Pet Health Choosing a Vet

Published on March 7th, 2018 | by Debbie Martin


Choosing a Vet – The Complete Guide

When you choose to share your life with an animal, whether a dog, cat, bird, horse or any other creature, you will, as a responsible owner do all you can to learn about how to care for your new friend.

One thing that some pet owners struggle with though is finding a good veterinary surgery. There are still some vets who operate a small ‘one-man-band’ surgery however these are probably rarer than they used to be. Many veterinary surgeries, like other types of businesses, have been amalgamated into larger, privately financed practices or bought up by big names to be run as franchises.

One of the factors driving this change is the advent of new techniques and technology as well as a desire by some vet practitioners to work more flexible hours, a trend fuelled by the greater number of female graduates coming out of the veterinary schools. Finding a vet that best fits in with your needs, one who you know will give the best quality of care to you and your pet, and one who you feel comfortable with, is something you should think carefully about.

Should you choose a vet who specialises?

Many veterinary practices treat a variety of animals but there are some that take small animal work only or who have a dedicated section for small animal work with staff experienced in treating small animals. There are even some vets who specialise in treating only cats; this is probably a reflection of the cat’s increasing popularity as the pet of choice for urbanites. Many veterinary practices particularly in rural areas tend to run the large animal and livestock side of their businesses separately whereas in towns and cities most veterinary time is spent looking after pets and companion animals. There are also many veterinary practices who able to offer a good diagnostic service or who can make referrals to a specialist.

Veterinary care isn’t always 9 to 5

As with humans our pets can often fall ill at the most inconvenient of times. This is why you need to choose a vet who will have some form of provision for out of hours care. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is the profession’s governing body and stipulates that all veterinary practices must provide emergency cover. Unfortunately, the days when vets would turn out at any time day or night to make house calls are long gone particularly in the case of smaller practices. What usually happens is that some town and city practices that cover a specific area or region will work together to provide 24-hour emergency cover on a rota basis. This means that you may have to attend a veterinary practice that is in your local area but one which you would not normally visit. Some areas though now have dedicated out-of-hours clinics that have their own staff. Some of these may have specialised equipment and staff who are experienced in dealing with specific problems, illnesses or emergencies. If your pet is referred to one of these specialised emergency clinics you may find yourself having to travel further than usual to access the treatment your animal needs. In these times of health and safety concerns plus staffing and time constraints emergency vets are unlikely to make home visits so it is essential that you can make arrangements to transport your pet when necessary.

When making your choice of veterinary practice then, make sure you enquire what their out-of-hours and emergency arrangements are and always ensure you have pet transport at the ready.

Cat- friendly clinics and practices

A trip to the vet can be frightening for any animal but can be especially worrying for cats. Always be sure to transport your cat correctly in a dedicated cat carrier, perhaps containing a favourite blanket and one that is partially covered to keep the cat comfortable and secure. If you wish to attend a cat-friendly clinic look for one that is accredited by International Cat Care (ICC). This accreditation ensures that:

  • Staff understand the needs of cats and have taken steps to ensure a visit to the clinic is more cat-friendly.
  • They understand how to approach cats correctly and how to handle them gently and with care. A badly handled cat will suffer distress and may be more difficult to treat in future visits.
  • Staff are knowledgeable about the care and treatment of cats and have the right equipment.
  • These requirements cover all staff from the receptionists up to veterinary consultant level.

To find a cat-friendly clinic in your area visit

Core standards must be adhered to

The RCVS sets standards for all veterinary practices and these are periodically updated. There are three levels of standards which are:

  • Core Standards – a necessity to comply with all legal and health and safety requirements plus employment legislation and guidance found in the RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct.
  • General Practice – a requirement for high standards of clinical care.
  • Veterinary Hospital – expected to have the necessary facilities to deal with more complex issues.

A practice that is rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ in the areas of team and professional responsibility, diagnostic service and emergency/critical care, amongst others, is one that you can be sure has made extra effort to provide an excellent quality of care. To find a practice that fits these outstanding criteria in your area you can go online to use the RCVS ‘Find a Vet’ service.

Dealing with complaints

Hopefully you will be lucky enough to find a vet who never puts a foot wrong but occasionally mistakes or misunderstandings can happen. If you are unable to resolve a problem or dispute then you can go to the RCVS, the governing body which has the power to strike off a veterinary surgeon guilty of professional misconduct and also offers a dispute resolution service for lesser issues. If you need more information on this, visit –

Take your time in choosing a vet

Don’t be afraid to visit the vet practices in your area and talk to staff and clients there to get an idea of the standard of care and cleanliness. Word-of-mouth recommendation is often the best way to find out which the best practices are.

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About the Author

Debbie has worked for Beeston Animal Health for a number of years and although generally involved with the marketing these days she has a great deal of knowledge on many things to do with small animals.

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