How to Find a Vet

Choosing a veterinarian for your dog can be daunting, but you can find a veterinarian who will guide you through your dog’s life.


With today’s national shortage, how to find the best vet becomes even more difficult. But, you can do it! Keep these criteria in mind when choosing a veterinarian:

  • Knowledge and interests
  • Location
  • Personality
  • Cost
  • Emergency services
  • Reputation

How to Choose a Vet

All veterinarians go through veterinary school, but some have gone on to earn additional certifications or are really passionate about particular areas of medicine.

For example, a large animal vet who focuses on horses is probably not going to be the best option for your dog. And if you have show dogs who you might breed, you will want a vet who is interested in reproduction.

Dogs with health conditions may need a veterinary team that includes specialists who focus on particular areas of the body as well as a general practice vet who covers regular care like wellness visits, vaccinations, and minor or routine surgeries. This team might be spread over several veterinary clinics and hospitals, or might all be under one roof.

Location Decisions

Consider how far you are willing to drive on a regular basis for veterinary care. Healthy dogs generally only need to go to the vet once or twice a year, but puppies who are starting their vaccination series and dogs with health conditions may need more frequent visits. And, in an emergency, the closer you are to your veterinarian’s office, the better.

Veterinarian Personality

It doesn’t really matter how brilliant your vet is if you just don’t like her. You don’t need to be best friends with your vet, but you should get along with him or her as a person and trust their judgment.

Veterinary Cost

No one likes making veterinary decisions based on money, but it is a reality for many dog owners. If you have financial concerns, talk to the front office staff about the clinic’s policies and if they ever do payment plans now so you can plan ahead of time in case your dog ever has a medical emergency, if you do not have insurance.

Emergency Services

Medical emergencies love to happen on nights and weekends. Some clinics will see emergencies for pets that are already established as patients, while others do not see any after-hours emergencies. Find out what a prospective clinic’s policies are, and if they recommend a local emergency vet.

Once you know the clinic’s policies, think about how that makes you feel. Are you OK with going to an emergency hospital if something goes wrong on the weekend, or do you absolutely want to be able to call your regular vet at all hours? This might impact your decision.

Veterinary Reputation

Ask trusted friends which veterinarians they recommend and why. If you are new to the area, contact a local dog club to see who their membership recommends. You can also browse online reviews.

Always take reviews with a grain of salt. Medical care decisions can be extremely stressful, and owners sometimes lash out at the veterinarian even if the situation was not actually the vet’s fault. But if every single review is negative that might be a red flag.

How to Choose a Veterinarian Post-Pandemic

There are a whole lot more pets in most areas now than there are vets to care for them. Because of this, your preferred veterinarian may not be taking new clients.

Don’t despair! Move on to your second or third choice so that your dog is established with a clinic and able to get any care that he needs. You can always check back with your first-choice hospital in a couple months to see if they are accepting new clients and make the switch at that time.

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Kate Basedow, LVT is a long-time dog enthusiast. She grew up training and showing dogs, and is active in a variety of dog sports. She earned her Bachelors Degree in English from Cornell University in 2013, and became a licensed veterinary technician in New York in 2017. She has been writing professionally about dogs for most of her life, and has earned multiple awards from the Dog Writers' Association of America. Kate currently has three dogs at home, as well as a cat, two zebra finches, and six ducks.