Whether you're visiting a veterinary practice or hospital for the first time, or looking at your current vet with new eyes, here are some things to look for in determining if your vet is safe for your pet:
General atmosphere Does the staff wear uniforms and/or present a professional appearance and attitude? Are they helpful and friendly? Do they seem to like working there and love animals? Are the facilities, including waiting area, treatment rooms and kennel area, clean and well-lit? Check the bathroom! A clean bathroom for humans is a good indicator of a clean space for animals. Is the reception area open to the waiting room for easy interaction or do you have to speak to the staff through a window? Do the veterinarians treat their staff with respect? Is the facility well-organized? Do they remind you of upcoming appointments? Keep appointments on time? Follow-up after visits? When you present a problem or concern to an employee, do they take ownership of the problem and follow it through to your satisfaction?
Policies What is the policy toward stray animals? If you bring in an injured stray will it be treated? Will you be charged or do they cover the expense? (50/50 is a happy medium) Does the practice/hospital treat wildlife? If not, do they refer to wildlife associations? Do they accept donations and maintain a fund for the treatment of strays or wildlife? In a life threatening emergency, will they treat the pet’s problem first, and discuss money issues later?
Facility Ask for a tour. If they won't give you a tour on the spot or set a more convenient time, this may be a red flag. You should see the examination rooms, surgery, recovery area and kennels. The pets in the kennel should look well-cared for and content. Animals must be properly identified, especially if they are kept in kennels/cages together. People in hospitals are given ID bracelets to prevent mistaken identity; pets should have them, too. Ask about their on-site capabilities. If it is an animal hospital, do they have the equipment on-site to do blood analysis, x-rays, sonograms? Are all the veterinary technicians certified with the state? If not, how many are? Can you request that only certified techs work with your pet?
This list is a guide. You should not decide a vet is unsafe because they don't conform to a few items on this list. I want you to trust your instincts and never be afraid to ask questions and expect the very best in treatment, compassion and respect from your pet's healthcare provider.