Signs of a Great Veterinary Practice

Is Your Animal Clinic Awesome?

veterinarian and staff at animal clinic with dog
Monty Rakusen//Cultura/Getty Images

Finding the right veterinarian takes some effort. You probably took some time to research the best veterinarian in your area. Now it's the moment of truth--the first visit to the vet's practice. Take a look around. Listen. Breathe in.

Does your favorite veterinary center, animal clinic, or animal hospital measure up to the standard? Can you put your pet's health in their hands? Here are the signs of a great veterinary clinic.

First Impression

The building and entrance should be clearly marked with the facility name, phone number and hours of the clinic. The area around the entrance should be clean, neat and odor-free. The entrance should be easily accessible. Convenient parking is an important feature if you will be driving there.

Upon entering, you should notice that the lobby is clean, well-organized, and relatively odorless. Noise and chaos are sometimes unavoidable in an animal clinic, but it will hopefully be kept to a minimum. The staff members should greet you and your pet warmly upon arrival. Bonus points if they greet you and your pet by name! No matter what, you should get the feeling they are happy to see you.

Waiting to See the Vet

Seating should be available and relatively comfortable, but it shouldn't be a major factor because the wait should not be very long (provided you have an appointment and have arrived on time). For any brief waiting time, there will ideally be coffee and water available. In general, you should be seen within a few minutes of your appointment time. Of course, your wait time can be affected by emergencies through no fault of the vet or staff. If this situation occurs, the staff should communicate with you about the wait. Repeat instances of waiting or very long wait times are not good signs.

Any staff members you encounter (veterinary technicians, veterinary assistants, receptionists, kennel assistants, veterinarians) should greet you and your pet warmly. Staff members should appear caring, calm, competent, and courteous. Everyone should be willing and able to communicate with you effectively about your pet. The staff should make sure all of your questions have been answered.

When meeting the veterinarian, make sure that she or he also has all of the signs of a great vet.

Taking a Tour

If possible, you should ask for a tour of the animal clinic. Unless there is an emergency or an extremely fractious pet in the back, the staff should have no problem showing you around. However, it is an animal clinic, so there may be times when a tour is not possible. In this case, the staff should set up a better time for you to take a tour.

During your tour, you should notice that the facility is clean, organized, and does not have an excess of strong, unpleasant odors. Because there are animals, some sick, there is no way to avoid the occasional smelly accident, so this should not count against them.

Pets should be in clean cages that are appropriately sized. Note that many pets are very anxious at the vet's office, so some vocalizing and nervousness is to be expected. However, no pets should seem like they are in great distress (this could easily be misinterpreted, so ask questions before you make assumptions). Ideally, there will be separate areas for different species (so it's less stressful for the pets).

Staff should always be seen handling pets gently and with compassion. However, certain restraint techniques may look worse than they truly are. Medical staff should be knowledgable, confident and eager to answer your questions. 

Communication

If your pet needs testing or treatments performed, the vet and staff should communicate clearly with you about the expectations and costs. In the case of a large or involved procedure, the vet or staff should present an estimate (sometimes called a treatment plan or care management plan). You should always feel comfortable about asking for an estimate of fees, no matter how small a procedure seems. Many owners feel taken by surprise about the vet bill at the end. Communication between you and the staff can help you avoid this problem. However, if you have concerns about the bill or anything else that occurred during your visit, you should ask to speak to the appropriate person (usually a manager or the veterinarian).

When you leave your animal clinic, you should leave feeling happy, satisfied and well-cared for. If you don't you should definitely talk to a manager or the owner. A good business will want to make things right.