The vet you end up taking your dog to will have a huge bearing on its overall health and happiness. A good vet will be your first port of call whenever you have a concern about your pet's wellbeing, however a poor one can lead to you distrusting them, and potentially avoiding taking your dog there when they need it.
As such, the initial choice of vet is a very important one. You need to make sure you pick a friendly, capable and skilled practitioner who will give you the advice you need to best take care of your dog, and who will look after them best when they are ill. So, how should you go about making this decision?
The first step is to look for a vet that is registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). This is a legal requirement for vets, so you should absolutely avoid any practice that isn't registered. You can usually tell if a vet is registered because they have the initials MRCVS or FRCVS after their name, however you can also check on the RCVS website.
Your next step is to think about distance. Don't be unrealistic when it comes to choosing a vet that is easily within reach. There might be an excellent vet a 30-minute drive away, but in an emergency you will much rather have opted for a practice a mere ten minutes away, even if it is not quite as good.
Look for vets that you can easily get to, thinking about how you will travel there as well. You might need to have a vet located on a bus route or near a train station if you don't have a car, or one nearby so as to save on taxi costs. Get a good list of nearby vets for you to consider.
Now you have a shortlist of possible vets, the best way to choose between them is to talk to people in the community. The opinions of a vet's customers will be much more reliable than anything you will find on a company website, and you should be able to get a good sense of which practice you should be taking your dog to.
There is a wide range of options for you to find these opinions. You could look for local dog walking groups, or chat to owners you see when you are both exercising your pets. You might find that training academies or animal shelters are a good place to find people to talk to. Finally, there may be local discussion forums on the internet you can look for.
Think about the questions you will ask these people, as they will be able to tell you a lot of what you need to know about your vet. You should be able to find the basics, such as opening hours and a price list, on each practice's website, but you will probably want to know a bit more than this.
For example, how easy is the vet to communicate with? This might be important to you if your dog becomes ill or injured and has a lengthy stay at the practice. Are you able to call the vet for updates in this scenario, or will they keep you informed?
Similarly, how open is your vet to giving out advice? You probably don't just want to choose someone who will make your pet better when they are sick. You will want to be able to talk to them if you make any changes to your dog's lifestyle, for example switching from regular dog food to something like the BARF diet.
Once you are happy that one of your local vets fulfils all the requirements you have, you can visit them and sign up. However, going through all this research might be a lengthy process. You don't want to end up in a situation where you have to rush your decision because your dog is in desperate need of a vet.
Choosing someone suitable is really a job for the weeks before you adopt your dog. It is part of the preparation you will need to do before getting a pet, and ensures you will be ready as soon as they come home for the first time. Being prepared like this is a great way to ease the nerves that come with getting a new dog.
Written by: Hannah Dyball