Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Probably one of the most important relationships when you own a dog is the one you establish with your veterinarian. This is the person who becomes responsible for the health and welfare of your dog. When faced with life or death situations, he is the one you will turn to; sometimes looking for an impossible miracle. Therefore, choosing the right veterinarian is of the utmost importance.

Like doctors, there are good veterinarians and bad ones who you may question how they ever got their license to practice animal medicine. We’ve probably all had both at one time or another. When looking at a veterinarian’s credentials, not only are we concerned where he got his education from but more importantly how much he truly cares and loves what he does. Ideally, we like someone who has a good “bedside” manner when dealing with our animals. After all, our dogs aren’t stupid, they don’t like going to the vet anymore than we like going to the doctor. So having a vet who has a gentle reassuring way with the animal he tends to not only puts our animals at ease, but it makes us feel a little more comfortable as well.

A good veterinarian not only gives our dogs their inoculations and worming medicines, but he also does blood work, x-rays, tests, surgeries, emergencies, etc. He should be available to talk with you about anything that you need advice on whether its medical care questions or the diet and supplements you feed your dog. He’s also there to help ease the pain of having to put your dog to sleep.

Some veterinarians have developed such a good rapport with their clients, that it is not unheard of that they will make the occasional house call. I used to have a vet come to my house to exam my puppies and give them their first shots. Also some veterinarians will come out to a larger kennel to do the same thing and sometimes they will be called upon to put a beloved dog to sleep at the owner’s house. There are some really excellent vets that if you have a medical emergency that they will even give you their home number to call. These are the types of vets who when called in the middle of the night come back and open up the office to see your animal. I had an excellent vet do this for one of my champion bitches who was notorious for having uterine inertia with each and every litter she had. He would come out in the middle of the night and we together would finish the medical care my girl needed. He was a once in a life time vet and I miss him terribly. He’s still practicing and still at the same location, only I don’t live by him anymore. He’s been hard to replace.

Finding a vet that will work with a breeder is another challenge. Some generous and good veterinarians will give a breeder a discount when he takes care of a litter by giving them their shots. Then there are some who will give you a break on expensive medications. Not all of them will do this, however. I know, I asked my vet and she said that she doesn’t do that. It never hurts to ask.

Another problem that some breeders run into is that SOME veterinarians don’t particularly like breeders. I know this to be true having experienced it first hand a few years ago. Imagine my delight when a new veterinarian’s office opened up in my town only five minutes away from me. The vet that owned this hospital I had seen before at another office so I was a little familiar with her. She has a very nice way with the animals and they seem to like her. However, breeders are at the bottom of her list as her favorite clients. I told her that the bitch that I brought her to examine I had planned on breeding. Her smile that she greeted us with quickly turned to a frown. She let me know that she was one of the veterinarians who took care of and did the operations on the shelter dogs. She did not believe anymore puppies needed to be born with the over population of unwanted dogs in the shelters. She further told me, if I chose to breed my bitch and she needed medical help with whelping her puppies that she would not be available to help her. Imagine my shock and surprise at this information. Needless to say, that ended my visits to this most convenient vet office.

Sometimes a vet is not particularly fond of breeders who come into his office with an attitude of “I know more about dogs than you do.” This is where a conflict can begin. He has many years of education and experience and the breeder may have just as many years of breeding dogs. The breeder will many times know as much or more about a certain thing when it comes to breeding dogs. Most veterinarians are not breeders, just like most breeders are not veterinarians. They are both experts in their field and unless they are willing to acknowledge the fact that they both know something about dogs, then a happy working relationship may not be possible. The breeder may find himself in search of another vet.

Another very important consideration when choosing a vet with the welfare and care of your animals is the staff at his office. Are they friendly and knowledgeable? Are they gentle and warm with your dog? How do they treat them when you walk out and close the door behind you? This is VERY IMPORTANT. I’ve heard of some pretty bad stories about some of the staff at some offices and even experienced it first hand. One time I was cat sitting for a friend of mine. The cat became sick and I called the phone number of the vet that my friend had left with me. The cat had to remain at the hospital. I never will forget how one of the young men who worked as an assistant took this cat and slammed it on the table. Yes, he slammed it on the table. I was appalled at this horrific treatment to a sick animal. When my friend returned from vacation, this veterinarian was read the riot act for having this uncaring young man work in his office. She never returned so I don’t know what became of this person if he was fired or not. Of course this is not the normal thing that happens in most offices, but occasionally it does happen because this is not the first time I’ve heard of something like this. I have a friend who is married to a vet. Another friend works for one.

Medical expenses to take care of your dog can be very high. Many breeders opt to give their dogs their shots themselves and medicines that they’ve bought elsewhere. However, there is not substitution for a good vet’s knowledge when it comes to diagnosing a medical problem and the proper care that is needed to help your dog on his road to recovery. Sometimes for things like x-rays, a breeder can find a great difference in price from one vet office to the next. When I had one of my girls x-rayed for the OFA on her hips and elbows, my vet was the most expensive of the several vets that where in my area. Another breeder recommended me to her vet who was a longer drive for me, but it saved me over $100!

Nowadays there are veterinarians who are specialists in a certain field. Some specialize in reproduction, dentistry, farm animal care, etc. Seek these out when you have a particular need arise especially reproduction specialists. There’s no substitution for their knowledge when you have particular breeding problems. They will do special testing on a bitch before you breed her or when frozen semen is shipped to impregnate the bitch.

It is important that your veterinarian keeps up to date on the latest medical procedures and health care that is available. You are paying for his knowledge so having a vet who continually educates himself with the newest techniques helps ensure that your animal is getting the best of care.

The best way to find a good veterinarian is to ask around and get recommendations from other people who use him. When you first visit with him, ask him the questions that are most important to you. Find out what his procedure is if you have an emergency. Definitely ask about his prices. Ask if he gives discounts to breeders. Ask him if your dog has a condition where he needs to stay overnight, will someone be checking in on your dog throughout the night or does he stay there all night without medical supervision?

Finding a good veterinarian is a “God send” to all pet owners. Take the time to find the best one that you can. Some day you dog’s life may depend on him.

My rating: vets education: (4), good with animals: (3), knowledgeable: (4), staff: (3)


  1. Excellent advice Barbara. I drive 100 kms to my Vet which takes me an hour each way. I've done this for over 25 years for all the reasons you have written about.

  2. Thanks Kate. There is nothing more important for the health and welfare of our dogs than having an excellent vet looking after them!