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Finding Dr Right
What makes a good vet?

We want to know about the veterinarian of your dreams – whether you’ve found him or her, or not.

For an article in an upcoming issue of The Bark on how we choose a veterinarian, we’d like to know what – in your eyes -- are the most important factors.

If you’ve found the perfect vet, just what is it that makes him or her perfect? If you’re still seeking that person, just what exactly is it you’re looking for.?

As our dogs become more and more like family members, the choice of vet is a decision humans probably take more seriously than they did 50 years ago. Time was one’s choice of veterinarian was based in large part on proximity.

We’re guessing that has changed. Now we seek opinions from friends, question fellow denizens of the dog park, turn to online reviews, and perhaps even make some in-office visits, all in our quest for the perfect vet.

But what makes the perfect vet?

Is it where he or she went to school? Is it a friendly staff, reasonable rates? Is it how quickly you can make an appointment or how long you spend in the waiting room? Is it bedside manner, empathy, or compassion? Is it how clearly that vet can communicate? Whether they honor your pet insurance? Is it how the vet connects with you, how the vet connects with your dog, or both?

We want to know what is (or was) the single most important factor in your choice of veterinarian, and how you found the one (if you have) that you can’t imagine ever leaving.

Tell us about the veterinarian of your dreams by leaving a comment, preferably with your name attached, on The Bark’s blog, or on ohmidog!



John Woestendiek is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, editor of the website Ohmidog! and author of Dog, Inc.: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics and Their Pets Launched the Commercial Dog Cloning Industry.

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Frances | September 8 2013 |

I am very lucky - I have the perfect vet, in a perfect practice! I chose the practice after asking around locally for recommendations. Why are they perfect?
They are knowledgeable, responsive, offer 24/7 cover, have a well equipped hospital within easy reach of me, and a branch surgery even closer, have a range of specialists within the practice, and are always ready to refer a case on if it falls outside their areas of expertise. The one temporary vet whose judgement I did not trust did not get a permanent contract - everyone else I have met has been excellent. Finally, while they are by no means cheap, I have never felt that the bill is being padded with unnecessary tests, drugs or procedures.

Why is my vet perfect? He is knowledgeable and experienced; is the practice lead partner for small companion animals; is unfailingly gentle and kind with animals and courteous to their owners; always explains everything in detail and is never, ever patronising or dismissive of anxieties (in fact his ability to charm and soothe middle aged and elderly female owners is legendary throughout the valley!); comes more than half way to meet me on issues like raw feeding and vaccination schedules; and finally, always comes across as someone whose priority is the welfare of the animals in his care, not profits or kudos.

If I had to choose just one criterion upon which to base a choice of vet, it would be trust - trust in their expertise, their advice, and their ability to care for my animals.

Submitted by Jennifer G. | September 8 2013 |

Usually a vet whose 1st priority is the animals well-being goes hand in hand with being a vet whose rates are competitive. Those are must-haves, and they also go hand in hand w/ a vet who doesn't recommend unnecessary procedures, & who will instruct you on pet care you can do yourself (when other vets would instead tell you to come back to their office & charge you for it.) And an office that doesn't smell like poo is always a big plus =)

Submitted by Kathie Meier | September 8 2013 |

For me it is a constellation of great qualities that make a great fit for me, my dogs and our veterinarian. I've been blessed twice. I have experienced a number of serious health issues and cancer with my Bernese Mountain Dogs. Many years ago we were referred to a specialist when a cancer diagnosis was established. Although the specialist worked 3 days a week she always called on her days off and weekends to report lab and test results and adjust medications as needed. When I called at 7pm one evening to bring Gretl in 12 hours early she waited for us to arrive and stayed until midnight working in concert with the emergency physician to stabilize her and begin the diagnostic workup. She is as smart as they come but also welcomed any information I had from the Berner community in dealing with malignant histiocytosis. We were devastated when she moved from the Bay Area several years ago.

Fortunately we also have a wonderful regular veterinarian, one of the few internists in our area, and in recent years the clinic has adopted a much greater focus on client communication and there has been a noticeable change in staff friendliness and attentiveness. I can reach him by email, he responsds in the evening and on weekends when needed, and he follows through in reporting test results even on his day off. He referred us to UC Davis for a challening UTI problem and continues to collaborate with them regarding ongoing treatment.

The speciality clinic was perfect in every way from our first experience but was not the place where we would go for routine care. Our family veterinarian and clinic had some frustrations to start but with good communication we have developed a very comfortable communication and they are very responsive to my requesets to be present in exam and treatment rooms.

Submitted by Nicole Shanks | September 8 2013 |

I have a great vet- Pownal Veterinary Hospital in Maine. Dr. Karen Richter-Hall and her staff are compassionate and empathetic. They care about my dogs and listen to what input I have to give when we are trying to figure out medical issues when they arise. I never feel rushed and they do thorough exams. They carefully explain all options and incorporate holistic medicine in their practice. I also appreciate the fact that my vet has provided services for free and at cost for a local rescue group that I am involved with. I can get appointments fast and my vet is also willing to do house calls when necessary. It also doesn't hurt that the rates are reasonable! It's hard to choose the one thing that's most important to me. It's the combination of the factors that I've mentioned that make me love my vet. I've had vets in the past who were rude, rushed, and one was even afraid of my goofy labs who had never demonstrated an ounce of aggression in their lives. It can be tricky to find a great vet and I feel like I really hit the jackpot with my current one.

Submitted by Robin | September 8 2013 |

What a great idea for an article. The concept that pets ARE family was true at least 2 decades ago but is ever increasing I think. All of the issues you mentioned above are important factors in a vet. And yes, it is no different than finding a doctor...it is important for them to be compassionate, to be able to communicate, to make themselves available for critical situations. I have learned so many lessons the hard way that considering adoption frightened me because I did not know who I would be able to find as a vet based on so many negative experiences and having my trust repeatedly betrayed. That takes a toll. I am tuned in to the slightest nuance that could foretell a bad or even life threatening experience.

When we had our first pup I was not of driving age. We patronized a gentle vet, very old school, compassionate. Later I would learn some people thought his surgical skills may not be as proficient, but since surgery wasn't a factor, and he had taken in a new vet who did have those skills it wasn't a problem.
The old vet retired; the new one opened his own practice...and as mentioned, I sensed many of the clients were going out of convenience. Some would learn his insensitive comments or particular sense of humor weren't a good match and would leave. His compassion was there for some, not for others.

In our case everything collapsed when my 12 year old love had a seizure...which became the first of too many because his arrogance led him to conclude it was most likely a brain tumor. We were sent off for a series of traumatic and expensive tests that were inconclusive. Put on phenobarb to no apparent benefit. The vet blew off my updates of seizure activity and my log notes, which held an obvious key to diagnosis a first year med student could have made. I would have taken further action but as he was the closest vet...and we had changed to a mobile vet who might not have been nearby in the event of a crisis, I did not.

Dr. Joan drove over in full-size camper trailer outfited as a vet office complete with onboard lab equipment and xray. She was the most phenomenal vet I have ever met. She respected and appreciated my devotion and dedication to being the best dogmom ever. She LISTENED to me. She proved herself when she KEPT the appointment set up for the "test" nail trim home visit. Ali, my pup with seizures, was immensely stressed and exhausted by an office visit, so Joan's ability to make home visits was what drew me in. So there she was, on my birthday, when we had a surprise snow storm overnight, and the snow was approaching hip height...and she BACKED her trailer up our driveway for a NAIL TRIM. Such dilligence did not go unnoticed.
It was probably our second visit when I just happened to mention something which led Joan to grab a text book and confirm her thoughts and suspicions...that Ali might have something called an insulinoma, something that would cause her blood sugar to drop to the point of having a seizure. She said next time lab work was due, they would send a sample to the Michigan State lab...Joan made a home visit and was always compassionate and sensitive to Ali...the sample confirmed her suspicions. No brain tumor. By diet and meal modifications and awareness we were able to keep Ali going for another couple years, even through a critical illness. I spent days sitting in the waiting room of a vet emergency clinic while Ali was there and they limited our visits. Joan would call, get professional updates, then notify me, and urge me to please go get some food because if I collapsed, who would take care of Ali??
Joan had also identified an enlarged heart and heart failure in my other pup which had been ignored in spite of repeat visits to the initial vet.
Joan knew the cost of care and meds was challenging. In Carel's case her heart meds combined with the need for supplies to do in-home IV fluids. She sold them to me at cost plus 10% which I so appreciated. One time I took a break for a couple days on a short trip when all was stable. The pups were home with family, and the fluids would not be due until the day I came back. What I didn't know was that the airline I had flown was in the midst of threatening a strike...so there I was in the middle of Pearson Airport in a deliberately slowed down line and close to missing my flight, calling Joan whose business line rang in her kitchen. She picked up, after hours, and assured me all would be well, just to let my family know if there was ANYTHING that didn't seem right to have them call her and she would do the fluids if I was delayed. It was also Joan and her assistant who taught me how to do the fluids, and the first time I did it solo they were "on-call" if I had any problems.
Joan became like family with all the issues we had to cope with. She manipulated things when Carel developed a bizarre open wound/abscess on her abdomen so that we would be squeezed in to the OSU clinic and be seen just before Christmas one year. With her guidance and support and my love, in spite of the dire prognosis by the so-called experts, Carel pulled through it all and completely healed.
Joan would have easily been my BVF (best vet forever) but she had a baby and cared enough to realize she couldn't be the best mom and best vet both. She sold her van, and we still keep in touch. We took 2nd best...(no offense) and began seeing Dr Alice who practiced along with a married couple of vets. All was fine...until Alice took a different direction with her skills, leaving us with the couple.
Things went along okay until my pup at that time, Malie, took ill. And then we saw the their true colors. I received a devastating diagnosis made by ultrasound near closing time and was rushed out barely being able to process the news much less ask the questions that were developing. The message was clear: We (the vet and company) come first. I'd kept my mouth shut but had been suspicious of their motivation from the time I needed a tube of ear ointment and learned later I was charged FOUR times the amount it was going for in a catalog...
The vet was also unhappy I didn't take her advice and go where she suggested for a referral.
This was to one of the money pits that preys on those of us with little ones who have emergencies that cannot wait until the regular vet is next open. We are subject to the BS of their policies that keep us out of the way and increase stress for us and our little ones. But that is a story in itself.
I did go to one of these clinics for the expert advice of a vet that had been held in high esteem. In fact she had helped take care of Ali, with some evidence of compassion. But in the years between she had changed to a money hungry (at least) part owner, from what I could learn, of the clinic we were going to. When I went to make the appt, as soon as I mentioned GI issues, (this was for my pup Malie) I was told to have her fast for 72 hours so they could do a colonoscopy!!! Or should I say $$$$. This without ASKING me, without knowing any history at all, without even knowing if she were diabetic!!! I said I wanted to talk to the vet FIRST. Nope. You cannot talk to the vet unless you are a PATIENT. You are not a patient until you have had an initial visit to the tune of $129. So I succumbed to the system out of desperation. But I made it clear no one would be doing any testing like that on that day.
Prior to our appt we received a load of paperwork for history and consent. It was an open consent so that you were giving permission for ANYONE to do ANYTHING THEY deemed appropriate. Right. So they run up a bill to rule out things, not to mention traumatizing your little one. I drew lines where needed and basically restricted anyone to doing anything except for this trusted individual doctor and not without MY consent.
On the day of our appt she had attitude. Lots of attitude, someone in training at her side (who quite possibly may have had more compassion), and was full of BS platitudes like "I treat all of them as if they were my own" said while not even being able to look me in the eyes. She was quick to want to do every possible test under the sun, some labs which had already been done and were inconclusive, and basically put me through hell, let alone my pup, and into debt. She refused to allow me to be present during an ultrasound. She gave me time to think over my options.
When she came back I had an answer. No. No? NO. She was pretty stunned. I guess people don't usually make the trek, needing help, and turn her down. She kept us waiting over 45 minutes while she created her report with the most dire of possible outcomes indicated and we were conveniently escorted to the desk, dare we attempt to escape without paying. She blatantly ignored me as we passed in the hall and I said goodbye, confirming every suspicion I had.
Further research led us to a local guy who was as well qualified, so I thought. His office was in a recycled home on a main street with limited parking, and the congested waiting area beyond the awkward double doors was outfitted with kitchenette chairs. The flooring and decor were very unappealing and of questionable cleanliness...but I stayed to consult.
I succumbed to the sense of compassion he conveyed. I tried to remain calm in spite of Malie taking refuge between my legs as if she knew something was unsafe. I will never ever doubt my pup's reactions again. She was taken for a fine needle biopsy done without my consent. I was kept waiting while her belly was on a screen, left wondering what horrible thing was wrong. He was going to consult with others. He gave me his private phone number. And when we had an urgent situation developing he responded with limited concern. When I called the private number hours later he did not respond. By time he did, Malie had passed away.

So, by that point I KNEW what was important in a vet...but would I find it?? I was determined I would when I adopted Lali.

I wanted to follow Jean Dodds protocol, so I found a vet willing to accept direct delivery of the right puppy vax. Our first visit we met the vet tech who gave me a lecture about how improper my puppies puppy antics were and how this is what led to the majority of EUTHANASIAS. Because I had heard good things about the vet, I maintained my composure as this little twerp interrogated me after a long day of work and told me about things I had decades of experience with, which I found insulting and demeaning. I planned on discussing this with the vet when we met at the next appt.
At the next appt who comes into the room again but the same young and inexperienced person. I made it clear I thought we were there to see the VET. Well, she sees the patients first. She again referred to herself as a veterninary NURSE. And so I asked, calmly and sincerely, what was involved in being a vet nurse? More training, certification? I really wanted to understand. Well, it turns out this was simply a title bestowed upon her by the vet. As I recall, she may not have even been a licensed vet tech, but was working toward that. She was not only a bit defensive, but getting tearful. She left the room and I could overhear much discussion from the other side of the door. Next thing, in comes the vet, who begins a fine lecture on the importance of communication (really???) with which I entirely agreed. And then she added that it was ever so important that we be able to communicate with her staff, as she is often unavailable, not working full time to tend to her growing family (!!!). And then she left commenting that so and so would get the vaccine ready...but what had really happened was that she was refusing us as clients, and the vaccine which had to be kept cold was being repacked for us to take with us and leave! She really wanted to screw us over as much as possible for making her poor little non-tech cry. Which she also pointed out to me I had done. I informed her that I had recently lost my little one and hardly needed any lectures on behavior and euthanasia from someone on her staff. We tossed the toy they had given us out the window at their building as we left.
So, lets see, what is important in picking a vet?....
Convenience (though lower on the list as you'll see)
Comfort(of environment as well)
CHEEZE (see below)
Not to mention education and skills, of course.

So, there we were with our 20 or so doses of vaccine to get the one or two we needed, and banished, if not blacklisted.

We ultimately found a vet an equal distance, mostly freeway in the opposite direction and an uneasy, in the event of an emergency, 40 minute ride from home.

We were greeted warmly, treated with kindness, listened to, and made to feel like it was good place (and from Lali's perspective, a cupboard filled with that interesting cheeze that comes out of the cans is a very good sign!)---add that to the above C list:-)
What struck me was that they were so compassionate that when I had to contemplate the eventual (and laproscopic, if I wished) spay procedure, I would be able to stay with Lali the entire time...until she was asleep, and then I could view the surgery if I wished through a window ( I didn't), and as soon as it was over I was allowed to "room in" with her until she was totally recuperated, awaking to the strokes and voice of her mom, and ready to go home.
So, we have found a very very good place...but I am still on guard. As much as I want to support them and their staff, it does give pause when I was charged over a $1 a pill for what could have been obtained for about 40% less on line.

Submitted by Jenifer R | September 12 2013 |

I appreciated reading this post and what caught my eye was this issue of blacklisting. Vets DO do this and they will even do it if you "shop around" which they really do not like especially if you are going for a second opinion. Everyone's entitled to a second opinion from another, fresh viewpoint, on a medical situation - right? Well - not in the opinion of most veterinarians who get really PO'd for being "second guessed" esp. if you end up with the second opinion vet for treatment. I even had a vet clinic call an independent lab where my dog's first vet sent blood and urine samples to find out the identity of vet #1 and then called that vet to report that I was in clinic #2 for a second opinion, whereupon I had an outraged screaming phone call from vet #1. As it ended up both vets then refused to treat my dog (kidney failure possibly caused by bad vaccine from vet #1) and I had to go 90 miles out of area to find another vet - from Eugene, Oregon all the way to Portland. I can understand vets blacklisting pet parents who are deliberately and unnecessarily slow pay/no pay/bad pay, e.g. they can afford vet care but are unwilling to act responsibly. But blacklisting because you want a second opinion or different type of treatment for your dog? Absolutely unprofessional of vets to do this. But - it DOES happen so pet parents need to be extremely careful in seeking second opinions.

Submitted by Robin | November 16 2013 |

I think this happens in other areas as well...dentists for example. There was a whole breach of confidentiality in your story, but with pets there are not as clearly defined laws as with people. I realize lots of the vets know each other, but there are some good ones out there. It's dreadful you had to go 90 miles to find a vet...ad scary. What is also scary is thinking they are good, until there is a crisis and you see what they are really like...and then you're in trouble because you are desperate for the help. I don't think I was exactly blacklisted beyond the original practice, which I wouldn't consider going back to anyhow. But being discreet about going ahead with the plan is a good point.

Submitted by Robin | November 16 2013 |

ps...you mentioned a vaccine issue above...I hope your pup recovered and all is well...and I'd guess by now you know about Jean Dodds...if you don't, look her up at hemopet...she's a wonderful person and very wise about vaccines and protocols...hope you were able to find a good vet closer as well. Even if you know of a good vet elsewhere, just by reading about one, sometimes they can put you on the right track, know someone in your area...

Submitted by JenR | December 24 2013 |

Actually he did not. Did not recover. And did you or anyone else here know that the "confidentiality" laws do not apply to veterinary medicine? In fact despite HIPAA they barely apply to human medicine, except when it's convenient for a physician or a physician's staff to invoke HIPAA when they want to be obstructive. But there is no law, no federal law, no state regulation in any of the states I have lived in, that prevent veterinarians or labs for that matter from discussing patients with whomever they wish to. Except of course when they wish to be obstructive or punishing. I do know about Jean Dodds, wonderful! And as I have horses, Dr. Eleanor Kellon. And other vets mostly read about not personally experienced, that have the dog's or horse's welfare at heart rather than enhancing their own wallets, and I must say it is increasingly rare. I did find one vet who was knowledgeable, compassionate, competent and kind - and even reasonably priced. However, she was embroiled in a legal battle breaking up her clinic partnership and the front office staff supporting the other vet in the partnership were increasingly abusive, obstructive, and incompetent and I had to walk away from using that good vet because her professional problems and associates were so awful to deal with.

Submitted by Carole | September 21 2013 |

Where is this vet?

Submitted by Robin | November 16 2013 |

The good vet we're now seeing is at Westlake Animal Hospital in Westlake OH, a suburb on the west side of Cleveland. Dr. Love started it, and Dr Nappier is in practice with him, and both have just passed some big AVMA certification testing.

Submitted by Robin | November 16 2013 |

if my response prior didn't post, the vet is Michael Nappier at Westlake Animal Hospital in Westlake OH, west side of Cleveland.

Submitted by Gail Hockom | September 9 2013 |

For the most part, I feel very lucky with the level of veterinary care available to me in my area. My regular vets are well educated and up to date with knowledge and practice. They are proactive for sending reminders for routine vaccinations and both well puppy/kitten checks as well as routine checks for geriatric pets. The downside to my vets is the pricing is on the high side. There is also an excellent emergency vet service which also has several specialists. I have used both the emergency side and the specialist side of this care, and been very happy with their level of professionalism and expertise. Emergency costs are higher due to the nature of it being immediate. The cost for the specialists depends on what is needed to properly diagnose and treat the animal. They explain everything thoroughly along with the pros and cons of the choices available, and they respect your decisions.

Submitted by Jill Diamond | September 9 2013 |

Most important is being open on Saturday. I can't take off work for shots and check ups so it's a priority that I can schedule routine care on my day off. Next is location. I have too many dogs to do in one appointment and I live in Phoenix, where for most of the year it is too hot to leave your dog in the car for even a second, so I prefer to book our routine appointments around the same time so I can take the first 2 dogs home and quickly bring back two more - getting everyone taken care of on the same day.

Submitted by Lynda Folwick | September 9 2013 |

Of course I want my vet to be up to date on treatments and technology, and highly skilled, but there are a couple of things I think I'd put above that. First, that he or she is analytical, a critical thinker who can draw conclusions based on my dog's history and information from me and other sources. Which leads to the next point - the ability to listen and really hear me. No vet can possibly know as much about my dogs as I do, from living with and observing them closely day by day. That's okay - I don't expect the vet to know that - but I do expect the vet to listen to me and take my observations and instincts into account in the diagnosis. Which requires a third characteristic - not too heavy on the ego, please. I don't want a vet who tries to play Dog or take over my primary responsibility for my dog's well-being. I want someone who doesn't feel threatened by my input, gives me all the possibilities and options honestly, and knows when to refer a case to a specialist. Not much to ask, huh?

Submitted by Nancy Johnson | September 9 2013 |

A few years ago, we stopped going to the vet clinic we had used for almost 15 years. The main reason? Our pups were very uncomfortable with the new, young female vet they just hired. We didn't like her either, but our dogs' opinions are the most important. They must not be afraid of the vet, they must be comfortable with them. We use a vet clinic that is home to 4 wonderful vets. They greet our pups, pet them, talk to them, and are sincere in caring about them. They also talk to us; freely, openly, and plainly about what is going on. They are open to alternative methods (acupuncture and chiropractic). The staff is great, also. I don't care where they went to school. The fact that they don't charge an arm and a leg is a great benefit, too, but not as important as their interaction with my pups. If they're comfortable, I'm comfortable.

Submitted by Nina Lewis | September 9 2013 |

Much of what I look for in a vet is the same as I look for in a doctor. Someone who is a healer and is familiar and open to different possibilities of treatment - Western and what we refer to as Alternative medicine. I look for someone who defines what they do as a service rather than strictly a business. They show compassion and respect for all animals and their families. The vet volunteers his or her services at an affordable clinic, they board and protect pets of abused women while they are looking for a new, safe home, they get involved in community fund raisers as examples.
This way of seeing and operating in the world informs everything they do - from hiring staff who are knowledgeable, kind and efficient to encouraging their clients to make informed decisions about issues such as vaccinations and other treatments.
One of the vets I frequented for almost 20 years I am leaving because they are changing their paradigm from service to business. The front desk is no longer attended by caring staff, and making money seems to be the major concern. Needless to say, they are losing clients including myself.
My other vet clinic, which I am moving my two dogs and two cats to, is much closer to my ideal. I started going there for acupuncture and chiropractic treatments for my dogs and am now starting to go for general health. The clinic is more expensive but they let me pay in installments (a system no longer accepted at my other vets). I guess ultimately the reason I continue to bring my pets to this vet is that I Trust that she has the well being of my pets as her first priority. The office staff is warm and welcoming and my dogs run up to the front door asking to be let in, even after Poppy had surgery there. To me that is the best sign of all.

Submitted by Reisha Bennett | September 9 2013 |

I have been with the same Vet...since I bought my first dog...an Irish Setter in 1999. She was actually recommended by a pet shop where I started buying the dog's food even before I had the dog at home. Anyway I have been with her since...Tried others along the way for one reason or another but she is the one I really trust and would not go to anybody else. She is honest, friendly, and tells the truth about what is happening with my dog. I have had a few dogs in the past few years with many health problems. I have probably sent her and her family on a bunch of lovely holidays over the years thanks to the high cost of Vet care. If it was one thing I would wish for is that the cost could be moderate so that everybody could afford good care for their animals. Spaying and neutering would be free or just a nominal cost...and of course at the end of our pets' life also to humanely let them cross over the rainbow bridge. So many people have to resort to putting their dogs' in shelters thinking they will be well taken care of because of some medical problem. That is not always the case.Thankfully I have been able to look after my animals medical needs but many out there cannot.

Submitted by Jennifer B. | September 9 2013 |

Every time we go to take our pets to the vet we always say "I wish Dr. Palermo was still around". He was a wonderful doctor. He took the time to listen to our concerns and tell us if we were overreacting or if we had good reason to be worried. His prices were high, but not exorbitant, he treated our dogs and cats like they were our babies. In fact, before we started seeing him, we never referred to each other as "mommy" or "daddy". In my head I did, but we had been living together for a couple years and it seemed that saying it might push him away. Ha! After the doc told "daddy" to hold Toby steady, it was on! Dr. Palermo treated my Toby correctly for mange - diagnosing it correctly and treating it - when two other vets in the area wanted to do extensive tests and treat him with steroids. The day we heard he was retiring and moving away was one of our worst days. I cried. We still wonder about the vet we're using but it's not like we have a choice unless we want to drive 150 miles round trip. If it was for Dr. Palermo we would... He was a good doc and we, and our cats and dogs, miss him dearly.

Submitted by Carmen Rojas abreu | September 9 2013 |

A good vet is a professional who outright would let a dog lick him. A cat be her hissy self. A pet parent speak about their furry 4 legged child before coming up with conclusions. A vet should not impose on the pet parent while the parent is in a state of worry.A vet should love what he is there for :The Pets. Not how much money to make out of unnecessary add ons to the bill because 'it's needed". Have good bedside manners and try to understand that these pets are our family not a posession.But as a piece of hearts.

Submitted by Vicki Dominick | September 9 2013 |

Rather than a single veterinarian, I look for a clinic with caring, knowledgable staff and comprehensive services. My dog has had various ailments over the years including kidney stones, hip dysplasia, and kennel cough. It was reassuring to know that I could trust whichever vet could see us first and that they had the equipment on hand to diagnose my dog properly. When he needed to have benign growth removed from his eyelid, it was reassuring to know that they had a surgeon on staff and he had access to all of my dog's records. I also like having access to the vets after hours, especially when the is an emergency.

Submitted by Stacey Meggs | September 9 2013 |

#1 -- must be American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) certified (learned this the hard way). Also: ask me lots of questions and listen to my answers so I feel heard; while I value your knowledge, please include me in the decision-making so that I feel that I am part of the process; offer options while providing your ultimate recommendation for what you would do if this were your pet; focus on prevention because I am willing to invest up front to save my pet pain later; may seem obvious, but understand animal behavior and act accordingly toward my pet; understand that my pet is my family and treat him/her as such.

Submitted by Diana Vreeken | September 9 2013 |

For me--it's experience in large sight hounds. Giant breeds. For some reason sighthounds are slightly different in makeup. Knowledge in treatment is really important. Being opened minded with the raw feeding. Not pushing kibble. They asked me how I feed my dogs, when I gave them a week example of what the dogs ate, the vets were happy. Plus seeing them on a regular basis, proves that my canines are very healthy. So healthy that they suggest people who are interested in the raw feeding to talk to me about with their questions and where to find the proper info on the subject. House calls. My vet will come and visit me at my house when my big guys will not move. I can not move a 170 lb dog by myself. Of course I do own a gurney if needed. They do not have all the equipment in the back of their car. Open minded. Willing to try new methods out there, like Dr Dodds Nutriscan for allergies. (The best test ever). They are interested in the results of the test and the results from removing the food groups that are an issue (Much easier to remove certain types of food when they eat raw). Not afraid to recommend someone else for a second opinion. Speaks English. By this I mean words that I can understand. I had a vet explaining an issue with my dogs paw and I didn't understand a word he said. Every other word was latin or some medical term. Instead of "He has a yeast infection between his toes, try to keep it dry and put this powder on it" I never had problems getting in, or waiting long hours with my vet. I did have one that was first come first served. That lasted only one visit--to bad she seemed like she knows what she was doing. Working with me with the pet insurance has never been a problem, even if I forgot to bring the form with me. I would drop of the form with a stamped envelop and they would mail it for me. Believe it or not, I found a vet with all these qualities=They are absolutely wonderful. Yet the most important part- my dogs like them.

Submitted by Jeni Grant CPDT-KA | September 10 2013 |

As a positive dog behavior counselor, I always recommending finding a vet office where everyone is patient and gentle with the animals. Also to find a vet that will work with you and cares about your concerns for your dog. With my adopted anxious dog I found a nice small quiet hospital with very quiet patient staff and vet that are will to accommodate my dog's needs. They are wonderful and he is a little less nervous each visit. I switched to them after going to hectic busy office with half doors and tech peering into room. One had a cat in her arms!!! Delighted that I promptly found a better fit. :-)

Submitted by susan denis | September 10 2013 |

I want to describe my vet, because I recently had the experience of lying on the floor on a futon, personally cuddling my beautiful young malamute, as he received a few hours of fluids by IV. My vet uses futons on the floor regularly...there are no metal tables in the exam rooms. Her heart is so big that she knew if I could do this myself, it would mean the world to my big mama's boy, and it would mean everything to me. So I laid on the floor, while the IV was set up, and learned how the portal works...knowing her staff was just a shout away. He was so content, didn't even need a cone of shame. He was very ill with chronic kidney disease, which we'd diagnosed the day before, though only six years old. The next day, I had to make the hardest decision ever, and I'd not have been able to do it without her. I spent another couple of hours in a private room, talking quietly to Luka, my malamute, and then we did have to let him go. She embodies all that a vet should be and could be. Dr. Kayomee Darawalla, owner of Benarda Vet Clinic in Tucson Arizona is the best veterinarian in Tucson.

Submitted by Tom Cushing | September 10 2013 |

Two things stand out for me: I want a vet (and have one, thankfully) who knows about all the shiny new diagnostic tests s/he can perform, AND who doesn't recommend them just because they exist -- as when they only marginally affect the probabilities of being right. If she knows to a 90% probability that the condition is 'x,' I do not want expensive tests run that take it to 94%. As the philosopher Mr. Rock, Chris, has opined: "Just because you CAN do something, that doesn't make it a good idea." Too many younger vets are too enamored of bauble tests, in my view: what do they think this is -- HUMAN healthcare where anything goe$?

Second, I want my vet to be active in animal welfare. Frankly, I think the veterinary community at-large has been strangely, sadly absent from the humane movement -- at least in any organized way. At best, that's a huge lost opportunity to improve the conditions of the companion animals whose brethren they treat, and to end unnecessary shelter euthanasia. At worst, never mind. At Least, I want my vet to be active as an individual -- as in discounted spay/neuter for Rescues, or volunteering regularly at the shelter, or episodically in a disaster. Again, I have one of those vets -- thanks, Dr. Dowd!

Submitted by Laura | September 11 2013 |

We love our vet in Memphis. He's compassionate, realistic and well informed. We had found a stray that no one ever claimed, for mutiple reasons was not going to be adoptable (very dog aggressive and reactive to some people, not spayed and heavy heartworm positive) he helped us make the very hard decision to have her humanly euthanized after office hours and charged us 5.00 for it. When we adopted a barn cat with 1/2 a tail and no control/nerves on what was left of the tail, a snaggle tooth and she turned out feline luekemia positive, he was honest about our options and her outlook. We joke that we are putting his kids thru college with our 4 dogs and two cats, but we wouldn't go anywhere else.

Submitted by Sarah Katherine... | September 11 2013 |

I remember with so much affection two particular veterinarians in Redmond, Washington too many decades ago to want to disclose as it would reveal how OLD I am getting to be. Dr. Max Nichols was everyone's favorite horse vet, and the reason everyone loved him was that no matter the time of day or season if you had a sick horse by golly he was there to do whatever it took to bring 'em back from the brink, plus he was so full of gruff charm and the biggest mental card file of practical management skills EVER - practical management skills being somewhat lacking in many large AND small animal vets today for the simple reason many simply never grew up around animals. The other vet was a "Dr. Darling" yes his real name, Redmond Animal Clinic. Even those critters with the red tag on their patient files ("caution cat" or simply "biter")simply loved Dr. Darling. I was just a teen struggling with losing her first heart dog to cancer but I still recall the clinic staff singing out his name "Oh DOCTOR darling!!" and he truly was a darling to the family pets he treated.

Submitted by Sara Riley | September 19 2013 |

I have two favorite vets, both of which have provided excellent customer service and health care for my dogs over the years. One is a traditional vet and the other practices holistic medicine, so the health issue really determines which vet I take my dog to. Thankfully, my "traditional" vet is open to holistic medicine and the approaches that I take with my dog. He is also extremely compassionate, kind and never rushes any appointment we make with him; he always takes his time with us and wants me to completely understand the diagnosis and participate in treatment options. My "Holistic" vet runs a practice that looks nothing like a typical veterinary clinic - no scary metal exam tables! Rather the exam rooms are open with dog beds, couches, toys and treats. In the past my dogs have always been completely relaxed in this "homey" atmosphere. Also the vet tech's are warm, friendly, and simply outstanding! I can't say enough about them or recommend them any more highly. Something else they did that exceeded my expectations was assisting me when I had to put my Jack Russell to sleep. Although they were closed and could not physically preform the procedure for me (it was late and her time had come, she was suffering) they made all the arrangements with another vet clinic for me, followed up with calls and emails in the following days, and presented me with a memorial "angel dog" charm and a beautiful sympathy card, signed by the entire staff with personalized messages from each person. They have perfected customer service in such a way that we (my dogs and I) truly feel that they care about us and it's not just a "business" to them.

Submitted by Lisa | September 19 2013 |

I have always had animals, large and small (dogs, horses, birds, cats etc.) I have also worked as a vet tech for years. I think people and myself, appreciate compassion and honesty the most. Be honest about what is best for the ANIMAL (not best for the clinic) and be compassionate about the hard parts of the truth. The vet I worked for was always honest, and always put the animal first, above and beyond all else. It's a tough act to follow for the vets I've had since moving. Don't assume people know NOTHING, but don't assume they know it all either. Explain things, ask them if THEY understand, and then there is the slippery slope of WHEN a hard decision has to be made. Be there for them! Help them to make the right decision and the KNOW that it is the right decision so they don't wonder 'if' for the rest of their lives. I cried right along with our clients. I'd hand them the tissue and then help them use it. But again, long story short, HONESTY and COMPASSION I think are they key ingredients. LISTEN to them even if you don't think they know what they are talking about. They are trying their hardest to serve their companion.

Submitted by Mandy | September 19 2013 |

As important as it is to find someone who has access to the latest techniques, I've also found it really critical to have a vet who shares a quality-of-life philosophy with you.
When my 15-year-old dog was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, I suddenly found that my vet who had both qualities listed above had retired. I was faced with someone right out of vet school who wanted the old man to come in for tests several times a week. Luckily, I have also found a home-euthanasia vet who has served as my advocate in dealing with the younger vet. With peaceful death on one shoulder and life-at-all-costs on the other, Huckleberry and I forge ahead.

Submitted by Marilyn | September 19 2013 |

I appreciate a vet who is willing to work with me and consider both clinical and alternative healing which includes holistic and palliative care in certain circumstances. I believe my companion animals, much as humans, want to be with their loved ones and not placed in a hospital cage during their final days/hours. I think vets are, at times, too wedded to vet school protocols to the exclusion of the human-animal bond. Pity.

Submitted by Glenda Hackworth | September 19 2013 |

What I want in a vet is someone who IS interested in all aspects of my companion pets life, not just what they can charge me. I had a vet for several years and was happy with the clinic, Hurrican Katrina changed that. I toke in a dog who had been hit by a car and was fostering untill she was ready to be placed. I asked my vet if we could do payments for her treatments, she needed spaying and heartworm treatment (I always paid in full my other pets bills upon pick up but was in college at time) the vet proceded to give my heck for asking, stateing that they were stuck with a bunch of abandonded pets and how dare I ask to make payments on a stray. Then I was told to place her in the paper as "free dog" and just get rid of her. Guess who lost their client of 10 years real quick. They have since then also alienated many other long time clients. I since have found a great "old time " vet who has no problem treating their clients as family. Never be bullied or intemidated by a vet. If you are, look for another, there are many greats ones out there. PS-I adopted my foster and she is the best dog I ever had.

Submitted by Lynn | September 19 2013 |

I've been a dogmom for many years and thankfully for the past 15 years have had an amazing vet. What makes him amazing? #1 He knows I worry and overract about everything #2 He understands and even expects it and #3 He doesn't take advantage of that. That man could have charged me for so many office visits and physical examinations that were not necessary - it was simply me being overly worried about this bump or that scratch. Instead he'll tell me to go home and not to worry. When it IS something to worry about, I know he's serious and I trust what he tells me. He has given me very blunt and honest advice which for me is simply priceless. Thank goodness we're about the same age because I need him to be around forever for my peace of mind. LOVE my vet!

Submitted by Joy | September 19 2013 |

A vet that will cover ALL options from doing nothing to doing everything possible. A vet that will explain the costs with each option. Unless someone has really good pet insurance, the most expensive option is often not an option that is affordable for the client. Vets are getting to be less client sensitive in my opinion.

Submitted by Ruth | September 19 2013 |

There are so many components that factor into the selecting and staying with "the perfect vet." Because I have an adopted 7#-er, I'm looking for "small dog" advice. I need to know WHEN to come in to the vet and when I should not get upset about a possible condition...and possibly how to treat and/or maintain conditions myself. So I'm looking for guidance...in a kindly manner. And when I make known my concern over a condition, I would like not to be $$$ gouged, as my doggy does not fall under my medical plan...;-) and it’s not fun to be taken advantage of!

In one word, I think that I'm looking for EDUCATION on the daily caring for my precious doggy so she may enjoy a long and healthy life.

Submitted by Chris | September 19 2013 |

As a dogmom to a scared dog it's been an eye opener to see how varied vets' mental / behavioral health education can be. I left one highly acclaimed vet after some horribly bad advice (prong collars, dominance rolls and correction) which eventually led to my poor girl on the end of a rabies stick and an "aggressive dog fee".
My REACTIVE dog began doing agility as a way to burn off energy and learn focus. She just got her first Championship title. Next month she's, again, going to walk in and out of her new(er) vet's office on a loose leash.
I would like to see more practices understand positive training and how that can impact your household's mental health. For dogs with behavioral health issues, understanding their needs can be as important as any other diagnosis.
& Ariel (CL3 NAC ChCl)

Submitted by Ursula Marney | September 19 2013 |

The perfect Vet:
1. Communicates clearly with client in understandable words.
2. Good relationship with the pet.
3. Compassion for owner and pet when terminal illness is diagnosed and especially at the end for the pet.
4. The facility should have good hours including evenings and weekends and be clean.
5. Support staff should be pleasant and friendly to the pet.

Submitted by S. Star | September 19 2013 |

I want a vet who is competent. Except for the Oregon University Teaching Hospital I have taken my pets to, I have never had a vet that didn't misdiagnose my animals. I have been told my dog was not pregnant when she was. I have been told my dog had cancer when it did not.

I have gone to dozens of clinics and seen vets too numerous to mention, including specialists. In general, I have been trained not to trust the field.

I do not need empathy, or even a good bedside manner; what I need is a vet that knows what they are doing. From my experiences, that seems to be too much to ask.

Submitted by JenR | December 24 2013 |

I hope you will revisit this column comments and see this because I have had HORRIBLE experiences with Oregon State University vet teaching hospital. OSU has stood to lose its teaching certification many times over due to their incompetence and constantly revolving door - good instructors just do not stay there and this has been validated by my own veterinarian (a Ft Collins grad who is shocked at the incompetence of this local vet school). I am expressing my opinion based on personal experience and those of people I know personally and all of us feel that if our pet or livestock cannot manage to make the trip from Oregon to either WSU or UC-Davis, they should be humanely euthanized. That is how horrible we feel Oregon State University is. I am sorry if someone feels that by expressing openly an opinion about a teaching hospital is litigation worthy and if I am sued for saying what I'm saying here, well what can I do but reply "truth is a defense" -- the way I and my dying horse were treated there was such a nightmare that to this day, years later, the referring veterinarian still mentions it. And just recently I heard yet another nightmare horror story so apparently the tradition continues. Very, very sad for what was once an outstanding veterinarian teaching university.

Submitted by Angela B. | September 19 2013 |

What I am looking for in a vet is someone that is caring, and wants to get to know my dog and our family. Really understanding our dogs daily activity and our lifestyle I feel is important for them to know. A vet that is compassionate about our dogs life, and realizes that our dog is a family member, not just a pet.

Since there are many breeds to be aware of, "In a perfect world" I would love for my vet to be an expert on my breed - knowing what sort of issues they are prone to, if there are breed specific allergies or diseases they could be looking out for. My dog is very active and I would love them to recommend how to avoid injuries, and have a healthy lifestyle.

A vet should also offer alternative medicine for those of us who do not like the idea of injecting our animals with vaccines every year - as it could have adverse effects. Even home remedies for allergies or preventative meds are a huge plus!

Submitted by Beth Faulhaber | September 19 2013 |

I have a great vet who is patient with my dog, went over and above researching what was causing my dog's tummy upset, and she is always available to answer my questions, even via email! I appreciate that she is so hands on and is walking me through my "first dog" adventure!

Submitted by Nicole DENNIS | September 19 2013 |

We recently had a cancer scare with one of our mini schnauzers. The fact that the vet expressed her fondness of my dog gave me some sort of comfort. The quick results of the biopsy significantly shortened our suffering. Hopefully we never have to deal with this again, but if we do, I know where to go.

Submitted by Jen Owney | September 19 2013 |

I believe in a vet who values the physical exam and vet-client-patient relationship. Meeting in person is so important. Has anyone heard of the service BarkCare? They misdiagnosed my dog and they should be shut down forever!

Submitted by Kathryn Ananda-Owens | September 19 2013 |

We use a veterinary clinic in town, and value the convenience, competence, and compassion of the staff there. Our favorite vets give us thorough, comprehensible advice without pushing expensive treatments. Our dogs like and trust them.

That said, the make-or-break factor is that they know the limits of their own knowledge and training. My ten-year-old dog has been competing in agility since 2005. When we started, our vets knew nothing about the sport. Rather than being intimidated by this, they have embraced it as an opportunity to learn. They support our decisions to seek supplemental care elsewhere, whether at the state university when my dog strained her CCL, or with the canine massage therapists and canine chiropractors who treat local agility dogs. They don't feel insecure when we see a different veterinarian for canine acupuncture or Chinese medicine. In fact, they have expressed interest in who we see and the supplementary care we pursue -- they have a commitment to ongoing learning for themselves and their practice. By all appearances, they learn as much from us as much as we learn from them. They are an integral part of our agility dog's health care team, a team on which everyone is pulling in the same direction. I love the mutual respect and the professional curiosity.

Submitted by Jennifer | September 19 2013 |

The perfect Vet is an honest Vet. By being honest he can influence your pet's health choices, your financial well being and determine your peace of mind. He needs to be honest about the medical procedures you may need to give your pet and help determine next steps and your pet's prognosis. He needs to be honest about your ability to financially care for your pet. If it doesn't need this shot or this vaccine or this is just as good as that procedure and help you save money but still caring for the pet.

Submitted by Annie B. | September 19 2013 |

I look for a combination of excellent technical training and a willingness to listen to clients 4 legged and 2. Plus a willingness to help. I've had good vets in my town, but I am fussy and have refused to go back to bad vets (and once filed a complaint against one I saw on an emergency basis at a teaching hospital who told the student we were with that all owners lie). I like vets who keep up with the research on animal care and treatment and are okay with me bringing in my own research if it is relevant. I appreciate vets who get to know the quirks of the animal, take time with them and look at more than the obvious. And I like vets who treat me like I have a brain and am a partner in my animal's care. And they are willing to help. Three times now on expensive treatments, they have run me a line of credit with a small interest rate and monthly payments, which has allowed me to give my dogs their best chance. I always pay back of course, but I appreciate the courtesy and trust of this relationship. Plus I have seen them care for homeless animals at their own cost. So, it really is about the animals.

Submitted by Jen Brighton | September 19 2013 |

We have been with the vet of our dreams since we acquired our prior dog, Mocha, a Lab-boxer mix, a very high strung dog. He held our hands through two ACL surgeries, two dog bites that required stitches when she was a puppy, and end of life cancer that we eventually learned was in her heart ventricle where he had to drain the fluid from her body on numerous occasions. He was with us at the end when she was too ill to keep going at the ripe age of 14. He has continued to care for, along with the other veterinarians in his office, our 3 kitties and 2 current pit mixes.

First and foremost what we love about Todd is his genuine affection, care and liking for the animals he works with. He gets down on the floor, rolls around with them, lets them lick his face and talks to them before any examinations or procedures. Hand in hand with that is his reputation locally as an excellent surgeon. His father is a well-respected veterinarian who with another vet founded the business and he has more than filled his father's shoes. He even lets his dad still work in the office and his sister has worked there for as long as I can remember. There is no turnover of staff, which also says a lot. He has not charged me for required therapy dog exams because it's related to volunteer work.

While there are many, many worthy veterinarians in my city, some of whom are my friends, I don't know what we would do without Dr. Todd Perry.

My most recent favorite Dr. Todd tale was when I took my dog, Inca, in for a checkup. The day before she and my other dog, Domino, had discovered an old slug trap in the strawberries filled with soured beer and rotten slugs which they delightedly rolled in unbeknownst to us. It was the most revolting smell my husband and I had ever encountered and we actually thought they had gotten into human feces. Keep in mind, both dogs sleep in the bed! When I warned Todd not to hug Inca this time and told him what she had done and that we hadn't been successful in getting the smell off her, he got down on the floor, hugged her, looked into her eyes and said, "Good dog, Inca!" In other words, way to act like a dog.

What more can I say? I could write a book about Dr. Todd Perry and the other veterinarians at Fountain Veterinary Hospital. We have consulted with all of them at one time or another, but our longest relationship is with Todd.

Submitted by Dr. Cynthia Mahaffey | September 19 2013 |

I have the best veterinarian in the universe. Dr. Richard Martin, midway Animal Hospital, Bowling Green, OH has mad diagnostic skills and a gentle touch with my rescue dogs who often come with a variety of problems, compassion, a great sense of humor, and approach which encompasses a variety of approaches. He always lays out all possible options, which include common sense, possibilities of medications, knowledge of breed problems and an understanding of owner finances. He is a skilled surgeon and is skillful at end of life decision-making in concert with the owner.

Submitted by Martin Spieldock | September 19 2013 |

When my dog, Jake passed away, I adopted another mixed breed (Shane). Losing Jake also made me feel like I would like to go to a different Veterinarian. This was when I met Dr. David Mannes, the Vet of my dreams. Dr. Mannes gave Shane a very thorough exam. When we were finished, I went to the front desk to pay my bill, and they told me there was no charge because I had adopted my dog. I have been taking my pets to Dr. Mannes ever since that first visit with Shane in 2001. When the door opens and Dr. Mannes comes in, I get the same feeling that I get when I see one of my friends. I guess everyone has had doctors that weren't very warm and fuzzy, not me, I get a great Veterinarian and a friend at the same office. Dr. Mannes has diagnosed problems that I doubt other Vets would overlook. I get the jump on the animal's treatment, life saving in a couple instances. Unfortunately, I had to go to Pet emergency office because my cat was having a heart attack. Dr. Mannes of course, was not there, so I got a refresher course on Veterinarians that just want to get it done. The cat was euthanized, and my heart was broken. Two weeks later, Gia (my dog) had an examination with Dr. David, it made me feel the way everyone, especially the animal. I have had lots of animals, and lots of Veterinarians, but nobody was ever like Dr. David, he really cares about his patients, and their person.


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