Get A Good Vet Before Bringing A New Puppy Home

This month I’ll be doing quite a few articles on tips for bringing a new puppy home amongst other more general articles about owning a dog.

This one is inspired by my recent dilemmas about treating my old greyhound Vinnie.  (Here he is on the beach).

When I lived in Cumbria I had a bad experience with a local vet for two of my dogs – Blue and Arwen.  Arwen had a bad accident with her foot and Blue had back problems.  In both cases the local vets failed to treat the problems properly.

A local guy told me about Ian Hunter, a greyhound specialist, at Galemire Veterinary Hospital.  With his expert help, Arwen recovered from her foot injury.  Blue sadly was beyond help by the time Ian saw him.

When I moved to Staffordshire I continued to get Vinnie’s arthritis medication from Ian because it was £20 per month cheaper than the vet down here.  However, Vinnie’s arthritis is getting gradually worse.  His eyesight isn’t great, he might be a little deaf and some teeth need to come out.

I was faced with a dilemma.  I asked myself:

Do I take Vinnie to my Staffordshire vet – knowing all the treatment is going to be a lot more expensive here – or do I drive a 350 mile round trip to take him to Ian at Galemire?

The answer had to be ‘whatever is in Vinnie’s best interests‘.  So this means next week I’ll be doing a day trip to Cumbria. I am willing to spend over 8 hours in the car because I trust the quality of the advice and treatment there 100%.

That’s why I thought I would give you ten quick tips for getting a good vet before bringing a new puppy home.

  1. Ask dog owners for references.  Ask people you meet with dogs which vets practice they use and why.  Ask local dog trainers and the people at dog training classes.  Most will be happy to tell you.  Word of mouth recommendation is always a good place to start.
  2. Check standard charges. Look up the addresses of veterinary surgeries closest to you.  Go to the reception, explain you might be getting a puppy and ask for their general scale of charges.  Most vets have standard charges for routine items like neutering, vaccinations, consultation fees and emergency call-outs.  If you have a few vets in the area, compare those charges.  (If they won’t give that information out, ask them why they won’t).
  3. Is it a well-established practice?  Ask how long the vets practice has been going for.  A long track record is usually evidence of success and customer satisfaction.  Note this is ‘usually but not always’.  You need to use the other tips as well to get a full picture.
  4. Check opening hours.  Is the practice open at times which are convenient for you?  Most surgeries open early in the morning and some are open from 8am.  Most also do evening sessions, sometimes until as late as 8pm.
  5. Are they easy to contact?  Do they have more than one phone line for example?  What about e-mail – do they have it and do they answer it?  Do they have an answerphone service.  Do they have out of hours call-out numbers?  Will they call you back if you leave a message?
  6. Are they a veterinary hospital?  Veterinary hospitals are larger practices which have more staff and more advanced facilities.  They often are part of a group of veterinary practices but handle more complex operations and more difficult or specialist treatments.  They might also be a large animal practice – which means they cover farm animals as well as dogs, cats, rabbits etc.
  7. Check the quality of the waiting area.  Is it clean, spacious and tidy?  There’s no need for ultra-modern, but dirty and scuffed waiting spaces send a bad signal. Are there leaflets available and noticeboards with useful information?  Do they have a customer toilet?  Is there a decent amount of seating?
  8. Spend time in the waiting area.  You can tell a lot about a vets by what goes on in the waiting area.  Is reception well staffed? Do the staff answer the phones promptly?  Do you like how they speak to customers?  Check how appointments are going by observing people.  Are people complaining about lateness, or looking at their watches a lot? Do you see more and more people stacking up in the waiting room, or do they seem to go in and out reasonably quickly? Is it clear which room or vet people will go to for their appointment?  If you tell reception you are thinking of getting a puppy and would like to see how things run before signing up, they should let you sit there and observe.
  9. Speak to the practice manager.  If you can, spend 5 minutes talking to the practice manager – the person who keeps the practice administration in order.  Useful questions include ‘how long have the senior vets been here’, ‘do you run with a lot of recently qualified vets’,  ‘do you use many locums (temporary vets)’ and ‘what do you do to make sure your vets get ongoing professional training’.
  10. Keep notes to help your decision.  Make notes of each vet you go to and what you thought.  It’s easy to forget if you have 3 or more in the area!  Then use all the answers to get a feeling for each vet.  There will usually be one you like more than the others.

Then all you have to do is sign up to that vets, and go and get your puppy.

And if you want free help with bringing a new puppy home, just click here to get it


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