Embarking on the route to select the right veterinary hospital for you and your furry friend can be stressful if you are unsure of what to look for. It can be difficult knowing where to start and how to determine the differences that exist between hospitals. Below are some helpful tips on what to look for in a veterinary hospital and veterinary healthcare team to get your search started.
How to Begin Your Search
Word of mouth is a powerful tool for choosing a veterinary hospital in your area. Ask family, friends, and neighbours to refer you to a hospital where they have had a great experience with not only patient care but customer service. When you know others with the same approach to pet care as you, you know that they are a trusted resource for information and experiences.
Once you have a couple of veterinary hospitals in mind, start by calling and setting up a tour or consultation to meet the healthcare team. Clinics that offer free meet and greet appointments with their veterinarians and team members, as well as provide hospital tours, care about the needs of you and your pet. Visiting the facility “behind the scenes” can provide you with valuable information about where your pet will be treated, the standards of the facility, and the type of equipment and services available.
Be sure to ask questions. It can be difficult knowing what questions to ask that will provide you with the most information during your visit. Below are some great questions to ask to gain information on whether a particular hospital is right for you and your pet:
- What types of services does the hospital provide?
- If my pet requires more extensive care such as specialized surgeries, ultrasounds, or consultations with an ophthalmologist or an internal medicine specialist, do I have to go to another hospital for these services?
- Is there a focus on preventive healthcare such as nutrition, behaviour, routine blood and wellness testing?
- Who will be caring for my pet if he/she is hospitalized or needs surgery? Are there Registered Veterinary Technicians (insert link to OAVT) on the team? What education and training does the healthcare team have?
- Where do I take my pet if I have an after- hours emergency? Is it a call-in service or a fully staffed emergency hospital?
- If my pet requires general anesthesia, what types of monitoring do they use to ensure safety during the procedure? Do they have equipment that measures heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, blood pressure, oxygenation of the blood, ECG, carbon dioxide levels as well as a trained anesthetic veterinary technician?
- What if my pet undergoes a painful procedure? Do they provide local anesthetic freezing or continual rate infusions of pain medications during and after the procedure?
- If my pet requires dental care, are full mouth radiographs taken? Does my pet receive dental blocks if he/she requires a tooth extraction? What equipment is used during dental procedures?
- What type of special handling and care do they provide for cats? Do they use Feliway? Do they have a separate cat examination room and cat wards?
- What kinds of educational handouts and resources are provided during appointments and on their website?
- Do they have a website that I can visit that will provide me with more detailed information about the hospital and the healthcare team
- Every pet is an individual, and should be offered tailored vaccine and diagnostic test (blood work) recommendations at their annual appointments based on their age, breed, and lifestyle. Ask if the clinic has protocols for annual preventative care for different pets. For example, what do they recommend for a 3-year-old dog versus an 8-year-old at an annual vaccine appointment, or an indoor cat versus an outdoor cat.
- What type of reminder system do they have? Will they call me even if my pet’s blood results are normal?
One of the biggest mistakes that pet owners make in choosing the right veterinary hospital is to select solely based on price. We hope that by asking the above questions you can get an idea of some of the differences that exist between veterinary hospitals and their healthcare teams. By charging reasonable fees, hospitals are able to provide optimal patient care, hire the best and most trained team members, afford the best equipment, continue educating team members through conferences and seminars, and offer you and your furry friend the highest quality medicine and service.