Dog with a vetSo, you’ve adopted a puppy or new dog. How do you go about choosing the right veterinarian?

You can assume all veterinarians are experts on canine and feline health, but that doesn’t always mean they are good with all types of dogs and cats. It also doesn’t guarantee they have good communication skills around people.

I thought I’d share a few ideas to think about when choosing a vet, because you want to find someone who makes both you and your pet comfortable.

How to choose the right vet for your dog or cat

Ask other dog and cat owners who they would suggest.

Start out by asking your local dog-owning friends which veterinarian’s office they use. Even if there is only one vet in your town, some of your friends might take their pets to a vet in a nearby area. Maybe the care is better there, or maybe the prices are more reasonable.

Ask your friends and neighbors what they like about the vet they use and what they don’t like. You can also read online reviews through Google+, Yelp and Facebook to see what other people are saying.

Compare prices.

Prices do vary from office to office, and while you probably wouldn’t mind paying a bit more for better care, why should you pay twice as much for a routine exam or vaccinations? It is worth calling a couple veterinary offices in your area. Some questions to ask related to prices could include:

  • What do you charge for basic exams for dogs? And for cats?
  • How about for senior pets? (Some will charge more for senior exams)
  • What are the prices for routine vaccinations such as rabies?
  • Do you offer any discounts for multi-pet households?
  • What do you charge for a spay/neuter surgery?
  • What do you charge for dentals?
  • Do you accept Care Credit (a health credit card)?

Find out the vet’s approach to vaccinations.

You probably don’t want your dog or cat vaccinated every single year if it’s not necessary, but some vets still recommend it. Too many vaccines may be harmful to your pet’s health, and no one wants to pay for something that’s unnecessary.

Dr. Cathy Alinovi is a veterinarian and the owner of Healthy PAWsibilities. She said it’s best for your dog if you find a vet that offers 3-year vaccines.

(Although, some areas will still require annual rabies vaccines for dogs and cats by law.)

Ask about hours and how emergencies are handled.

Some vet offices close at 5 p.m. every weekday while others remain open in the evenings. Some are open on weekends, and some are not.

Think about your schedule and what hours would be the most convenient for you.

It’s also a good idea to ask how the vet handles emergencies. Does this particular office handle emergencies as they come in? Does it send them elsewhere? If so, where is that hospital located? Knowing this is important in case your dog is ever in need of emergency care on a Saturday or in the middle of the night. I don’t know about you, but my animals always seem to get sick on the weekends.

And for non-emergencies such as spay and neuter surgeries, Alinovi suggested pet owners ask about how long a dog will be required to stay for recovery.

“The shorter, the better,” she said. “Overnight is not necessary.”

How does the vet approach nutrition?

Alinovi supports raw diets for dogs and cats, and she recommends pet owners find a vet who also supports raw diets, even if this may not be the best food for your pet.

If the vet is supportive of raw diets, it shows she understands healthy nutrition, Alinovi said.

“The vet will understand food is the biggest thing we do for our pets, so it should be the best quality possible,” she said.

Other topics to consider:

  • If you have a dog that is nervous, aggressive or fearful at the vet, you will want to make sure to find someone who is tolerant, patient and experienced handling all sorts of dogs. The same is true if you have a fearful cat.
  • If it’s important to you to use natural products such as natural flea and tick prevention products, you may want to find a vet who is supportive of this vs. the chemical alternatives.
  • And finally, ask yourself if this person is someone you are comfortable talking to. Does she take the time to listen to your concerns and answer your questions?

When you chose your dog or cat’s vet, what factors were important to you?

About Lindsay Stordahl

Lindsay Stordahl is a blogger for She has a black Lab mix named Ace and two naughty cats named Beamer and Scout. Lindsay owns a pet sitting business called Run That Mutt and also maintains the blog ... Add Lindsay to your Google+ circles at . You can follow Lindsay on Twitter @ThatMutt.

  1. Thanks for sharing this advice on choosing the right veterinarian for your pet. I had no idea that different vets have different opinions on vaccination frequencies. It sounds like I should probably find a vet who doesn’t recommend vaccinations yearly if they could end up harming your pet! Checking their emergency policy is another good thing to look into.

  2. My wife and I just got our first puppy so we’re looking for a good veterinarian. We didn’t know that some could act better with certain breeds of dogs. We like your tip about asking other pet owners what they liked. That could really help us make the best decision.

  3. I find it interesting that this article recommends vaccinations every three years. It makes it sound like there is a specific type of vaccine that is required to meet the three year date, maybe not every vaccine lasts three years. I think it is also important to note that it is a very good idea to seek the expertise of a vet to administer the shot instead of electing to do it yourself.

  4. My husband and I just got a lab puppy and are going to be taking him to his first vet appointment soon. I appreciate your recommendation to ask if they handle emergencies themselves or refer them elsewhere, as well as if they see emergencies on weekends. Knowing where to take him if he needs immediate care, whether it’s at our normal vet, or an emergency hospital near us, will decrease our stress during a hectic time.

  5. Thank you for your great tip on how you should start out by asking your local dog-owning friends which veterinarian’s office they use. I recently bought my first dog, and need to find a suitable vet that will take excellent care of her, but I have no idea how to choose the right one. I will definitely utilize all of your great tips and information when looking for the perfect veterinarian for my new dog.


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