What Is Important To You?
Consider these factors:
Location. Clients drive far and wide to stay with the vet they like. But all things being equal, this might be the number one deciding factor for many owners when looking for a new vet. If new to the area, make a few trips from home to the vet’s parking lot and see if the traffic flow is acceptable to you. Do this even before you need their service and before you set up your first appointment. Compare this to the next nearest one and ask for a clinic tour from both. Again, you need to do this before making an official “office visit.”
Convenient hours. It will be nice to be able to come in before or after work, but staffing costs hospitals money too and so there is a price attached to those extended hours. Check out the hours on Saturdays to because that might be the only time of the week sometimes that you are free. Keep the emergency clinic’s phone number posted to your fridge “before” you end up needing it.
Cost. Try not to be cheap because it can actually be dangerous to your pet’s health. On the other hand, quality care does not need to be expensive. Opt for reasonable. Avoid comparing apples to oranges. Once procedure performed by one doctor might not be exactly the same when done by another. Consider the doctor’s skill level and number of years of experience. Look at the place’s amenities. Do you want to go to a more expensive free-standing facility or can you can good service from a vet at a shopping mall? Is your vet at a lease-hold facility charging a relatively higher fee than her neighbors anyway? If so, do you feel that it is still worth staying. List some good attributes and start making phone calls if you can’t find any compelling reasons to stay.
Range of services. The more they offer the better. Just as long as you see value. Many people enjoy the convenience of the one-stop service feature. As long as a place does not lose its “soul” or dos not seem to have grown too big for you that it has lost its personal touch, then everyone should be happy especially your pets. You might not need to run back and forth between your groomer and vet when a vaccine is not up to date. Do not compromise too much between quality and convenience.
Number of veterinarians. Some clients like to very personal relationship that results from having a solo practitioner. However, hospitals with a doctor-partner or multiple doctors can offer in-house and immediate second-opinions. A hospital with more than one doctor, and with good working relationships, will tend to minimize errors and elevate the level of medicine. “Two heads are better than one” only holds true when doctors have good rapport with each other. Solo practices tend to offer a more home-like atmosphere. If you are the kind of client that likes to bond with an individual provider who might be able to cater to your quirks and specific whims, then a small solo practice might suit you well. You will have to go to another hospital with an unfamiliar staff if your preferred provider is off on vacation and your pet needs emergency care. You can always visit another hospital in advance; before you need them. This will ensure that they will pass your test when an emergency situation arises and your solo doctor is not available. This strategy reduces stress in an already volatile situation.
Hospital versus clinic. What’s in a name? “Clinic” connotes being smaller and not full-service. But some older facilities called clinics have actually grown into huge state of the art hospitals but kept the old designation. My feeling is that you have to consider the other factors above and not just look at how the place was named. “Hospital” might also lead you into believing that they are open all hours. Most are not and will refer cases to the ER outside of regular business hours. They might a more extended range of hours and offer a wider range of services than a clinic but the name alone will not tell you this. Check out the website, call the receptionist and walk in without your pet first to investigate.