How do I choose a Veterinarian? – Candace in Amanda

Welcome to 2019!

Now, I know most everyone who reads this will have already chosen a Veterinarian… Gahanna Animal Hospital, of course!

But it is the New Year, and often people start out on a new path. Maybe you’re moving, or maybe you have been forwarded this blog by a friend who knows you’ve just gotten your first puppy. (Shout out to Candace!) Maybe your pet is facing new health challenges due to age or disease. Maybe you are looking for a veterinarian to give you a second opinion. There are a lot of reasons for searching for a veterinarian.

Maybe your chosen vet is out of the office for an undetermined amount of time because she has been having health struggles herself! <cough cough>

I have, in the past 9 months, seen one or more than one of the following; primary care physician, OB-GYN, specialty surgeon, gastroenterologist, endocrinologist, rheumatologist, dentist, nutritionist, lab to have blood draws, lab to have specialty tests, radiology centers for x-rays, CT scan and ultrasounds and pharmacy trips–lots of those.

Each one of these was a separate appointment, with a different health professional, and a wait time of 1-6 months to be seen.

At Gahanna Animal Hospital, we do all of this for your pet and more! We also do behavioral health, end-of-life care, pediatrics, ophthalmology, infectious disease, emergency care, intensive disease care, preventative medicine and a whole lot of proctology (darn anal glands!). We even do pedicures.  We can see you this week, probably this very day. (Okay, not the CT scan, you’ll have to go elsewhere for that.)

This means that your veterinarian covers a large area of knowledge and expertise.

But, we are all humans too! And thus, have different experiences and various interests. It’s January, so I’ll use a winter simile; veterinarians are like snowflakes, no two are alike. Corny, I know. But it is so true!  I have worked with approximately 30 veterinarians, outside of my schooling, and the differences are strong.

I have excellent veterinary colleagues at GAH. If there is an area I know less about, I can count on one of the other DVMs at GAH to fill in those bits. And, I can send you to another GAH doc if they can help your pet in an area where I cannot. For instance, I chose to stop doing surgery 20 years ago.  But we have many vets at GAH who are medicine doctors and experienced surgeons.  I trust them all to do a great job with my patient’s surgery. I count on their input and value their advice. My clients know if there is a tricky mass removal, abdominal surgery or orthopedic surgery to be done, I have taken their pet with me and come back having consulted one of our surgeons.  These are some perks of a larger practice, with many veterinarians.

I do believe GAH is an excellent choice. Some of you may know I live on a small farm outside of town. I would rather drive the 40 miles to work with a top-notch crew than work nearer my home and be frustrated. (See #4. below!) Still, if you are faced with a reason why you have to choose a veterinarian, here is my advice.

#1. Choose a veterinarian who is interested in finding out what your pet, and you need.

#2. Choose a veterinarian you are comfortable talking to, and whom you understand when they explain something.  I try to be sure I am being understood. I draw pictures and show owners concerns on their pet, write notes to a spouse that couldn’t be present, etc. But, remember, if you don’t understand, let your vet know!

#3. Choose a veterinarian who has expertise in the area in which you need help. If they don’t have the expertise, expect them to either recommend someone who does or learn.  I had some wonderful clients, who have moved, but they would bring me their cats and dog, and tortoise. I enjoyed treating their cats-such personalities! One kitty was a toilet flusher and would wait for the clients to leave and spend all day flushing the toilet. They discovered it when the water bill soared. I loved their dog too. We struggled with keeping him at a healthy weight and eventually found the solution. But the tortoise? Hmmm. When they would bring him, it was an adventure.  I was very clear that I am NOT a tortoise veterinarian. If they brought him, it was just to visit while I was treating the kitties.

#4. Convenience is wonderful. But, if you are receiving substandard care in exchange for convenience, reconsider finding a better practice. One of the primary care physicians I saw asked me a question about her cat. I asked her what the vet had found on the physical exam. She looked confused, and said, “He’s never done a physical exam.” On further questioning, she says he never touches the cat other than to give it a vaccine. I asked if the cat was touchable – we have very few that require sedation to have an exam. She said the cat was lovely, even at the vets. Well, that may be true! It has never had anything much (good or bad) happen at the vets! The veterinarian may be close by, but may not be the best choice for that kitty.

#5. The veterinary office can be a stressful place for your pet. Look for a veterinarian, and veterinary office, that believes in low-stress handling. It is better for your pet not to freak out; it is better for us too! Many times we take the pet “to the back” to do diagnostics or treatments. This is not so you can’t see what we are doing, (although some pets are much easier to handle when the owner is not present). “In the back” we have access to many low-stress handling techniques, excellent veterinary technicians and assistants and equipment that makes the visit faster and causes less anxiety. We expect to see each patient again, and we want your pet to remember good stuff!

#6. Remember that the vet’s office is a business. It should be clean (as an office full of animals can be) and efficient. But, how do I put this? I guess my years in Oklahoma are about to show. Have you ever heard the expression “All hat – no cattle”?  This is referring to the guy who walks into an establishment wearing fancy boots, pressed jeans and a huge, finely steamed cowboy hat. He looks the part of a successful rancher but hasn’t ever touched a steer… he’s truly “all hat-no cattle.” Pick a practice that has the “cattle,” not just the “hat”! Do they offer the services your pet needs, and is the price within your budget? Are you paying for good diagnostic equipment and excellent care? Or, are you mostly paying for a fancy hat?

And, have a wonderful, barking good 2019!

To post a question, email; [email protected] and put “Ask A Gahanna Vet” in the subject line!