Written By Nikki Ridley 

Think about it. What happened the first time you had to rush Rover to the vet because he ate a piece of the veggie-garden sprinkler system? You Googled ‘Vets in (wherever you are)’, found one, rushed there with Rover, whining and chunking, in the backseat of the car. Hoped for the best. Then forked out the next month’s rent, car payment…and some…and even more by the time you got to take home a debris-free-but-no-less-stupid dog.

Bad dog owner!

You can’t stop Rover chewing on everything he can find and swallowing half of it (especially if it’s spikey or poisonous). But you can make sure you know where to take him when he does. Or gets in a fight with the cat and loses, gets sick, or any of the other random things your dog can do on any day (although it’s often on a Sunday). The vet you end up at may be the difference between Rover coming home…or not.

Be prepared. Choose a vet before you need a vet. It’s not about the money. Unless you have pet insurance (which you should have. Get it NOW if you don’t), the ‘bad vet’ and the ‘good vet’ will obliterate your finances in pretty-much equal measure. It’s about the outcome. It’s also about the care – from the minute you call an emergency vet on a Sunday, to the day you get to take your pet home … or not. Even the best vets can’t save all the Rovers, all of the time, but if worst comes to worst…well, let’s just say that there are these kinds of vets and those kinds of vets.

If you have adopted an animal, with all vaccinations done, ask the shelter to recommend local vets for future emergencies as well as for routine procedures such as neutering. However, if you move to a new area, or the shelter-recommended vets are too far away, you’ll need to look for yourself.

What to look for when looking for the right vet:

Reputation: ask all pet owners in the areas who they’d recommend, or not, and why.

After-hours emergency ‘hotline’: add to this – if they are not available, can they refer another vet who will be? Is there co-ordination of emergency availability?

Payment policy:  what happens If you can’t pay cash-up-front? What is the vet’s general credit-line policy? And what is emergency credit-line policy? Forewarned is forearmed – and may save your pets life.

Attitude: Go to the vet. Speak to the receptionist. Ask to look at the facilities. Especially where animals under care are kept. If the vet is available, ask for a personal tour.  You’ll leave knowing whether or not it’s a medical practice set up for passionate reasons … or a business aimed at acquiring a seaside holiday-home, sweet-revenge-at-the-10-year school reunion, and a country-club style retirement.

Doctor’s don’t have to love people, but vets (and their receptionists) must love animals.