Choosing a Veterinarian
The veterinarian is your partner in caring for your Lab. If you've never had a dog before, choosing the right veterinarian should be one of the most important items on your to-do list before bringing your puppy home. Also, by selecting a veterinarian in advance, you can avoid the need to find someone in a hurry if your Lab becomes unexpectedly ill. And, of course, you'll want to have your new puppy or dog examined first thing to make sure he's healthy.
How to Find a Veterinarian
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find a veterinarian. A referral from someone you trust is a good start. If you have friends, neighbors, or coworkers with Labs, ask them where they go and if they're satisfied with the treatment their dog receives. The breeder can also recommend someone if you're buying your puppy locally.
Another source for finding a veterinarian is the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). The AAHA performs inspections and provides references to veterinary hospitals that meet its standards in such areas as anesthesia, dental cleaning, medical recordkeeping, and surgery.
The Yellow Pages are also a good resource. A veterinarian's ad can tell you whether the clinic is close enough to your home for convenience and whether the veterinarian offers any special services, such as boarding, grooming, or twenty-four-hour emergency care.
How to Choose the Right Veterinarian
When you have the names of a few veterinarians, set up an appointment to meet them and tour their clinics. Try to interview several veterinarians to make sure you find one you like. It's important that you share the same health care philosophy. Veterinary issues that might be important to you include how often vaccinations are administered, the type of diet your Lab eats, or the use of alternative therapies.
The hospital tour and a meeting with the veterinarian and staff will help you make the right decision. Not every hospital, even if it's a good one, is going to suit everyone. It's important to find a hospital that suits your needs, provides the level of care you want, and that has the attitude you want in the veterinarian and staff. Questions you might want to ask during the interview include the following:
Most veterinarians have the title of DVM, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Veterinarians who graduate from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine bear the title VMD, Veterinary Medical Doctor.
What are your charges for office visits, vaccinations, parasite preventives, and spay/neuter surgery?
What forms of payment do you accept? Can I pay a large bill over time?
What are your office hours?
Do you have overnight facilities for boarding, treatment, or observation? Is someone there twenty-four hours a day?
What's the procedure if my Lab has an emergency in the middle of the night or on a Sunday?
Are you affiliated with the AAHA?
Approximately what percentage of your clinic's patients are dogs? Of those, how many are Labs?
During the clinic tour, pay attention to the surroundings. The clinic should be clean and odor free. Make notes on what you like or dislike so you can make comparisons with other clinics you visit. Once you make a decision, you can set up an appointment for your new Lab's first visit.