If you're new to an area or to pet ownership, I would defenitly recomend shoping around for a vet. See if there is a local publication that has a yearly vote for the best of... contest that might include categories for pet care. Ask pet store staff who they take their pets to. Talk to other pet owners you meet and ask who they go to and what they think of them. If you find one that sounds promising, set up an apointment for an intro exam. Ask about the vets qualifications; where they got their degree, any additional certifications, vet association memberships, and do they specialise in any particular animal. Then watch how the interacts with your pet, what questions do they ask, are they willing to answer questions and do they explain things to your satisfaction, and are you comfortable talking with them.
I've been lucky. When I got my first cat, I just went to the vet down the street because they were close. The senior vet there was brusk and more of a dog person, but his new assistant vet and I hit it off well. I kept asking for her, and eventually he retired and she bought the practice. That started in 1980, and I've been going to the same vet ever since, even after I moved elsewhere in town. I now use a second vet hospital as well becuse they're closer, keep later hours, and take walk-in apointments. That's more convenient for my street rescues, but I'm not always sure of their competency on serious matters, so for that I go back to my original vet. I just lucked onto the perfect vet the first time.
When we get our two cats we decided to get them into a vet that was close to us. The staff was very friendly and the vets helped us with any questions that we had. The only downside is that their pricing was a bit high that we could afford. We found another place that was better for us finance wise and the staf is also nice and helpful. So I think it was good for us to shop around and we got lucky to have found the new vet.
I would think so that the price play a big role in the decision making on which vet to go to. The experience of the pet vet is equally important. I'd rather pay a little more to make sure I get the best service I can find. Usually the better services cost more than the average services and they are worth the premium prices. If people treat their pets like a family member, they'd get the best vet they can find rather than the cheapest vet they can find.
I could go here for a day. I actually use multiple vets, based on the services I need. I have a good vet I've used for my cats for years. That office assisted me in killing two Brazilian rainbow boas that had respiratory infections about 14 or 15 years ago. That was the beginning of my realization that the vast majority of DVM's in the US have very little real world hands on experience with reptiles. But one of the vets is excellent with cats so they see my cats. I have a vet who is very close by with a very low fee for office visits, is fairly knowledgeable with reptiles, the vet tech is a snake girl, and will do fecal exams very cheap. Then there is a vet a little farther who is better with reptiles I would say is my regular reptile vet. And lastly, there is a larger vet office, with a great lab on premises, (either of the other two vets send most complicated reptile bloodwork there anyways,) and vets who are published and well educated in avian and reptile medicine. They are costly though, but that is where I go if I have any actual complex disease/bacterial/viral concerns.
So I obviously think it is good to shop around But not just for price. You need to make sure they are good at what they do. Just like with human medicine, you need to be your own (and your pets) advocate.
In the US, they have to get an undergraduate degree in a science related field, then be accepted into veterinary school, which I believe is 4 years on average. After that they have to pass a licensing test through the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA), and the state. So it is similar to getting a medical license, typically minus the extended residency programs. I know their veterinarians who have specialties, though I am not sure of the requirements of those.
There are no real specialties per animal in school. They have to go through rotations in animal hospitals somewhere in the last few years of school. Obviously once they start a practice they can specialize in whatever they want, or work with or under another vet who specializes in farm animals, reptiles, etc... But, at least in my experience, the vast majority start or work in a "Family practice" type of office, where 95% of what they do is treat cats and dogs.
Well, the education is expensive, and honestly,when you have certain problems, with an educated and experienced vet in the proper area that you need, it is money very well spent. But as someone who's had reptile for years, There are virtually no vets that won't "see" an animal. And if they rarely see or treat reptiles, or regularly read the most updated research, medical papers and journals regarding reptiles, it is very likely they won't provide much help, and many times, can do more harm than good. The two rainbow boas I mentioned above, I spent close to $1000 on in veterinary bills. Repeated doses of antibiotics, injected, oral and nebulized. Repeated return visits, as the R.I. would clear a little, and return. Until two of the three died. But you know what the problem was? Their enclosure was too hot and dry. The subject of my husbandry, and how I kept them never came up. I would guesstimate that at least 75% of all health problems with captive reptiles are husbandry related. And completely avoidable. They are very sensitive to their environment, and improper environmental conditions will create an array of problems. And any vet educated in reptile care should know this. In retrospect, what should have happened was an initial treatment of antibiotics, and evaluating the enclosure, and what caused the problem to begin with, and then fixing that. It is the equivalent of treating a cat for worms, and then letting it live in a house full of cats with the worms, and wondering why it keeps getting worms.
I'm not knocking vets that treat cats and dogs, as they are the most common pets, and, well, that's where the money's at. But whatever your pet needs medical treatment, and whatever the problem you need treated, make sure the vet you choose is educated in that area. If you had a brain tumor, and needed to try to have it surgically removed, would you want an M.D. who was a few years out of medical school and never spent any time in a specialty residency program? No, (well hopefully not ). You would want someone who had trained in neurosurgery. It's the same with veterinary medicine. The veterinary field appears to be fairly competitive, at least here in the states, and most of them want new patients. And some are completely well intentioned, and genuinely want to learn and help you and your pet. But, I'd rather not have my pet be someone's learning course on a health problem, if I can avoid it.
Picking a vet was very hard. I live in a small town, and I had a very limited choice. The first vet office I went to was a state office, not a private one. And it was enough for me just to go in to know I would never go there again. The examination table was bent, everything was old and dirty and the vet was very uninterested about giving me advice even when I was asking very specific question. The worst thing is, the vet was recommended for me by a family friend, who was taking her dog there for years and talked about how the vet was such a nice person. It seems to me that the woman just liked having a vet she could chat with, not a vet that would treat her dog properly. The second vet I went to is pretty far away from me, and was also recommended. It's the vet I'm going to now. He is a nice man, and more importantly, a really good vet. He currently earns in donations, so check-ups and a lot of smaller treatments are free for now, which is really lucky. The only problem I have is that he is a really, really busy man. He would probably come right away in an emergency, but it's a bit hard getting an appointment for regular stuff. He also doesn't explain a lot unless I ask him (I figure that the average person isn't very interested in the treatments, so he doesn't bother anymore). I really hope that in the future I will find someone who is a good mix of availability and expertise.
I guess I'm really lucky I don't own a more exotic pet. I would hate to hold more knowledge about treating my pets that my vet does. :/
When I had my pet store in the UK I kept the names of a couple of good local vets. Regular customers would come in and tell me stories of their last visit to the vet and the outcome. It didn't take long to built a picture of the good and not so good.
I could always then point any newcomers in the right direction. Another part of good customer relations.
I've only had two vets for my critters. I can't even remember why we chose the first one. We took our dog and a couple of cats to that group. Our dog ended up having surgery on her knee. When she was brought out to us no one gave us clear instructions on how to care for her post-surgery. The surgery was unsuccessful. We also had a very bad experience with them setting a broken leg on our cat. (who eventually needed to be put down because of complications.) It pains me now to think that I gave them a second chance which not only meant the end of life for a sweet, snuggly boy, but it cost us a lot of money in the deal.
After that we asked some friends and were recommended to the place we now go. They treated the dog's knee issues without surgery (they told us the chances of the surgery actually correcting the issue was low.) and helped her heal. They saw us through till the end of that girl's life and were so compassionate when we had to have her put down do to age related complications.
These folks care for our two kitties now and I am very pleased with them. Sometimes it costs more than I'd like but normally it's not too bad. (We had an annual check up, two shots last night for one of our girls and it was $76) The biggest reason I like the folks at this practice is because they are both animal people and people people....they take care of my pets and I can tell them are compassionate toward them, but they also always take the time to answer our questions so that I leave with the knowledge I need and a comfort level for my furry friends.