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How to choose a vet for your dog or cat

Team Walmart Pets

July 23, 2021


min read

Whether you’re a first-time pet parent unsure where to start or recently moved to a new area, finding the right vet for you and your pet can be difficult, especially when there are so many options! Here’s a guide to help you find a licensed professional that can provide the best care for your pet. And while we’re at it, we’ll break down how to find an emergency vet as well.

Finding a primary care vet

For your pet’s primary care (the routine check-ups and preventive care), try asking your family and friends for recommendations. Many practices have referral programs that reward you both with discounts. You can also inquire at local rescues or breed clubs.

Helpful Tip: Visit the American Animal Hospital Association website to find a veterinary hospital near you.

Since you’ll be visiting this practice for your pet’s health needs, it’s important to find one that is conveniently located, and with hours of operation that work well for your schedule. This will make it easier when it comes time for your pet’s yearly check-up. These annual visits evaluate your pet’s health status, address potential health issues as well as ensure you meet the requirements for your pet insurance coverage.

And of course, make sure you have a proper cat carrier or dog crate so you can safely transport your pet to the vet. You can also read up on traveling in cars with cats and tips for preventing motion sickness in dogs and cats.

If you have a policy for your pet with Walmart Pet Insurance, you can visit any licensed vet in the United States or Canada whenever your pet gets sick or hurt. Just remember it won't be able to cover routine visits, like teeth cleanings, vaccinations, spay or neuter.

What questions to ask your vet?

Here is a checklist of questions to get you started when you’re on the hunt for the right vet.

  • How are appointments scheduled?
  • What are the office hours?
  • How do they handle walk-ins?
  • Do they have after-hour emergency care?
  • Do they have 24/7 emergency care?
  • Is supervised overnight hospitalization available?
  • Who covers the practice when the regular doctor is unavailable?
  • What additional services do they provide pet parents? Grooming? Boarding? Daycare?
  • What are their fees, services and payment policies?
  • What payment plans and financial assistance options are available?
  • Does the practice allow your pet insurance to pay them directly for covered medical expenses for your convenience?

It doesn’t hurt to visit or call the vet first to ask the staff plenty of questions before you decide on where to take your dog or cat. You’ll need to choose a team that will guide you through those times when your pet is sick, injured or even give you advice when your dog or cat is healthy. Make sure you like the way they communicate with you, the pet parent. If it comes time to leave, and you’ve not been convinced that the practice is a good fit, continue your search.

Finally, and arguably most importantly, the veterinarian you choose should be a person your pet feels comfortable with. Some pets may never enjoy going to the hospital, but a veterinary team that goes above and beyond to try and calm goes a long way in helping to keep stressful situations to a minimum. Also, the more your pet sees the vet, the greater the likelihood they’ll become comfortable with the environment – another great reason to never miss a check-up!

Finding an emergency and specialist veterinarian

Should the unexpected strike, you won’t want to waste time searching for emergency vet care. That’s why we recommend keeping the phone number and address of the one you trust handy. But how do you decide on which emergency clinic to use?

Proximity plays a huge factor in your decision as emergency care is often time-sensitive. List the hospitals within a 10-mile radius from where you live and ask your primary veterinarian for their recommendation.

Should your pet require more advanced medical care to address a complicated illness or injury, you’ll need to seek out a veterinary specialist. Experts in everything from anesthesia to soft tissue surgery, these specialty veterinarians will be valuable partners in getting your pet back to feeling 100%!

The good news is once you have a primary care veterinarian you trust, it is often easier to find specialists since they will refer you and your pet. You can also explore your options via the official American Veterinary Medical Association website.

What to bring to your first vet visit

  • Copies of all medical records, including lab work and vaccinations
  • A list of concerns or questions to improve your pet’s day-to-day care
  • Your Walmart Pet Insurance info
  • Hospital manners - keep your pet leashed or in a crate and don’t allow socialization with other patients. Pets that are ordinarily friendly may become stressed at the hospital and aggressive. Plus, it will help prevent your pet from catching a contagious illness.

Remember, you are your pet’s biggest advocate so don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions. Taking the time to find the right veterinarian is important to ensure your pet’s wellness and good quality of life. And you can find more tips on how to be the best pet parent that you can.

Pet Care

Photo by Anna Dudkova on Unsplash