If you’re a new pet owner or have you recently moved and are looking for a new, local
veterinarian, there are a few things to consider while searching for the right veterinarian for your furry or feathered friend.
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General fee structure
While price shouldn’t be the sole factor in deciding which clinic is best for you, it is still worth asking about the fees of their most commonly used services. Costs can vary greatly between clinics, so if you cannot locate answers online, you should ask the following:
- What is the cost of an office visit?
- What are the general costs of vaccines my pet may need?
- What is the price for blood tests or x-rays?
- What is the cost to spay or neuter my pet?
Unfortunately, over the course of your pet’s life, there may be pricy unexpected medical
procedure to pay for. In cases where you think you might not have the funds to cover the bill, you can ask if the veterinary clinic takes either of these forms of payment:
- Care Credit, a line of credit specifically intended for health expenses, including
veterinary care. Take a moment to read the terms of this card carefully to make sure
obtaining one will not add to your financial difficulties.
- Scratchpay offers a simple payment plan for large veterinary bills. Scratchpay sets up
automatic withdrawals and pays your vet directly (the veterinarian must be signed up for
Be sure to ask the clinic what pet insurance they take, if applicable.
Hours and availability
Take the following into consideration:
- Is the clinic open seven days a week?
- Do they have evening appointments?
- Do they treat after-hours emergencies? If not, where do they refer clients for this service?
Exams usually begin with a veterinarian asking questions to assess your pet’s overall health. They will then perform a physical examination — checking eyes, ears, teeth, and more — and listen to your pet’s heart and lungs. Additionally, they may take a blood sample, x-rays if needed, or ask for a stool or urine sample prior to the exam.
Health exams will vary between clinics, so asking what is covered in an exam is advised.
If your pet is anxious around other animals, you will want to ask if the clinic has a separate exterior entrance to an exam room. This will allow you and your pet to bypass the lobby and front desk. You can also ask if they can process your payment from the exam room to avoid animal interactions on your way out.
During the pandemic, vets have closed their offices to visitors, instead picking up pets from their owners in the office parking lot, and consulting, and collecting payment, by phone.
Does the veterinarian fill medications onsite or do they provide a written prescription for you to take to another pharmacy? Prescription prices can vary greatly, so we recommend comparing pricing. See our most recent column, “Getting the best price for pet medications,” for some great tips.
Be sure to check what other types of services the clinic offers. You may be surprised. They could offer:
- Nail trimming
- Behavioral training
- Dental care
- Laser therapy
- Rehabilitative services
- Specialty services
- Specialists onsite, which would be good if your pet has an existing medical condition; extra training in oncology or neurology
- Pet acupuncture
These are just a few things to look for in your search for the best vet for your pet. We hope you find a good match.
Nicole Forsyth is president and CEO of RedRover, an organization that focuses on bringing animals out of crisis and strengthening the human-animal bond through emergency sheltering, disaster relief services, financial assistance and education. She writes Dollars and Pets for the Bay Area News Group. Send questions to [email protected]. For more wildlife, garden and backyard topics, sign up for our new, free Flora+Fauna newsletter.