Choosing a new vet can be a daunting task. It is worth spending time to find out about your local practices so that when you join your new vet you will be happy to remain and build a successful partnership in the pursuit of your pet’s health and wellbeing. So what sort of things should you think about when choosing your new vet?

Consider the location of your new vet’s practice.

In most circumstances it is a good idea to choose a new veterinary practice which is located fairly close to where you live. This will reduce travelling time for you and your pet since many animals find travelling stressful; especially when they are unwell. Having a vet close by can also be a life saver in an emergency situation. 

Occasionally, people choose a veterinary practice located close to their work rather than their home. This is particularly common if they take a dog to work with them on a regular basis. This can work well during your normal working hours, but consider what you would do if an urgent situation were to arise while you were at home. It is also worth finding out about the availability of parking or any public transport routes when choosing your new vet.

Look at practice websites, online reviews and ask for personal recommendations

Once you have a shortlist of vets within a reasonable traveling distance your next step may be to look for online reviews. Or discuss the different practices with family or friends. Many people look for recommendations when searching for a new vet. Both online reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations can be helpful. Surveys suggest that around 60% of people use these methods when choosing a new vet. Online reviews are particularly useful since you will often get a broad range of clients commenting on the services and facilities of any practice you are interested in. 

Social media and practice websites are other useful ways of getting a general impression about your prospective new vet. While looking through online reviews, practice websites, social media and talking to other people about your shortlist of veterinary practices there will be many factors to consider before making your final decision.

What are the vet’s opening hours?

How convenient will your new vet’s normal opening times be for you? Many vets work beyond the normal nine to five hours. You may find a veterinary practice that has late or early opening times during the week. This can be extremely helpful if you have to fit vet visits around your job or school times. Many veterinary practices are open at the weekends too. Check that your new vet’s normal working times will be convenient for you and enable you to easily schedule your pet’s routine appointments.

What happens in an emergency?

Another important factor to consider are the arrangements for out of hours emergencies. Some veterinary practices will cover their own out of hours work, while others will use a dedicated out of hours provider. It is worth checking what your new vets’ out of hours arrangements are. Ensure that you will be able to travel easily to any other premises if required.

Which services and facilities are available at your new veterinary practice?

When choosing a new vet it can be helpful to find out what facilities, services and equipment are available at your prospective new veterinary practice. You may be interested in things such as the practice providing separate dog and cat wards, nurse clinics, puppy classes or behavioural services. Are there any more unusual services available such as acupuncture or physiotherapy? If you have exotic pets such as reptiles or birds, do any of the practice team have a special interest in these animals?

Will you always be able to see the same vet or will you see many different vets? 

In larger practices it may not be possible to see the same vet each time your pet needs attention. This may  be easier to arrange in a smaller practice or a particular branch of a larger one. So think about whether this is important to you.

Are there several branches and where are these branches located? 

In larger practices with several different branches you may occasionally be asked to travel between the branches. This may be necessary due to different opening times and facilities.

It is worth finding out about this prior to joining your new vet. And working out how you would be able to travel to the different locations if required.

Is your new vet a member of the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme?

Some veterinary practices subscribe to a voluntary Practice Standards Scheme run by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). If your new vet is a member of this scheme the practice will be inspected regularly. If the practice passes their inspection they will be allowed to display the RCVS Accredited Practice logo. Remember that not all practices subscribe to this scheme. There are many good practices which will not display the RCVS logo. However, if your new vet does have this type of accreditation it may give you some extra reassurances about the standards they maintain in their practice. 

Hopefully, after doing a little bit of research and getting some positive recommendations you will feel confident in your choice of new vet. The final step will be to contact your chosen new vet and find out if their general “bedside manner” gives you the reassurance that you have made the right choice. 

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