If you are about to get a new pet or have just bought one, or if you are moving to a new area and so, need to register with a new veterinary clinic that you are unfamiliar with, it is important to look around and consider which of the local practices will be the best fit for you and your own pet, rather than just signing up with the nearest one!
Word of mouth recommendations from other pet owners in the area is one of the best ways to find the right clinic for you, but if you don’t know anyone local, this option might not be possible. Even if one of your local clinics has a particularly good reputation and seems like the obvious choice, it is a good idea just to take a few minutes and ring around, to ask some of the important questions that can help you to make an informed decision on which clinic to register with.
In this article, we will cover some of the most important questions to ask your new potential vet, to help you to choose wisely. Read on to learn more.
First of all, it might seem like a stupid question to ask if a vet can treat your pet-after all, that is what vets do! However, it is not that simple, and not all clinics are willing or able to treat all sorts of animals, so it is important to look into this in detail.
Veterinary services in the UK are broadly divided into large animal and small animal services-large animals include farm stock and horses, whilst small animals are classed as companion pets like cats and dogs.
While most clinics that treat farm animals and horses also treat small animals, some small animal clinics do not treat larger animals! Added to this, some clinics specialise in equine treatment only, and even in mixed clinics, there might be a division in terms of which vets treat what sort of animals, other than in an emergency.
Finally, if you have an exotic pet such as a reptile or a chinchilla, you may need to find a veterinary specialist who is experienced in the care of such animals, which not all general clinics can offer.
These days, most vets offer appointments in the evening on at least one night of the week, and many also open for a few hours on Saturdays and even, in some cases, Sundays. It is important to find a clinic that offers appointments at a time that will work for you, taking into account your working hours and other issues.
Added to this, a clinic that opens on Saturdays and especially Sundays (although Sunday opening is not very common other than in large cities) means that even if you don’t need a regular weekend appointment, should you have a veterinary emergency on the weekend, you will be more likely to be able to get an appointment at the normal rate, without having to pay an out-of-hours callout fee.
Not every veterinary clinic will accept direct payment from your pet insurer, and so it is worth finding a clinic that will, to negate the need to pay a potentially large bill yourself and then have to claim it back.
Your clinic will probably ask you for the details of your policy and which insurance company you are with when you ask about this, so have this information to hand when you call.
If your pet did need to be seen out of hours in an emergency, find out how this is handled. Many clinics provide their own out-of-hours care with an on-call or on-site vet, whilst others may use a different clinic to take care of this for them. Also, some vets may offer emergency out of hours consults, but if your pet needs to be checked in for further care, this may mean referring them to another clinic that may use different vets to take care of this.
Find out what the clinic’s procedure is for out of hours emergencies, in terms of how long it will take a vet to get to the clinic or how another clinic will receive your pet’s history out of hours, and how to go about contacting the clinic out of hours. Most practices have a target timescale for their vets within which they aim to get someone to the clinic in an emergency, and ideally, this should be half an hour or less.
Find out if, when you register your pet, one particular vet will be assigned to them, and in this case, if this means that where possible your pet will always see the same vet in order to ensure continuity of care. It is not at all uncommon for a clinic to have various different vets working over time on the same pet, and this is fine and sometimes necessary, but find out beforehand if there is one specific vet who will be in overall charge of your pet’s care.
All general local veterinary clinics will work with at least one specialist referral clinic to refer cases that need a specific type of care or the treatment of a specialist, and for many clinics, they will have a relationship with several of these, to take care of various different things.
Find out what happens if your pet does need to be referred, and if your pet needs to be referred in an emergency, if the clinic can provide transport for your pet too.
As well as your standard appointments and other care that your pet might need, find out what else your clinic can do for you and your pet! Many practices offer a range of lower cost or even free nurse clinics, which can help to take care of things like your pet’s weight management, and auxiliary services such as nail clipping or tick removal.
Find out what your clinic offers, and how you can benefit from these things.
Some clinics run a range of additional services such as loyalty schemes, reductions on certain products and services for pets that are seen annually by them, and discounts for multi-pet households. Obviously there is no point in falling for a gimmick, but ask what the clinic can offer you once you are registered, and use this information as part of the selection process when you make your decision on who to register with.