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 important.

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 interaction.

“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.

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Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

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