Choosing a Veterinarian – Vetting Your Vet

While The Dog Health Adviser’s focus is on dog disease prevention and minimizing trips to the vet, it’s simply not possible to avoid the veterinary clinic forever, so one of the most important health related decisions you will make for your dog will be the choice of a vet.  Even if your veterinary visits are mainly for regular vaccinations, as your dog ages there surely will come a time when you need the services of a skilled veterinarian.

 By the time Doctors of Veterinary Medicine complete all education requirements, most have spent four years in traditional college courses, and all have completed another four years in veterinary school.  There are 28 such schools in the U.S. and all are accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association to train veterinary doctors.  There are also many fine veterinary schools in foreign countries throughout the world.

We won’t spend any time debating the quality of graduates from individual U.S. schools since all must pass rigorous national and state examinations in order to qualify for a license to practice.  Nor will we question the qualifications for graduates of foreign schools since all foreign graduates must meet rigid competency requirements in addition to national and state licensing exams in order to practice in the U.S.  Demanding licensing and continuing education requirements serve to minimize the chance of licensing an incompetent veterinarian.  So we’ll assume that any veterinarian with a license to practice is competent to do so.

What distinguishes one vet from another is not so much a question of competency, but more often a question of ethics and practice philosophy.  A few decades ago you could depend on most vets to deliver competent, sympathetic, animal care in keeping with a client’s desires, for a price most folks could afford.  Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case.  Like some of our human medicine counterparts, not all veterinarians feel a moral obligation to provide a service to their clients and patients which best suits the individual need, not the doctor’s self-interest.

Now, more than ever, it’s important for you to assume personal responsibility for making informed decisions regarding your dog’s health care.  You can’t naively assume that a vet is acting in your, or your dog’s, best interest.  If you feel you’re getting unwanted pressure, I strongly encourage you to keep searching for a vet with an approach that’s more compatible with your needs.  Don’t allow yourself to be coerced or shamed into uncomfortable or expensive procedures that don’t fit your desires or your budget.

The Dog Health Adviser firmly believes that a thoughtful, caring dog owner like you is much better equipped to make rational health care decisions than a vet with a million dollar clinic to pay for.

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