Finding the Right Veterinarian for Your Pet: A Comprehensive Guide

A core part of raising your puppy right, is your team, and your veterinarian is the key part of that team.

This is something that I’m not only passionate about, but something I’ve struggled with personally, as a vet who… isn’t great, is a real burden in your journey of raising a dog (and I’ve sadly had a few of them!). So, as a trainer, I try to also help my clients find the right vet, and wanted to share what we do to find that person.

Ensuring your pet’s well-being involves finding a new veterinarian who’s a good fit for their needs. In the United States, where options are abundant, the best way to start is by seeking recommendations, possibly from your current veterinarian. Exploring veterinary hospitals can be a great way to assess different practices, considering factors like emergency care and clinic hours.

When transitioning to a new vet clinic, sharing your pet’s medical records is a good idea for comprehensive care. Whether you have a new pet or different needs for an existing one, considering important factors is crucial. The first time you visit, ask the right questions about veterinary services and discuss your pet’s unique requirements. Utilize online resources, such as Google reviews, to make the right choice. Remember, this journey to a new vet is a vital step in ensuring a healthy and happy life for your furry friend.

1. Word of Mouth

One of the most time-tested methods for finding a great veterinarian is through word of mouth – though it can be hit or miss. Because the average dog guardian may think they’re great – but are they truly up to your standards? So be picky – look for the exemplary stories, the “Oh he’s phenomenal with my reactive dog” or “she’s wonderful, she figured out it was (disease) so quickly! It was a relief”.

The recommendations of friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues who share a love for their pets can provide invaluable insights into the quality of veterinary care in your area. Personal experiences often offer a realistic portrayal of a veterinary practice’s strengths and weaknesses. Engage in open conversations about the level of care received, the veterinarian’s communication style, and the overall atmosphere of the clinic.

Consider expanding your network by seeking recommendations from local animal shelters, rescue groups, or even pet stores. These organizations frequently collaborate with veterinarians and can offer diverse perspectives based on their interactions. Reaching out to online communities or social media groups dedicated to pet care can provide a broader range of opinions and experiences.

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“Client voices: Pet owners share heartfelt testimonials, praising the compassionate care, expertise, and dedication provided by our veterinary team. Grateful tails, healthy pets.”

2. Online Reviews and Research

In the digital age, online reviews play a crucial role in shaping our choices – from restaurants to doctors. Selecting a veterinarian is no exception. Websites like Google, Yelp, and Facebook offer platforms where pet owners share their experiences with various veterinary clinics. These reviews can provide valuable insights into the strengths and weaknesses of a practice, giving you a well-rounded view of what to expect.

When diving into online reviews, pay attention to recurring themes. Positive reviews that consistently highlight aspects such as compassionate care, effective communication, minimising testing, friendly nurses who can follow instruction, and cleanliness are indicators of a reliable veterinary clinic.

Conversely, negative reviews that repeatedly mention issues like long wait times, unprofessional behavior, or inadequate facilities may be red flags. However, it’s essential to approach online reviews with discernment, as individual experiences can vary. Consider the overall rating and the proportion of positive to negative reviews to form a balanced perspective.

In addition to general online reviews, explore the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) accreditation status of the veterinary clinics under consideration. The AAHA sets rigorous standards for veterinary practices, ensuring that accredited clinics adhere to high-quality care and professionalism. This accreditation provides an additional layer of assurance that you are choosing a veterinary clinic committed to excellence in all aspects of care.

The other one to consider is if it’s a fear free certified veterinary practice! So far all of my clients experiences of these have been resoundingly positive.

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3. Verify Credentials

A crucial step in finding the right veterinarian is verifying their credentials. The well-being of your pet depends on the expertise and qualifications of the veterinary professional responsible for their care. Begin by checking whether the veterinarian is licensed, meeting the requirements set by your country’s or state’s veterinary licensing board. Licensing ensures that the veterinarian has undergone the necessary education and training to practice veterinary medicine.

Explore the veterinarian’s educational background, including the veterinary school they attended and any additional certifications or specialized training they may have acquired. This information is often available on the clinic’s website or can be obtained by directly contacting the veterinary practice. A veterinarian with a strong educational foundation and continuous commitment to professional development is more likely to provide up-to-date and comprehensive care for your pet.

Moreover, inquire about the clinic’s affiliation with professional organizations such as the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Membership in reputable veterinary associations indicates a commitment to ethical standards, ongoing education, and a broader network of resources. A veterinarian actively involved in professional organizations is likely to stay informed about the latest advancements in veterinary medicine, ensuring that your pet receives the best possible care.

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“Trust in expertise: Our veterinarian holds a licensed certification, ensuring your pet receives top-notch care from a qualified and dedicated professional.”

Added Extra: Fear Free Certification

Not all vets go in for this, and I get why, they’ve studied and tested for a long time, and the added certification can feel like a chore. However. For me, personally, I would go to a fear free cert vet every time, because they know how to treat your dog, they know how to deal with a nervous or more anxious pup, and know how to be around them.

One of my biggest problems is when I get a vet who has too little time and no “bedside manner”, that’s a huge red flag for me, but that’s not a fear free vet. 

4. On-Site Visit

A scheduled visit to the veterinary clinic without your pet is a crucial step in evaluating the overall environment and quality of care. This on-site assessment allows you to observe firsthand the cleanliness, organization, and professionalism of the veterinary practice. The clinic’s physical appearance is often reflective of its commitment to providing a safe and hygienic space for both pets and their owners.

As you walk through the clinic, pay attention to the waiting room, examination rooms, and any specialized areas for procedures or surgeries. A well-organized and maintained clinic creates a positive impression and contributes to a stress-free experience for both you and your pet. Engage with the office staff members, observing their friendliness, professionalism, and willingness to address any questions or concerns you may have.

During your visit, take note of the availability and approachability of veterinary technicians or vet techs. These individuals play a crucial role in supporting the veterinarian and ensuring the smooth operation of the clinic. A well-trained and attentive support staff contributes to a positive overall experience, indicating a veterinary practice that prioritizes collaboration and teamwork for the well-being of your pet.

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5. Services Offered

Understanding the range of services offered by a veterinary clinic is essential in ensuring that it meets the specific needs of your pet. Different pets may require varied types of care, and finding a veterinary practice that aligns with your pet’s unique requirements is crucial for their overall health and well-being. For example, a reactive dog will absolutely need a certain level of bedside manner and may need longer appointment times, as well as a quieter access point that’s not the front door.

Inquire about the preventive care services provided, including vaccinations, parasite prevention, and routine wellness exams. A comprehensive approach to preventive care is indicative of a veterinary clinic that emphasizes the importance of early detection and proactive health management. Additionally, explore the clinic’s capabilities in dental care, surgical procedures, and any specialized treatments or therapies that may be relevant to your pet’s condition.

For pet owners with specific concerns or those requiring specialized care, such as for chronic medical conditions or advanced diagnostics, it’s essential to choose a veterinary clinic that offers the necessary expertise and equipment. Discuss your pet’s specific needs with the veterinarian and ensure that the clinic can provide the level of care required for their optimal health.

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“Comprehensive care: Our veterinary services prioritize your pet’s well-being, offering a range of expert treatments, ensuring a healthy and happy furry family member.”

6. Availability and Accessibility

The accessibility and availability of a veterinary clinic are critical factors in ensuring timely and effective care for your pet. Consider the clinic’s hours of operation, including evenings and weekends, as well as their policies for handling emergencies. Emergencies can arise at any time, and having a veterinary clinic that provides emergency services or clear guidance on where to seek urgent care is essential for your peace of mind.

Evaluate the clinic’s proximity to your home, considering both convenience and the time it would take to reach the veterinary practice in case of an emergency. A veterinary clinic located in close proximity ensures that you can access timely care when it matters most. Additionally, inquire about the process for scheduling appointments and the average wait times, as prompt attention to your pet’s health concerns is crucial for their well-being.

Explore the clinic’s approach to communication during emergencies, whether it involves direct contact with the veterinarian or a designated emergency hotline. A transparent and efficient communication system ensures that you are well-informed and can make informed decisions regarding your pet’s health care, even in challenging situations.

7. Effective Communication

Effective communication between you, the pet owner, and the veterinarian is fundamental to a successful and collaborative veterinarian-client relationship. Choose a veterinarian who not only communicates clearly but also actively listens to your concerns and responds with empathy and understanding. The ability of the veterinarian to establish open and transparent communication creates a foundation for trust and confidence in their abilities.

During your initial interactions with the veterinarian, pay attention to their willingness to ask you questions and engage in the answers. Not only this, but they should be willing to explain it to you and help you understand.

A good vet will answer questions, explain medical conditions, and discuss treatment options. A good veterinarian takes the time to ensure that you fully understand your pet’s health status and the recommended care plan. Consider the clarity of communication not only during routine appointments but also in more challenging situations, such as discussing treatment options for a sick or injured pet.

N.B. As this came up recently, your vet should also consider escalating to a more senior vet if they are running out of ideas on a diagnosis or struggling to find a solution. Some veterinary cases are complex! And your vet should never feel shamed to get a second opinion.

The vet’s office staff also plays a role in effective communication, as they are often the first point of contact for pet owners. Friendly and knowledgeable office staff members contribute to a positive experience, facilitating smooth communication and addressing any administrative or scheduling concerns you may have. A veterinary practice that prioritizes effective communication values your role as an active participant in your pet’s health care journey.

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“Clear communication: Our veterinary team excels in transparent and compassionate communication, ensuring pet owners are informed and involved in their furry friend’s healthcare journey.”

8. Costs and Payment Options

Understanding the costs associated with veterinary care is an important aspect of making an informed decision that aligns with your budget. Inquire about the fees for routine services, vaccinations, and potential additional costs for diagnostic tests or surgical procedures. A transparent discussion about costs allows you to plan for your pet’s medical care and prevents unexpected financial burdens.

Moreover, explore the veterinary clinic’s approach to payment options. Inquire about any available payment plans, financing options, or partnerships with pet insurance providers. Many pet owners find value in investing in pet insurance, which can provide coverage for unexpected medical expenses and ensure that financial considerations do not compromise the quality of care your pet receives.

Discussing the financial aspects of veterinary care in advance helps you make decisions that are both practical and aligned with your pet’s health needs. A veterinary practice that is upfront about costs and offers flexible payment solutions demonstrates a commitment to supporting pet owners in providing the best possible care for their furry family members.

9. Observing Vet-Pet Interaction

Observing how the veterinarian interacts with your pet firsthand is a crucial step in evaluating their approach to care. Schedule an appointment for your pet, whether for a routine check-up or a specific health concern, and pay close attention to the dynamics between the veterinarian and your furry friend.

Your vet should always be using positive reinforcement with your dog to try and create a positive experience, and should never be advocating the use of punishment or dominance based training.

A great veterinarian approaches pets with gentleness, patience, and a genuine love for animals – this is one of the things fear free vets are fantastic at. Observe how the veterinarian conducts the examination, handles your pet, and addresses any signs of stress or discomfort. A veterinarian who creates a calm and reassuring atmosphere during appointments contributes to a positive experience for both you and your pet.

Take note of the veterinarian’s ability to engage with your pet, ensuring that the interaction is not only medically thorough but also emotionally considerate. A great vet takes the time to understand your pet’s personality, preferences, and unique needs, tailoring their approach to ensure that veterinary visits are as stress-free as possible.

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“Heartfelt connection: Nurturing the special bond between veterinarians and pets, where compassion, expertise, and care create a foundation for lifelong well-being.”

10. Trust Your Instincts

In the final analysis, trust your instincts when making the decision to choose a veterinarian for your pet. Your intuition is a powerful tool in gauging the compatibility between you, your pet, and the veterinary professional. Consider how comfortable and confident you feel during interactions with the veterinarian and the overall atmosphere of the clinic.

Reflect on your observations, the information gathered, and the interactions you’ve had with the veterinary staff. If you sense a genuine commitment to your pet’s well-being, clear communication, and a supportive and welcoming environment, you’ve likely found a great fit. Building trust and confidence in your veterinarian is the foundation for a long-term veterinarian-client-patient relationship that positively impacts your pet’s health and quality of life.

Don’t Feel Afraid To Ask Your Vet For A Different Approach, Or Switch Vets.

Fears of veterinarians are hugely problematic and, sadly, becoming more and more prolific amongst pets. We’ve been “trained” (intentionally or otherwise) to respect people like vets – but sometimes we need to say no, or ask for a different vet if we see our dog struggling. 

Will this make you a popular person? Probably not. But remember, your job isn’t to be popular, it’s to advocate for your dog. I would always rather a vet from a “worse” veterinary schools with a good bed side manner, than a top school with no husbandry skills.

That fear of vets can be prevented by avoiding a negative experience. 


In the quest for the best veterinarian, meticulous research is the first step toward ensuring the best care for your pet’s healthy life. Seek recommendations and explore online reviews for great resources in identifying the best place, especially when moving to a new area. Consider the expertise of general practitioners, akin to a family doctor, by asking the most important questions during a phone interview.

In your pursuit, be cautious of red flags, such as negative experiences or a lack of transparency in contact information. Vet visits should be akin to visits to a family doctor, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of your pet’s needs. Whether seeking a second opinion or addressing pain management, a good veterinarian’s approach mirrors the principles of human medicine, emphasizing house calls and a general practice tailored to purebred dogs. Utilize the internet search wisely to navigate the new practice landscape and ascertain staff training quality in the type of clinic that aligns with your dog’s health needs.

If you want more great advice like this to help you raise your puppy, check out pupdates! Your weekly guide to raising an awesome puppy.

Author, Ali Smith

Ali Smith is a professional, qualified, and multi-award winning trainer is the founder of rebarkable. She has always believed animals deserve kindness and champions force free methods. Believing that dog guardians will all choose the kindest options if proper information is provided, she aims to help all dog guardians who need it and make dog training as accessible as possible

Ali lives win Maryland, US with her husband and her three dogs.


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