Choosing Your Veterinarian

Just like with our own physicians, not all veterinarians are created equal.  So, keep this in mind should you find yourself in search of veterinary care. Yes, veterinary care can be expensive as is our own health care. When we look at our furry companions we tend to look at their size and base our expectations on that.  But the reality is our veterinarian’s expenses are no different than our physicians. The equipment used for blood work, x-rays, anesthesia etc. is the same as that used for humans. It cost the same, as did, their education. Similar to your physician, veterinarians spend a minimum of 8 years in pre-med and veterinary medicine. But, like any profession, there are some that better suit your needs than others. For your cats you may want to consider the following:

While knowledge is important, compassion is equally important. If your friend is not treated, as you would like to be treated or the veterinarian is resistant to answering your questions or becomes defensive then you may want to reconsider your choice.

Do they use gas anesthesia? This is particularly important if you are considering a surgical procedure. Not all veterinarians use gas and intubate cats to keep their airway open. If the cat is intubated, and should stop breathing during surgery, they can then initiate respiration. Without the tube in place this option becomes more difficult as it is harder to open an airway once breathing has stopped.

An intravenous anesthesia may or may not keep the cat in a pain free state throughout the procedure. Should the cat awaken during the procedure, a property of the anesthesia renders the animal immobile yet it feels every bit of what is going on. This may traumatize the animal to the point where it permanently alters its personality. The cat may be very difficult to handle during future visits to any veterinary clinic or the cat may simply shut down.

If you are considering surgery for you friend, ask about post-op care.  Not all clinics routinely provide pain control nor do they tell you this. Imagine spaying your friend (which is a hysterectomy for a woman) and not be given anything for pain. Consider how much it hurts when you stub your toe and then think about having your cat declawed (where the first digit of the toe is removed) and not be given anything for post-op pain.

Pre-Op blood work should be offered and most definitely considered. This option may save your cat’s life as it can surface underlying problems of which your veterinarian would otherwise not be aware.

Cost is an issue to most of us. If the veterinarian is on the high end they may be offering additional amenities and higher quality of care. This may be of significant importance to you and the overall comfort for your pet. If the veterinarian is on the low end, you need to consider why. Lower costs may be indicative of lower quality of care and less safe practices. To cut costs, some facilities may reuse needles, syringes, tubing etc. Reused needles can become dull making an unpleasant experience even more painful. Again, cats are very sensitive to pain. If they have been traumatized in a veterinary clinic, chances are they may be difficult to handle during future health care visits.

Finally, you should feel comfortable in taking an active interest in your pet’s care. Look for a veterinarian who will include you in the decision-making process and is not offended by your questions.  Make sure the office hours and payment policies are convenient for you. Trust your instincts yet be fair in your expectations.