Recently, a friend asked me what I would consider to be the most important things when trying to choose a good client-doctor relationship. The obvious context for this dilemma would be how I try to improve upon my relationships with my clients, and make sure that I am serving their needs appropriately. However, I also have had to choose doctors for my own pets. “You don’t take care of your own pets” one may ask? As a matter of fact, I don’t. I can’t. It is extremely hard to be objective when you are in love with your own animal. I believe that making sure you have a vet that not only cares about your pet but also believes as you do, is a very important part of your pet’s health care.
When you are trying to find a good vet, you must first decide what kind of client YOU are. Are you the type to follow a standard vaccination protocol without asking questions? Do you require extensive information regarding disease prevalence before choosing vaccinations for your pet? Do you believe in separating vaccines, or not giving them? Are you someone who feels good health care for your pet is worth the expense? Do you have views on “holistic health?” Do you tend to lean more towards conventional health care, or do you integrate? Every animal clinic is not created equally, and it is sometimes difficult to sort through the services to know if you will receive what you need. However, by first answering these basic questions about yourself, you should begin to know what factors matter most to you. If flexibility is what you need, make sure that you find a doctor who is okay with this. If security is what you need, then perhaps health guidelines that are more structured would be helpful to you.
There are other factors besides your general wellness philosophy that are important when choosing the right vet for you. Firstly, perhaps if you have a cat you may want to consider a cat-only practice, or a doctor who is board certified in Feline Practice. You may want an animal clinic that also does boarding and grooming so that you can feel safe when you leave your pet and go on vacation. You may feel that 24 hour care or 365 days a year emergency access is important to you, and that you would prefer to only go to a hospital that can provide these extensive services in addition to general practice. Be aware that many hospitals do not have staff (technician or doctor) overnight to monitor hospitalized patients. Although this does not mean they deliver sub-standard care, there are obvious limitations to this that may be important to you. You may prefer to integrate holistic services in your pet’s care and enjoy having access to practitioners who offer acupuncture, chiropractic, or herbal medicine. If so, I recommend making sure that your vet offers you the most evidence-based medicine possible. Lastly, do you appreciate having state-of-the-art facilities, or do you prefer a smaller and more intimate clinic setting? Recognize that as with most things, services such as 24 hour care, emergency access, and more cutting edge medicine will come with a cost that may be more than a smaller “mom and pop” style of clinic. Either way, you must make sure you feel comfortable, because your emotional state may affect your pet’s behavior and willingness to relax during a trip to the clinic or hospital.
For me, bonding with my doctor is as important to me as I feel it is for most of my clients. I appreciate that some of my clients are like family to me, and I love being a part of their family, too.