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Think before you act: The importance of choosing a vet


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Whether a dog, cat, or chinchilla person, many people with pets treat them like family. Often lovingly referring to them as our babies, we pamper, dress and spoil them with special treats or expensive food. Unfortunately, it is easy to forget about our loved one’s physical health until something is visibly wrong.

I recently learned, the hard way, the importance of finding the right vet when your pets get sick. Teague, our Doberman, Black Lab mix, got sick and completely lost the use of his back legs a few years ago. We took him to the vet we had always gone to, the vet my family had used since before I was born.

His illness was treated, and, we thought, resolved. However, his hips have been stiff and causing him pain ever since. The vet told us to give him certain medications and that seemed to be working.

For several reasons, we changed vets this year. While attending one of our new vet’s informational clinics, we learned that the medicine we’ve been religiously giving our baby could have killed him.

It got me thinking. Why didn’t I do more research before I chose a vet to care for those I love so much? When my husband and I needed a new primary care doctor, I did research for weeks and made several phone calls asking dozens of questions. Why didn’t I use that approach with my dogs’ primary care doctor?

John Ely, Laketown Animal Hospital’s Client Service Manager, says to start off by talking with friends who have pets and get their recommendations for veterinarian clinics in your area.

He then suggests doing an Internet search to get basic information on those clinics.

“I would look for how established they are, read comments, how many years have they been open, how any doctors they have and whether they are specialty doctors or general practitioners,” Ely said.

Ely stressed the importance of making sure the clinic is a member of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). According to their website, AAHA is dedicated to “professional development, hospital accreditation standards and excellent education programs.”

“AAHA is a voluntary commitment,” Ely explained. “They do investigations every five years and monitor drug books, exam rooms and equipment. They check everything from water temperatures to the dilutions of chemicals used to clean.”

After narrowing down the field, you should visit the office alone first to get a feel for how the clinic operates so that you’re not risking putting your pet in a negative situation.

“I’ve been to a clinic where the dog got away and ran into the lobby. They grabbed the dog and gave vaccines right in the lobby,” Ely said. He knew right away the clinic wasn’t somewhere he would want to take his pets.

Finally, Ely suggests that you take your pet for an office visit to meet the staff and doctor. The visit will allow you to see how your pet reacts to the doctor and how the staff handles your pet. It will also give you an opportunity to interview the doctor much like you would when finding a doctor for yourself.

“Once you do that, it lifts all the smoke from your eyes and you’re in the guts of it,” Ely said.

Following these recommendations should help you narrow down the search when looking for the right veterinarian to trust with your loved ones’ lives. That’s what it really comes down to, making sure that the pets you love are taken care of and are able to live their lives to the fullest to make your life fuller.

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Award winning, student run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield..
Think before you act: The importance of choosing a vet