When moving to a new location, I like to find a vet who meets the needs of my pets the best. When I moved to Fargo, I chose a vet but then switched to another because I was unhappy with the first. Here are some things I consider when choosing a vet.

1. How far am I willing to drive?
The vet I take Ace to is less than a mile from my apartment. We could walk there if we wanted. Distance is important to me because with a busy schedule I don’t want to waste a half-hour driving to an appointment. I’d rather spend five minutes getting there. This is also convenient when spur-of-the-moment needs come up such as swinging in to buy ear cleaner or getting Ace in that morning for an appointment before work.

2. Is it open on weekends?
Ace’s vet is open every other Saturday and closed on Sundays. This has been an inconvenience once or twice, but luckily they were nonemergencies. Most vets in our area are closed on weekends, with the exception of the ER. So for me, this didn’t rule out Ace’s current vet. However, being open on weekends would be a plus. If your vet is closed on weekends or at night, make sure you know where to take your dog during an emergency.

3. What breeds/animals does the vet specialize in?
Some vets treat all domestic animals such as horses and sheep. Others only treat dogs and cats. Although all dogs share the same basic health needs, certain breeds have unique issues. It would be ideal to have a vet who has a lot of experience with your particular breed. For example, if you have bulldogs, it would be perfect to have a vet who owns bulldogs because she would be more experienced dealing with the health issues bulldogs face such as respiratory problems or overheating.

4. How does the vet interact with my dog? How about with me?
Ace’s vet gets down on the floor to examine him, so Ace never has to sit on the steel table. She pets him, talks calmly to him and offers him treats. He loves going to the vet because he has never had a bad experience there. Of course, most vets love animals, but some interact with them better than others. I look for a calm vet who doesn’t get overly excited, therefore making my dog overly excited or nervous. The personality of my dog’s vet should be compatible with my dog. If I had an assertive otter hound, a small, timid vet would not work well. But this same vet might be perfect if I had a fearful silky terrier.

A vet should also have people skills, no matter how good she is with animals. The number one reason I have switched vets is because of their disinterest in me. The first vet I dealt with in Fargo acted as though she did not have more than five minutes of spare time, which she probably didn’t. She never paused to ask if I had questions, and when I asked them anyway, she offered short, unhelpful responses. I appreciate when a vet actually explains my dog’s problems and gives time for me to ask questions. When Ace went in this winter for reoccurring ear infections, his vet talked with me about all the possible causes such as rolling and sticking his head in the snow, food allergies or me not cleaning his ears often enough. She did not make me feel like an idiot, and she made me feel like my dog and I mattered to her.

5. How clean is the facility?
A building that holds a lot of dogs is not always going to smell pretty, but the vet and staff should make some effort to keep the building as clean as possible. A clean, comfortable waiting area shows the vet cares about first impressions and a good reputation. The exam rooms should also be clean.

6. How will the vet be at the end of my dog’s life?
The time will come when I will have to decide if it’s right to end Ace’s life. This is when having a vet I trust will be the most important. I will be crying and second guessing my choices. A good vet will calmly go over all options, ultimately letting the dog owner make the decision. When my golden retriever, Brittni, was euthanized, her vet made my family and I very comfortable with our choice. She was there to answer all our questions and offered to come to our home to care for Brittni when she was the sickest. She made herself available by phone 24 hours a day and explained the whole process of euthanizing a dog before it happened. She gave us hugs and showed my family true empathy. I remember and admire this vet more than any of the others I’ve worked with.

7. Ask for recommendations.
Kennels, breeders, humane societies and fellow dog owners will give you their honest opinions on local vets if you just ask. People are happy to promote services they like. They are also quick to let you know of a bad experience. Take advantage of this. Chatting at the dog park is a great place to start.

8. What other services does the vet offer?
It’s convenient to be able to take care of vaccinations, board your dog or have it groomed all in one facility. Plus, sometimes you can get a discount for using more than one service.

9. How large is the facility?
Part of the problem with the first vet I used was the vet’s disinterest in my pets and I. She simply had too many clients and knew nothing about us. Plus, we had to make appointments weeks ahead of time. Now, at a smaller facility, Ace’s vet remembers us (or at least reviews all our information beforehand) and knows what is unique about Ace. As a result, he gets better care.

10. Check the prices.
Certain vets in the same area will charge more. In Fargo alone, when my boyfriend was trying to find a vet to neuter his cat, prices for the procedure ranged from about $60 to $150. For me, prices are not the deciding factor, but there is no reason to pay twice as much if I don’t have to. Ace’s current vet charges less than his last, mostly because of the location. His first vet was in a busier area of town and turned new clients away daily. The business was able to charge more because people would pay more.

Ultimately, my dog’s vet should not be someone I settle for. It should be someone I can have a relationship with over my dog’s life. If you are not entirely happy with your dog’s vet, look into other options. A vet’s job is to provide us with great service. There are a lot of excellent vets out there, and your dog deserves the best.

What do you think makes a good vet?