I believe going to the vet is as much about me as it is about Luna & Indy. It may not be me that is being treated, but to do the best for them I need to make good decisions, and to make those decisions often at difficult times, its important to trust and respect your vet, and that means taking the time to find a vet that fits.

I’ve used the same vet for years – I love my vet, although he does sit on the fence where raw feeding is concerned, but he gets me and totally supports my approach to the services he offers my fur family.

When I moved home, I was faced with changing vets. I seriously considered taking them ‘home’ when they needed vaccinations, but worried if there was an emergency. I was spoilt for choice, equal distance to three vets, but how would I choose the best one for us?

I began by driving past to see if one ‘looked’ better than the other. A stupid concept really, just because something looks the part, doesn’t mean it can do the job. I looked online for reviews of each of the surgeries, I then looked at forums to see other peoples experience and tried to dig for ‘anything’ that would sway me one way or the other. I even looked at their Facebook pages, but what was I hoping to find?

The human approach was my next step, so I asked others. Indy’s breeders live in the area so I asked for their experience. I asked in the local pet shop, the dog sitter, neighbours and everyone I met with a dog – the result; votes for all three, good, bad, indifferent, so was I right back where I started?

My only option was to get closer to the surgeries, I could phone and see if I could get a ‘feeling’ for one over the other or I could visit, unannounced and with no pre-conceived ideas. So that’s what I did, over two days I dropped into each surgery.

Surgery One – On a Saturday morning, mid-way through opening hours.

1) Nobody waiting. Is that good or bad?
2) I look around, its clean & tidy, the usual information on the notice boards, the usual food for sale. Nothing unusual here, right?
3) I approach the desk, two people sitting behind the counter, what I believe to be a receptionist but who could also have been a nurse and a vet, both friendly. Good!
4) I tell them I’m new to the area, I have two dogs that need to be registered at a vets. Immediately I have a clip board thrust at me and I’m told to complete the form to register.
Whoa, hold on a minute, I’ve not actually decided if I want to register… So I ask ‘Can I ask you some more questions, first?’
5) What facilities do you have, what are the emergency hours, what happens if my pet has to stay overnight – is there someone here all night? How many vets are there, and I saved the best till last – what are your thoughts on raw feeding? Uhh, that was a mistake – here is what I was told (this is the edited version).
6) ‘Raw feeding is not recommended.’ Oh really, why?
‘Raw feeding is dangerous.’ Is it, why?
‘Puppies should not be fed raw, at least not for the first year.’ Why is that?
‘Never feed raw if you have children.’ What, why?
‘Raw food is a health hazard’ – Can you hear yourself?
‘We recommend Royal Canine.’ Of course you do!

Conclusion – I ran as fast as I could!

Surgery Two – On a Saturday morning, mid-way through opening hours.

1) One lady in the waiting room, with an adorable chihuahua. I began by asking her if she would recommend the surgery. A resounding Yes.
2) I looked around, the usual notice board announcements, the same dog food, this time with toys and accessories, all clean and clinical looking.
3) I approached the desk with two receptionists. Behind the desk looked more like a pharmacy. I explained that I had moved to the area and had two dogs to register. Once again I was asked to fill in a form to register.
But wait, what about my questions, could they try to help me?
4) More or less the same questions as before, with the raw feeding question left till the end. ‘The vets do not support raw feeding, they believe it to be dangerous!’ ‘The nurses would be the best people to talk to, perhaps I could telephone one of the nurses to discuss why I should not consider raw feeding and for them to advise me on a more suitable dry food diet. Have you tried Royal Canine?’ Honestly!

Conclusion – Disappointed, if this is what the receptionists are taught then I can only imagine what the vets have to say. I’ve seen enough, get me out of here!

Surgery Three – On a Monday evening, towards the end of surgery hours, in the pouring rain.

1) Two people in the waiting room, a warm and friendly atmosphere when I entered, less clinical more homely. Now that feels better!
2) I approached the reception, two receptionist on duty, one on the telephone the other welcomed me and asked if she could help. She had a name badge, so I knew immediately who she was and what her position in the surgery was, the practice manager – perfect, here goes.
3) So, my questions, she answered them all with in-depth considered answers. Who would she recommend I saw, she chose a female vet who was married to a farmer and mad about border collies (we have something in-common, then) or one of the surgery partners, in fact, she said, ‘Let me get him for you’.
3) I was introduced to the vet that owned the practise, I explained my situation – he asked, ‘Would I like a tour of the facilities’? Yes, YES Please!
I was shown ‘everything’ the consulting rooms, the operating theatres, the pharmacy, the lab, the kennels, the hydrotherapy pool complete with the resident physiotherapist, the nurses room, and the general medicine area complete with a baby goat (don’t ask).
But what happens if my dogs have to stay overnight – the answer, ‘Then they come home with me!’ Of course they do!
Then the elephant in the room, raw feeding, what is your position? ‘If you raw feed then I support you, I do not believe it’s the answer to everything, but I support your choice.’
Hallelujah, I love you – will you be our new vet, plllleeeeaaaassssseeee?

Conclusion – Now you can give me the clipboard/form, I’m ready to register.

Okay then, so what did I learn…

You have a choice. You do not need to register with the most local vet, the vet you have always gone to, or the vet your parents use. You can and you should ‘interview’ the veterinary practice to find a good fit.

Our pets deserve amazing veterinarians, just like we need our Doctors, but do not expect them to have the answer to everything unless they specialise in that subject. For instance most vets have studied conventional medicine, if you would like a more holistic approach then you will need to look for a vet that has studied conventionally and holistically.

It is important to feel comfortable at every stage, if it does not feel right, then it probably isn’t right – be assertive, make your feeling known and if you do not get a satisfactory answer – seek a second opinion.

Sammy x

P.S. Remember to share with us your experience, it helps us to all make informed choice if we know what to expect.