Choosing the Right Vet

Published on Mon, 03/29/2010 - 12:37pm

 Most cattle producers have experienced needing to find a new veterinarian at some point in their life. Whether you just moved to an area, your veterinarian has moved or retired, or you simply want to make a change, this decision is one that is a very important one to make.

In many cases, you have to start at step one and ask the question, “What makes a good veterinarian?” Finding a veterinarian that meets your needs can be a challenge and in some areas where there are several veterinary practices from which to choose, it takes some good research and leg work to come up with the right choice for your situation. By choosing a good veterinarian and developing a positive working relationship, the producer can maximize the quality care that the animals receive.  
In some areas, because of land expanse and minimal populations, there are not very many choices. However, in more populated areas, veterinarian choices do exist. In these situations, there are certain things to look for in a good veterinarian.
First of all, make sure that the veterinarians you are researching have all of the training and licensure needed to provide the professional expertise that you require. Medical licenses should be on display or available for you to see at the veterinary clinic.
On the national level there is the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB). Its mission is to reliably provide quality resources and accurate information for veterinary regulatory agencies and professionals and allied groups in the interest of public protection. On the AAVSB website (, you can click on a General FAQ’s link that will answer a wide range of questions. One area will give you each state’s licensing requirements for both veterinarians and veterinarian technicians. If you want, you can even go to the Public/Consumer Information link and check to see if any complaints have been made against a certain veterinarian. Since each state has a state board charged with the responsibility of protecting you and your animals through enforcement of state laws governing veterinary medicine, you can also click on the Boards and Agencies link that takes you to a list of state veterinary boards. If you do not have Internet access, you can call (877) 698-8482.
Once you have checked out the licensure, it is time to learn more about the veterinarian as a person. Not every veterinarian’s style matches with every producer. Plus, you need to find out if the veterinarian is taking new customers and are they willing to travel to your site to offer services.
Word of mouth is always a good way to find out about the experiences other producers have had with area veterinarians. Obviously, you will be looking for information about what others say about the veterinarian’s practice: knowledge of the animals, how the veterinarian handles routine procedures, surgery and unusual cases. At the same time, find out about how the veterinarian works with owners and their animals. What about courtesy to others and concern for the animal? Does the veterinarian take time to establish a working relationship with the producer? In other words, what type of communication style are you, the producer, looking for?
Preparation and punctuality are also part of the equation. What do other customers have to say? If the appointment is set for a certain time, does the veterinarian come with what is needed and show up on time? If there is going to be a delay, does the veterinarian have a track record of calling ahead to let the producer know about the delay? Nothing is more frustrating than sitting expectantly for hours while there is other work that can be done.
How does the veterinarian handle emergency situations? Obviously, emergencies don’t always occur during the working day, so is the clinic a 24-hour clinic? We all know that sometimes emergencies are a life and death issue. Does the veterinarian or in the case of a larger clinic with more than one veterinarian on call 24-7 handle a crisis in a prompt and efficient manner?
Once you have gathered as much word of mouth information and have narrowed down your choices, make a visit to the practice to meet the office staff, animal health technician staff and veterinarian. Take a good look at the facility. Is it up-to-date and clean? Arrange a tour of the facility and ask further questions to help you determine if this is the right choice.
One of the big things to find out is the cost of the veterinarian’s service. Check to see if there is a listing of pricing for the many services that you might need. Costs will vary by region and part of the country, so do some checking prior to making your choice. Another consideration is the payment procedure. How are clients expected to pay for services rendered? Of course, it’s important to remember that the lowest price does not always mean the best service and value.
Once a choice has been made, it now becomes the responsibility of both producer and veterinarian to forge a positive working relationship. As the old expression goes, it takes two to Tango!
AVMA Website for Both Veterinarians and General Public
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) was established in 1863 as a non-profit association representing veterinarians working in all areas of veterinary practice.
The AVMA acts as a collective voice for both the members and the profession.
It is the accrediting body for the 28 schools of veterinary medicine in the United States. Recognized worldwide as the “gold standard” in veterinary education, many veterinary schools from foreign countries use the AVMA as the model for their own curriculum.
The AVMA also produces scientific and medical information to benefit all who work with animals. The AVMA website ( contains a library of information on a variety of animal health topics. The information can easily be downloaded and printed off. It offers help in selecting and raising a pet, protecting the health and safety of both domestic and wild animals, protecting the public from diseases and developing guidelines for properly using life-saving drugs.
The AVMA website features four main categories of information: About the AVMA, Scientific (issues, journals and reference), Veterinary (jobs, meetings, on-line education, insurances) and Public (animal health, public health, for educators and about the AMVA foundation). 
Two journals can also be accessed on-line: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Journal of Veterinary Research.
Looking for Veterinary Specialists
Every once in a while, something will come up that is more than the ordinary. How do we find the resource to handle the special situation or problem. In speaking with the AVMA, they are in the process of putting together a database to address some of these out-of-the-ordinary issues. However, it is still a work in progress.
A second suggestion is to use the word-of-mouth method. Check out what other producers in a region or state have to say.
A third suggestion is to go the AVMA website and search for State VMA websites. Each site offers special information by state. For instance, in searching the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association, links include the Heathcare Team, Public, Industry, About Us and Meetings and Education.