How to Choose a Veterinarian

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on August 11, 2022
3 min read

A great veterinarian ensures better health for your pet and peace of mind for you. Use these tips to find one who's knowledgeable, friendly, and committed to giving your furry, feathered, or scaly friends good care.

The worst time to look for a vet is when you really need one. Even before you get a pet, a veterinarian can help you decide which type is best for your family’s needs and lifestyle.

If you already have an animal but you’re moving to a new town or you’re not happy with your current vet, start exploring your options before your pet gets sick or has an accident. That gives you time to do a thorough search.

Do you have a friend who loves their pet as much as you do? Find out where they take them. A personal reference can be more reliable than review sites, especially if the pet owner’s standards are similar to your own.

If you have a purebred dog or cat or a nontraditional pet, consider checking with a local breeder or specialty group. Its members may have a strong relationship with a practice that will know your animal’s needs and any potential health problems.

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) accredits clinics that show that they have the highest standards of care. You can visit its website to find an accredited facility near you.

You can also visit the website of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners to find a certified vet, which means they have spent 2 to 4 extra years studying a specialized field, like care for cats and dogs, birds, reptiles, or exotic animals.

Once you’ve found a practice you like, request a meeting with a veterinarian there to discuss any questions you have. Write them down before you go. A few things to consider:

  • What are the office hours, and do they work with your schedule?
  • Can you reach the staff by email or text?
  • Do they offer telemedicine visits?
  • Does the facility offer after-hours emergency services? What about grooming and boarding?
  • Does the vet have a network of specialists that they can refer you to if necessary?
  • Do you feel comfortable bringing up your concerns with the vet?
  • How long does it usually take to make an appointment?
  • If there are multiple vets on staff, can you request a specific one?
  • Do they offer payment plans or accept Care Credit?
  • If you have pet insurance or are considering it, does the hospital accept your plan? 

Also, ask whether you can bring your pet to the meeting, so you can get a sense of how the vet interacts with them. And make a note of how long it takes you to get there and how easy it is to find parking.

While you’re there, ask if you can check out the office. You can see if it’s clean (you shouldn’t smell bad odors), whether the cats and dogs are comfortable and kept separately, and how organized the waiting area and treatment rooms are. You can also see how the receptionist, veterinary technicians, and other staffers interact with the animals.