It is best to try and register with a vet before you actually need one. There are a wide choice of veterinary practices available, offering a range of different services depending on their size, facilities and staff.
Personal recommendation is often a good starting point, so try chatting to other pet owners before making a decision.
In addition, have a browse through ‘Yellow Pages’ (www.yell.com), which will give you an idea of the number of practices within a sensible distance of your home. Don’t look too far afield, as you may need to get to the practice quickly in an emergency.
Another useful source of information is the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons – the regulatory body for the veterinary profession in the United Kingdom. Their address is Belgravia House, 62-64 Horseferry Road, London SW1P 2AF (telephone number 020 7222 200, www.rcvs.org.uk). They will be able to tell you of a vet near you. The website also has a ‘find a vet’ facility, which means you can search by geographical area, speciality or practice interests.
Try to select one or two practices you feel might be suitable and then start doing more in-depth research. Remember, it is also worthwhile thinking about the various pet insurance policies that are available and what they cover.
Visit the practice and ask a few questions to help you decide which one would be the best for your pet.
Once you have chosen a vet, make an appointment to get your pet checked over. You and the vet can then decide upon a suitable care programme.
It is worthwhile taking the time and trouble to find the right veterinary practice, as it may well be the one that looks after your pet for the whole of its life.
Veterinary Surgeons study for 5 or 6 years at university to obtain a degree in veterinary science. But graduating isn’t enough by itself. In order to practice as a vet, they must be members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, which will give them MRCVS after their name. Many vets will also study for extra qualifications, such as a Certificate or Diploma in a topic they have a special interest in, such as radiology and dermatology.
Veterinary Nurses study for two or more years and, after passing their examinations, they may register with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons as a ‘listed Veterinary Nurse’ (VN) allowing them to carry out specified procedures under the supervision of a veterinary surgeon. They can also study for additional qualifications, such as in pet behaviour or nutrition.
Other staff at a veterinary practice may include cleaners, practice managers, receptionists and secretaries who all contribute to the running of the practice, leaving the clinical staff to concentrate on looking after your pets.
It is important that your vet is a good communicator and many will have studied this when they were at university. It’s also important that you ask as many questions as you want – this is where a checklist is useful – print out the one on this website before you go to your vet and write in the answers.
The better the communication between vets and pet owners the likelier it is that your pet will get better. Good communication helps your vet find out what’s wrong with your pet and helps you understand what you have to do to help your pet get better.
It’s a two way process and you can help your pet by:
The veterinary profession is a service industry and it is important that they remain sensitive to a pet owner’s needs. A good relationship between vets and clients lead to both working for the same aim – getting a pet better.
If you feel that your vet isn’t telling you exactly what’s going on and what are the possible outcomes, the best thing to do first of all is to contact the veterinary practice that looks after your pet and have a chat with them. You can speak to the vet concerned, or else the senior partner if you are not satisfied with the explanation that you receive.
If you still feel unhappy, you can contact the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Belgravia House, 62-64 Horseferry Road, London SW1P 2AF (Telephone number 020 7222 2001 or www.rcvs.org.uk). If you go into their website, and enter the animal owners section at the mid-right of the home page, there is information to help clients who are unhappy with their vet.
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons is the regulatory body for vets in the UK, and ensures that standards are maintained within the veterinary profession, safeguarding the interests of the public, amongst other things.
Author – Elaine Pendlebury BA BSc BVetMed DMS MRCVS Senior Veterinary Surgeon (Science & Welfare) PDSA