The relationship you establish with your veterinarian is an important one that will continue throughout your dog’s life. Your vet is your pet’s primary health practitioner, but will also provide dental, emergency and specialist care.
If you’ve never had a puppy before, finding the right vet is an important first step in your dog’s health and wellness journey. If you do have other pets, but are not happy with your current vet, there is no reason why you cannot move on to someone who is a better fit for your needs and your family.
Location and recommendations
First up, speak to friends and family who live in the area. Most pet owners establish strong relationships with their vets and should be able to refer you to someone they trust. If you’re not able to get some word-of-mouth references, note the veterinary clinics you see when you drive through your neighbourhood and surrounds. If you can, consider a practice within the area where you drive every day, so you’ll be able to pop in for dog food and other items you may need. Location isn’t everything, and travelling a bit further to a vet you trust is worth it if you are happy with the care your pet receives there.
Most veterinary practices have their own websites, so with a little cyber detective work, you can learn quite a lot about the vets, the staff and their areas of expertise, support staff and the facilities available, even before you pop in for a visit. You should also be able to find information about treatments provided and the practice’s emergency protocol. This can be a good starting point if you are not able to get any references from friends or family in the area.
Check on registration
No person may practise as a veterinary professional unless they are registered with the South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) or authorised to perform specific procedures. Fake vets have been in the news, and pet owners are urged to make sure that those who treat their pets are in fact qualified to do so. An animal who is treated by a fake vet may be misdiagnosed, or worse, incorrectly treated to an extent where he needs to be euthanised. There have also been reports where pet owners have paid for vaccinations that their pets did not receive, with fatal consequences. To confirm that your vet is registered, you can visit the SAVC website, www.savc.org.za. On the home page, click on the ‘List of active Registrees’ or ‘List of active Facilities’ tabs on the left.
Visit the practice
Narrow down your list to two or three practices in your area and pay them a visit. Do a visual inspection of the clinic. Is there ample parking? Is the office manager friendly and willing to answer your questions? Are the facilities clean and properly maintained?
Questions to ask the front office staff:
- What are their regular hours and do I need to make an appointment?
- What are the costs for consultations?
- In larger practices, there may be a number of vets on the staff. How does the system work? Can I see a specific vet if I want to?
- What are weekend and public holiday consultation times?
- How does the practice handle emergencies? If you need to go to another facility, where is this located? (You will need to do additional research on their charges, etc.)
- Who stays with the patients who need to remain overnight at the practice?
- In terms of admin and accounts, how do account procedures work? Is this a cash practice or can I open an account? This is important, even if you do have pet medical cover, as you will likely have to pay upfront and then claim back.
- Can I schedule a meeting with the vet?
Meeting the vet
Most vets will be happy to accommodate your request and answer any questions you may have. Ask the vet about equipment they have at the practice with regards to radiographs and blood tests, for example. Also enquire about staff members and their qualifications. If your pet needs surgery, will you be referred to another clinic? Also ask about their vaccination protocols.
Puppy’s first check-up
Once you have picked up your puppy from the breeder, schedule a wellness check with your vet. A first visit to your vet is important to assess your puppy’s health, even if there are no pending vaccinations required. This will provide you with an opportunity to see the vet’s bedside manner with your puppy so you can make a final decision. The pup may be nervous, but does the vet assist in settling him? Ask questions about your puppy’s diet and care. Vets should be willing to engage with owners about pet care. If you received a vet card from the breeder, take this along, so the details can be transferred to a new card if you are happy to remain at this practice.
For more informative articles like these, get the latest copy of South Africa’s Dog Directory online.