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Communication is Key in Picking the Right Veterinarian
As our pets become more and more an extension of our human
families, their healthcare and who is providing it is increasingly
Dr. Dan Posey, Clinical Assistant Professor at the Texas A&M
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explains
that picking the right veterinarian is a serious decision and
numerous factors should be considered.
"The first would be if the veterinarian is a good communicator,"
states Posey. "I believe this varies with the client's needs, large
animal vs. food animal vs. small animal, but all clients desire,
regardless of species or business relation, a veterinarian that
strives to have good client rapport."
Although most pet owners may not know much about the actual
medical procedures performed, it is usually apparent if the
veterinarian is compelled to serve and fulfill their client's needs
and if this is a person that loves being a veterinarian.
"The veterinarian should be both passionate about their
profession and empathetic and compassionate towards their clients
as seen through their professional service," says Posey.
While there should not be many differences in competency between
a large animal veterinarian and a small animal veterinarian, most
do have specific interests.
"Competency is hard to assess even by the most discerning
clients. Desire is not," notes Posey. "Asking questions about their
interest should help one learn about the mission and vision of the
practices or veterinarians that they are trying to select."
Exotic pet owners also have to make sure that their small animal
practitioner can handle these less-common animals. Most private
practices clearly state available services in exotic care.
"Some, but not all, small animal practices have veterinarians
that are passionate about exotics and can easily handle routine
needs of the pocket pet, reptile, and bird. You will find other
practices that have veterinarians that can go well beyond routine
exotic care because of their desire and training," says Posey. "If
your veterinarian does not offer or specialize in these services,
all private practices have the ability to offer referral services
for the care of their patients and clients."
Although their communications skills and interests play a vital
role in choosing the right veterinarian, what makes them a medical
expert is their training and education.
While all private veterinary practitioners have to earn a Doctor
of Veterinary Medicine, pass a national licensing exam, and receive
a license through their state board, veterinarians are life-long
learners and are continually advancing their knowledge base,
through self study, continuing education experiences, and colleague
"They also can advance their professional development and
education through a variety of specialty training. This could be
internships, certification programs, residencies, and different
specialty board certifications," states Posey. "These are very
important aspects of veterinary training and could be important
depending of the needs of the patient."
When choosing a veterinarian, reputation is important as well.
Start by inquiring with family, friends and co-workers about their
veterinarians. Ask them if they have heard any complaints or
recommendations regarding local practitioners.
"I wouldn't take one opinion but a variety so that you can make
a decision. I then would set up an initial visit so that you can
express your expectations, and you can meet the staff and see the
facility and make an informed decision," advises Posey.
Problems and complaints occur in all practices. They derive from
a variety of situations,from not meeting a desired outcome or
expectation to the rare negligence case, but it is important that
clients understand the basis of the complaint.
"If you are concerned about complains you have heard regarding a
local veterinarian, contact the state licensing board to confirm
the accuracy of the complaints," adds Posey.
While there are so many things to consider whenmaking this
important decision, the key to picking a veterinarian is to
communicate with them and make sure that they are committed to
serving both their patients and clients well.
About Pet Talk
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& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.
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