If you’re a pet owner, I hope you have a veterinarian you really, truly love. And trust. And can ask questions of. Bonus points if it’s someone your pet loves, too!

But all too often, I hear from pet owners who don’t really feel that way about their vet. Maybe they feel rushed during their exam, or talked down to, or made to feel bad for not doing tests they can’t afford.

And it makes me really sad to hear that.

I feel bad for the owners because by and large they just want to do what is right for their pet. It can be difficult to sift through all the information they’re being given, especially if emotions are running high.

I feel bad for the pets because in these situations they don’t always get the best care. And it’s often not due to a lack of finances, but rather a lack of communication.

With that in mind, I’ve prepared a little list of a few important things I think pet parents should look for in their relationship with their veterinarian:

  1. Clear communication: Hoo, boy. This is #1 for a reason. Everything else really comes back to this point. If you leave your vet’s office and think to yourself, “I have no idea what just happened,” this is NOT OK. Your veterinarian and staff should be explaining what your pet is there for, why treatments are recommended and performed, and definitely how much everything is going to cost. If you don’t understand something about what is occurring or why, please ask! No vet staff worth their salt is going to have any problem taking a minute to explain why Fluffy needs certain vaccines, or how the dental cleaning gets done.
  2. Feeling heard: I want to hear my clients’ concerns. Are you worried about medication side-effects? The latest food recall? Whether your senior pet still has a good quality of life? LET’S GET INTO IT! You are paying your veterinarian to give you professional advice, and that’s what you should expect. Not belittling. Not minimizing. Not brushing off. You are the one ultimately making health decisions for your pet, and you need all the best information to be able to do that!
  3. Tick-tock, tick-tock: Maybe you’re one of those people who usually wants to get in and out of your vet appointment because you have a long list of other errands to get done that day. Or maybe you’re interested in a lengthy, more in-depth appointment to discuss multiple health concerns. Whatever the case, you should look for a veterinarian who can accommodate you. Some vets see lots of pets during the day and schedule shorter appointments in order to fit their patients in. This is perfect for you if you’re looking for a quick stop for preventive care. However, if you feel rushed at every appointment, you might want to try another veterinarian. When scheduling an initial consultation, you can always ask, “How long are these appointments, on average?”
  4. Must be the money: We would all love it sooooo much if this wasn’t a concern, but we live in the real world and we know that it’s a thing. The good news is, there are so many different veterinary business models that cater to every part of the population. If you have very limited funds and want to get vaccines and parasite prevention, pop-up vaccine clinics might work for you. Or maybe your pet needs surgery but a specialist is out of your price range, in which case you can search for options such as subsidized low-cost surgery centers. Or perhaps you are the type of person who wants the absolute best for Fido, no matter the cost. Well, there are certainly those top-of-the-line hospitals as well. Ask friends, neighbors, and folks on the interwebs for recommendations. They can help you narrow down which veterinarian might be most in your price range before you even walk in the door!
  5. How does your pet feel when you are there?: This is important. So. Very. Important. Now, some animals are never going to love going to the vet. I get that. But you would be surprised how many relax and even enjoy the vet visit when it’s in the right place! I’ve seen some that do really well in a quiet, calm exam room where they have room to roam and time to just hang out and get used to the space. And I’ve seen some that get more and more anxious as time goes on–for those pets, a quick in and out is key for them not becoming super stressed out. So let your pet’s comfort level play a role in choosing your vet.

Of course, there are tons of things to consider when choosing your veterinarian. These are just a few guidelines that I think would be helpful to consider. It’s so important to have a veterinarian you feel comfortable with–your pet’s well-being depends on it!