For the first time in over fifteen years, I find myself in a position of having to find a new vet for Allegra and any future feline family members, and I’m finding that it’s not an easy thing to do. During the years I worked in veterinary hospitals, I always had an up close and personal knowledge of the vets who worked on Feebee, Amber and Buckley, from their medical skills and proficiency to their dedication and “bedside manner.” I thought I’d never find better vets than the husband and wife team who owned the practice I managed for eight years. Janet and Jack were the kinds of veterinarians you read about in James Herriot-style books. They were both completely dedicated to their profession. In addition to practicing exceptional, cutting edge medicine, they had elevated the art of compassionate care for their furry patients and their humans to levels that are rare even in a profession that is based on caring for animals. There were many nights when, instead of leaving a sick pet at the practice overnight, they’d take him home and watch over him in their bedroom or bathroom. Both of them loved their work, and they were always learning and growing in their fields. They were a tough act to follow.
When I left their practice to start my own business, I began looking for a new vet. The clinic I had worked at was a forty-five minute drive from home, and neither Amber nor Buckley ever did well on the long drive. I never thought I’d find someone as good as Janet and Jack. And then I met Fern (some of you already know Fern from my book, from some of the articles she’s written for The Conscious Cat, and from our first Ask the Vet teleseminar). Fern and I hit it off immediately. Not only were her practice philosophies in synch with what I was looking for, she is the consummate cat vet, and one of the most brilliant people I ever met. And even better, we became very good friends in a very short time. Unfortunately, she recently had to make the difficult decision to retire, at least for the foreseeable future, from her beloved profession due to a family health problem. While I am fortunate that she will always be available to me for advice or a second opinion, I still need to find a new vet, since she’s not currently affiliated with a hospital and can’t do much beyond basic physical exams without that affiliation. As you might expect, with my background, my standards of what I expect in a vet are very high.
I’ve previously written about how to tell whether your vet is cat-friendly, and how to choose the right vet for your pet. One of the things I always stress when I talk to people about this subject is that I think it’s a good idea to make an appointment without your pet when evaluating a veterinary clinic. By going to see potential vets without your cat, you will be more relaxed. Ask for a tour of the hospital. If you want to speak with a veterinarian, offer to pay for an office visit. Most vets won’t charge you for this introductory visit, but it sets the right tone for a future relationship of mutual respect. Come prepared with a list of questions. Some of the questions I’ll be asking on my search are:
- How many veterinarians are at the practice?
- Will I always see the same vet?
- Are there vets at the practice that specialize in working with cats, or that have a preference for working with cats?
- Are they open to holistic modalities, even if they don’t practice them?
- Are appointments required?
- How are emergencies handled?
- What is their policy for visiting hospitalized pets?
- Are diagnostic services such as x-rays, blood work, ultrasound, EKG, endoscopy done in-house, or will they be referred to a specialist?
- Do the veterinarians use VIN (the Veterinary Information Network)? This is generally an indicator that they’re interested in pursuing continuing education and that they are staying on top of the latest developments in their profession.
I’ve narrowed my own search down to two hospitals – one of them a feline-only practice, which is what I would prefer, but it is further from home than I would like (about a half hour’s drive), the other a small animal practice with a terrific reputation much closer to home. I’ll let you know which one I pick when it’s time for Allegra’s first check up.
Picture shows Allegra on the day I first met her, on an exam table at the veterinary clinic I adopted her from.
Excellent advice, as always! Allegra is beautiful; looks a bit like my little Vixen, except for Vixen’s stripe down her nose. And I love her name, but it begs the question: do you also have cats named Zyrtec, Claritin, and Benadryl? ;-D
Allegra says thank you for the compliment, Lynn! And it always makes me smile that most people assume that she was named after the allergy medication. 🙂
Ingrid: did you ever reveal which vet you ended up going with? I’m looking for a new vet and I think you are around the same area as me. So far from friends I’ve heard Kingstowne or Burke. Neither of my friends is into holistic treatments though and I am so I don’t know if their vets are the right fit. I definitely value your opinion.
Also, the high-priced vet I go to now is one of those big practices. I’ve been passed around from vet to vet and each one has a different idea about diet and such for my cats which makes me uneasy. They also seem dismissive when I mention any holistic treatments or supplements or alternative cat litters. The worst part is that they tend to suggest the most expensive and evasive treatment first for my one ‘sick’ cat which sends up all sorts of red flags for me. It is definitely time for a new vet. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks for this great comment, Michael. You’re adding a couple of very important points I didn’t adress, one being that practices were vets share cases, challenge each other and as a result, learn from each other, may be more progressive than smaller practices.
I have been working as a locum vet for many years, I have come to work with many, many other vets. I have seen many styles of practice. I think feline only practices are the best for cats, most cats I see are stressed by dogs, Also most cats seemed to be stressed by car travel, unlike many other dogs.
Every vet has a different style of practice, some vets are very direct and tell people what they should be doing with their cats, other vets are much more open to discuss the options. Some vets are very conscious of not spending too much money , will other vets insist on the best of practice. VIN is an excellent resource for vets, but there are many other soureces of continuing education for vets, it is most important that vets are doing this.
The more vets that work in a practice generally means that the practice is open for longer hours, but that can mean that is more difficult to get to see the same vet at the same time, But I have found that if you ask and if you are flexible in when you come in, most practices will be more than happy to let you see the same vet. if you visit a small practice with one or two vets, you are much more likely to get personal care and attention, but a larger practice will generally have better equipment. I like to see vets working together as they challenge each other with their knowledge and push each other to higher standards, while one man practices often get set in the way they do things and they are unwilling to change. I definetly recommend looking around for the right vet for you, before you really need one. Cheers
It’s tough to find a vet and when I became a pet owner, as an adult, it was tough and relied on the people that I adopted from.
Ingrid, if you’re interested in holistic, acupuncture, natural treatments, I can recommend Abbey’s vet. She’s wonderful. When she sat on the floor to examine my Abbey, I was sold.
Thanks for the recommendation, Danielle – I’ll keep it in mind!
Ingrid – I highly recommend Chris Carskadden at Clocktower Animal Hospital. He & his wife are the owners of the practice. He always returns my phone calls, is receptive to my thoughts on vaccinations, supports my dry-free diet, respects my knowledge of not just my own cats, but cats in general, and is just an all-around great doctor. I’d be happy to introduce you to him if you haven’t met him yet.
Making fun of the client – hm. That’s a veterinary client retention stratgey I hadn’t heard of. I’m glad you found a vet who’s open to holistic modalities now, Ace.
Layla, there are a number of mobile vets in this area, and I did take a closer look at a couple of them.
Excellent post, Ingrid. I can commiserate with how difficult this choice is. We spent four years going to a less than ideal vet just because it was 5 minutes away and my cats freaked out in the car with a longer drive. Needless to say home visits are the least stressful if there is an affiliation with a decent hospital/clinic. Are there any mobile clinic or vets in your area? You know how much I love mine.
“Are they open to holistic modalities, even if they don’t practice them?”
GREAT question to ask. My present vet is GREAT about this– even though she does not practice holistic modalities, she is always intersted to know what I have been doing.
My FORMER vet used to sneer at me and make fun of me!!!
That is such a hard thing to do, to find another vet. I have found that you have to give up some things to get other things. I use a vet practice right now that there are 5 vets and they are all wonderful vets, one being holistic. But I do get a different vet every time I go in but I could probably get the same one if I asked. But they are an emergency vet hospital so they do a lot of rotating. But it is comforting to know that they are an emergency clinic.
We sure hope you can find someone good for Allegra and who ever else should move it.
I had been going to the same vet for almost 20 years. Then one day he suddenly sold the practice to a new guy. Even the staff was surprised by the sale. I wanted to give the new doctor a chance before leaving the practice. He was great with my dog, who was his first client from my family. The cats didn’t need any care at the time. From what I saw of his interactions with Max, I decided to stay. Later, when I had to put my Katie cat down, our vet was most compassionate. Now I’ve been going to the Milwaukee Animal Hospital for almost 30 years.
Max, I totally understand that most kitties aren’t fond of vets. It’s why it’s so important for their humans to try and find one that causes the least amount of stress for them.
Leslie, you’re fortunate to have such a wonderful vet in Dr. Plotnick. I wouldn’t ever let “close to home” be the only reason for choosing a vet. As you said, research, interview, and make your decision based on what’s important to you.
Great piece, Ingrid. Having a great vet is so important to me, and I have trouble understanding the “I need a vet close to home”. Really close. I live in NYC where vets are a dime a dozen and all just a taxi ride away. Many people choose vets right around the corner or down the block for convenience, without doing any research or interviewing. I live in an outer borough of NYC and have taken my cats to the same vet since 2003 when Dr. Arnold Plotnick opened up his own practice, in the heart of Manhattan. Is it inconvenient? Sometimes, yes, we have lots of traffic and of course cats get stressed while traveling. However, I can’t picture going to another vet as Dr. P is the finest cat vet on the planet. Vet care is so integral to pet care – I suggest everyone does research to find the right vet for you and your babies. What may be important to one may not be for another, but it’s worth the time to find the vet that you connect with and who is a great diagnostician.
I have never been too fond of vets…. they made me shake all over, but this article is great for human beans trying to find a good vet. Thanks for posting it.