Finding the right vet for your pet

There is no shortage of guides available on how to choose a great vet. Most require you to exhibit the deductive faculties of Sherlock Holmes or the interview skills of Jeremy Paxman as you ruthlessly and dispassionately discard one vet after another in your quest to find outstanding veterinary care. The reality is that ‘feel’ and instinct play an important role in the process. 

There is nothing intrinsically flawed about a process which requires you to ask potential suitors lots of questions (indeed, good vets should be happy to answer them), but in the main most of us don’t usually have the time to run through fifty questions and in many cases not everyone feels comfortable doing so. That is not to say that questions aren’t important, but there are far fewer key ones required than you might imagine.

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Where to start

The obvious place to start is the Good Vet & Pet Guide. Aside from being an independent source of pet owner reviews, you can be sure that all our reviews are genuine having been subject to rigorous moderation prior to publication. This means that you can see at a glance what pet owners like you feel about the service and care they have received. But don’t rely on this alone – satisfy yourself that the practice is right for you.

Don’t be put off though by the odd negative review. Even Rolls Royce has its occasional detractor. Negative reviews in particular are sometimes left in the heat of the moment. We always allow vets the public right of reply so pay close attention to how they respond to the original complaint. This can be a solid guide to how seriously they treat customer feedback.

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Location

In most cases, you will have to take your pet to the vet in order to receive treatment. It is therefore important that the practice is relatively easy to get to. If you travel by car, does the practice have on-site parking or is parking available near-by? If you travel by public transport, is it close to the major bus and rail routes?

These may sound like statements of the obvious but particularly in an emergency situation you do not want to be adding to yours or your pet’s stress levels by having to spend precious time looking for a parking space.

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Look and Feel

Oscar Wilde famously said ‘only a fool doesn’t judge a book by its cover.’ Whilst his tongue was jammed firmly in his cheek, there is a grain of truth in this statement. Does the building and reception area look clean and tidy?Does it look as if the staff care about the appearance of their practice? This is less about having modern facilities (although important, see below) and more about the culture of the practice.

 

Reception Staff

The reception team are an often overlooked but vital part of any veterinary surgery. They are invariably your first point of contact with the practice both in person and over the telephone. Are they smiling and welcoming upon your arrival? Do they put you at your ease? If you call by telephone, are they helpful and friendly? A good way of testing the surgery’s ability to accommodate your specific needs, is to ask if there are separate arrangements in place to cater for your nervous/boisterous pet either by accessing the practice via a separate entrance or a discreet waiting area.

The point here is that irrespective of whether separate arrangements are in place, the reception staff should be willing to address those kind of concerns in a helpful and constructive manner by finding a solution to the problem.

 

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24 Hour Care

As many of you will know, we have a preference for in-house 24 hour care although we fully accept that cost considerations do not make it possible for every vet to offer round the clock care. In such cases, make sure that you ask about the specific arrangements and in particular whether someone is on-site at all times or just pops in throughout the night.

If they don’t provide their own 24 hour care, find out who does and where they are based, most importantly you will need to know where they are and how easy it is to get there - apply the same principles as you would in the logistics section above. Emergencies tend to happen in the middle of the night on a bank holiday weekend, so it would be a good idea to input the destination of the Out of Hours provider into your sat nav today.

 

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RCVS Accreditation

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) introduced the Practice Standards Scheme (PSS) in the recent past to encourage practices of a wide variety of types in size, species dealt with, facilities, staffing, and many other differences to work towards attaining some recognizable standards for the benefit of the practices, their clients and patients. 

Whilst accreditation is no absolute guarantee of anything it does provide a clue that the practice is committed to continuous improvement and the obtaining of an externally recognised quality standard. Where we have the information to hand, we always try to include whether a surgery is RCVS accredited on each practice’s listing on our site.

 

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Insurance

This is a subject all on its own! It is, however, worth checking with your vet about how they deal with claims under your pet’s insurance policy and how your insurer expects claims to be handled. Ask any busy veterinary practice and you will find that this is a source of occasional confusion and frustration so make sure you are aware of what needs to be done and what is covered by your policy.

 

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In summary

The above list is not exhaustive and is simply designed to provide a flavour of things to bear in mind. In the final analysis, however, there are worse methods than trusting your gut instinct. If it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck and walks like duck, there is a good chance that it isn’t a kangaroo!