Finding a veterinarian who meets your puppy’s needs is an important consideration in the life of your pet. Like our pets, all veterinarians bark, purr, and growl (depending on their mood). They all have hair (more or less). And without exception, people become veterinarians because they like and care about animals. But the best vet for you also involves finding a vet with the personality, services, and convenience that meets your needs.
How Vets Are Trained
Unlike your new puppy, veterinarians come to you already well trained. There are twenty-seven schools and colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States where students study for eight to ten years before they receive their “doctor of veterinary medicine” degree (DVM) or veterinariae medicinae doctoris (VMD) degree.
While human medical doctors learn to care for a single species, veterinarians are expected to understand and care for all sorts of animals. Local veterinarians know how to recognize, prevent, and treat everything from routine puppy vaccinations and spay/neuter surgeries, to feline fatty liver disease, feather mites of birds, bacterial infections of reptiles, and nutritional disorders of the cow, horse, or hamster.
Most puppies receive optimum care their whole lives from general practice veterinarians. These professionals often are neighbors and become friends. In the best situations they come to know your pets almost as well as you do.
Of course, you live with Cutie-Pup and know her best—and can tell the doctor something’s wrong if she suddenly has no interest in her squeaky toy the way she normally does. This partnership means you stay alert to any warnings, then your veterinarian deals with the medical issues specific to your pets. Hopefully your pets only need to see the veterinarian a couple of times a year for general check ups and preventive care.
For special care issues, a veterinary specialist may be your best choice. More than twenty veterinary specialties now are available, from cancer specialists and internal medicine doctors, to orthopedic surgeons, dentist, sports medicine and rehab specialists for your performance dogs, and ophthalmologists.
After the veterinarian becomes a general practitioner, she goes through a first year of specialty training, called an internship. This includes experience in many different areas of specialty so the veterinarian can choose an area of interest.
Following internship, the veterinarian becomes a resident and studies for three to seven years at a veterinary school or qualified referral practice that focuses on that specialty. Subspecialties require even more study. For example, neurology is a subspecialty of internal medicine. Your local veterinarian can refer you to appropriate specialists when needed.
The Best Vet For Your Puppy
What’s right for you may not be for another person. But it’s a good idea to ask other pet owners for recommendations to see what they like (or don’t like) about a particular vet. Consider making an appointment to visit a potential veterinary clinic ahead of time. The doctor’s office is a busy place, so avoid times when the staff must deal with regular appointments or surgery. Your ideal veterinarian should offer:
- Office hours and location convenient to your schedule
- Fee and payment structure you can afford
- Emergency services either through their clinic or shared with other facilities
- Knowledgeable and personable staff.
- Value added—some practices include boarding, grooming, or training facilities
Personality of the doctor certainly can be an issue. You should like or at least respect each other, and the doctor should care about your pets, and be willing to explain treatments and answer your questions. Conversely, you must be willing to provide necessary information, respect the doctor’s time and expertise, and trust his or her judgment.
Take the time to develop a positive relationship with the people who care for your new puppy—and all the pets you love. After all, you’re on the same team and want the same things—to create the pet of your dreams.