How to Choose a Vet
One of the best ways to chose a vet in your local area is if friends or relatives can recommend one. Asking different people is a good way of getting a feel for the vets in your area and which one may be right for you. Other good sources of information include local training classes, grooming parlours, catteries, kennels and the dog walkers in your local park.
Having a vet who is easy to get to, especially if you need to get there quickly, is very useful. It can also be helpful if they have a car park, so saving you having to walk too far with a heavy basket. In a good practice the staff should be able to give you directions, know which bus routes pass close to the surgery and should be able to offer you details of local taxi firms who will transport animals if you need one.
Hopefully, all you will visit your vet for is yearly boosters and routine check-ups. However, what about when your pet is sick? The vast majority of vets will have equipment such as x-ray and dental machines but some, and it tends to be the larger practices, will have other facilities such as ultrasound machines, endoscopes and ECG (heart trace) monitors. Obviously not all animals will need these but if they do it can mean they is able to stay in the practice rather than being referred on to somewhere else. There is a Practice Standard Scheme(the PSS) run by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons which regulates practices and places them in ‘tiers’ depending on their facilities and services. It is a voluntary scheme but if your surgery is a member, it gives you the peace of mind they have been inspected and are committed to high standards. Another scheme which many clinics subscribe to is one run by the Feline Advisory Bureau (FAB), a cat charity, who ensure the practice is ‘cat friendly’.
All vets in the UK have a duty to provide 24 hour care for their patients. Some will do this themselves, with the vets in the practice working on a rota system and others will use a dedicated out-of-hours provider. There are pros and cons to both methods. On the one hand it is comforting, especially in an emergency situation, to go to the practice you know, but the vet you see may have been working that day and have to be in in the morning after as well. In a dedicated centre the vet will only do emergency work, be fresh on the job and may have received extra training. Also, some practices will have staff on the premises to check on any patients kept in over-night, whereas at others they may be left alone. Knowing what your vets arrangements for out-of-hours care is is important, so in an emergency you know who to call and where to go.
All vets will offer consultations and operations but many now offer a much wider range of services for your pet. Many surgeries run regular nurse clinics, where rather than seeing a vet for a minor problem like a nail trim you can see the nurse. Often the appointment slots are longer so you can have a chat about other things and the cost is often less than seeing a vet. Nurses can run clinics for over-weight pets, dental advice, older pets and worming and flea treatment. Many practices also offer Puppy Parties which are a great way to get a new dog off to the best start in life.
Staff and Specialisation
The staff in a good veterinary practice should be professional, polite, well trained and able to answer basic questions about animal care. An important point is that although all practices will have nurses, not all may be be qualified or in training as the title Veterinary Nurse is not protected. Qualified veterinary nurses are highly skilled and, as they will be the ones doing most of the caring for your pet while they are in the practice, it is important to check they are on staff. Another thing that many people prefer is to see the same vet at every visit. This is usually not a problem but it is worth discussing with the staff as in many clinics the vets work on a rota system and are not available all of the time. Not all vets are able or willing to treat all species. One of the most common areas where a specialist vet is required is for exotic pets such as reptiles or birds. If you have these animals you should ensure that you are registered with a vet who is able to help you and has the knowledge and facilities required to deal with them. Some practices will have vets who have a particular interest in a field or who hold extra qualifications. For example Ophthalmology (eyes) or Orthopaedics (bones). Not all pets will need their expert input but they will have be trained to high standards and so having them in the practice is often a sign that it provides good quality care.
While prices between practices in an area will vary, it is often not by much. However, for some people the cost of the vets is an important consideration and there are now ‘budget’ clinics in most areas whose charges tend to be lower than average. In the UK vets are tightly regulated so the care at these cheaper practices should not be of a much lower standard than other vets but they may not have as smart or extensive facilities or level of customer care found at other surgeries. Some practices will run schemes where a monthly direct debit can be used to cover your pets routine veterinary care, for example vaccinations and parasite control. These often also qualify you for a discount on any other services you may need. These can be a great way of spreading the cost of a pets care and ensure they get everything they need. Occasionally vets bills can be large and while some practices can arrange payment plans for regular clients, others will require the account to always be settled in full. Knowing which policy your surgery has is useful so you know what to expect if your pet does need extensive care. In your local area you are likely to have many different veterinary practices and so choosing the right one for you and your pet is important. There are many factors to consider but ultimately the best vets are the ones who you trust and who you know will really care for, as well as treating, your pets.
Vets in your area
The Vet Help Direct vet practice directory compares the vet practices in your area. You can see pictures of the local vet practices and staff and get information about opening times, out of hours service provision and staff qualifications. Visit Vet Practice Directory for more information about vets in your area