Welcome to the A-Z Challenge! This year my theme is Pet Health - information for people about their furry, four-legged family members.
Go ahead. Sniff around.
It is highly recommended that your pet go to their veterinarian on a yearly basis. Your veterinarian isn't trying to squeeze all of your hard-earned money out of your wallet, trust me. Okay, maybe there are a few of them out there. But in general, veterinarians realize that you only have so much to spend. It's just like with people, going in for regular health check-ups allows doctors to catch problems earlier, thereby allowing those problems to be remedied.
Taking your pet to the doctor every year for an annual health check does the same thing. They may be able to notice a trend over time, or see something that you don't. Also, it's a great time to ask your veterinarian questions about your pet's health, diet/nutrition, weight, vaccines, or potential surgeries.
Many people "shop around" before actually choosing a veterinarian, and that's perfectly fine. Sometimes personalities don't mesh well, or you may not like a doctor's "bed-side manner", or you may not jive with the staff, or the price just isn't right. Before choosing a veterinarian, it's always a good idea to give a clinic a call and set up an appointment to meet with the doctor(s) and get a tour of their facility.
Ask the staff questions when you get there, price shop with them, what kind of payments they accept and if they accept Care Credit as a payment option, if they accept pet insurance and how it works with their office. And when you meet the doctor ask them what's on your mind. Ask them about their surgical procedures, their recommendations on vaccine protocol, if heartworm disease is prevalent in your area, how often they see parvo, what they recommend for food, etc. Ask to see their exam rooms, their treatment area, their equipment, their lab area, their kennels, if they board pets and if so ask about their requirements and how often they have the staff walk and feed the animals, etc. Ask about the laboratory they use, how long it takes to get results for basic testing like Complete Blood Counts and Chemistry Panels for routine check-ups (also good if you have a pet that is on long-term medication like phenobarbitol which often requires annual blood work), and how they like the lab they use. Leave no stone unturned.
As they said in Dragnet,
Go to your vet's office and get the facts. If you walk away feeling unsure or uneasy, don't go back. If you leave believing your pets are in good hands, then you just found your veterinarian.
Getting the facts can be hard. No two veterinarians operate the exact same way. No two clinics have the exact same protocol. It's important to understand why your veterinarian office does it their way. And people also have the internet, which can be a very helpful tool, but it can also steer you in the wrong direction. Your veterinarian can always recommend reputed sites that will be helpful.
My sources: Pet Health Network, Pet Education by Dr.'s Foster & Smith, and my own experiences working in large/small animal practices as well as a veterinary laboratory.