In preparation for Moose’s surgery, I used the process I have used for my own health over the years. While this is my own process, it may be a good guide for you as your seek to ensure your pet gets the best care possible.
Ask Around – ask anybody and everybody you know with pets if they have any experience with your pet’s health issue. Many people have valuable experiences from which you can learn helpful insights. Ask if they know anything about the vet that will be doing the procedure. Pet owners talk amongst themselves, especially when one has a bad experience or has heard of a bad experience with a vet with poor quality track records.
Research Your Vet – Search consumer review Web sites, such as yelp, google, etc. for reviews of the vet or veterinary hospital that will be providing your pet’s service. While some vets with track records of poor care and patient deaths have learned how to get bad reviews removed, not all of them have taken this step. While consumer reviews from people you do not know are not always reliable, they can at least give you a sense of the kind of reputation a vet has within your community. Also, use search engines such as google to look for any news stories about your vet. Sometimes, particularly egregious cases can result in negative news coverage.
Understand the Condition – Learn as much as you can about the condition or procedure you are considering for your pet. Knowledge is power – the more you know about the condition, the better you will able to assess the prognosis and course of action that will be best for your pet’s health and safety.
Research Veterinary Care Guidelines – As the veterinary community has grown in size and sophistication, more and more vets are developing specialty associations, focused on providing specialty care for particular types of disease (e.g. cardiology, internal medicine, dentistry, anesthesiology, dermatology). In many cases, these specialty societies are beginning to develop and publish veterinary care guidelines, which provide a detailed view on what constitutes quality care in that particular area. This was very helpful for me in evaluating the care he would receive at the University of Pennsylvania, giving me the insight and perspective to evaluate UPenn’s high standards of care.
Make a List of Questions – For Moose, my husband and I developed a four page list of questions about both the dental care he needed, as well as the anesthesia he would need for the dental surgery. While I didn’t ask every question on the list, we asked most of them, and just making the list was helpful in shaping our thoughts and questions prior to our appointments with his vets at the University of Pennsylvania.
Bring Your Smart Phone/iPad – If the vet is using terms you don’t understand or talking about diseases/conditions with which you are not familiar, have your smart phone or iPad handy to google the terminology. Good vets will explain medical terms appropriately, but sometimes it’s hard to take in all of the information at once, especially if you’re mind is overwhelmed by fear and concern for your pet. Even if you do know the terms, it’s sometimes helpful to google them after the vet leaves the room, so that you can get a sense of how they might apply in this particular situation for your pet.
Don’t Be Shy – Any vet or vet hospital worthy of your trust will not shy away from answering any question you have in advance of the procedure. If they seem patronizing or annoyed, leave. Find a place that will respect you and your pet enough to answer your questions and be transparent about their standards of care prior to, during and following your pet’s treatment.
Bring a Friend – If possible, bring a pet-loving friend to the appointment with you, especially if you’re discussing complex medical conditions or treatments. Even the most well informed pet owner can get overwhelmed by their concern for their pets and forget to ask questions. A friend who is less emotionally attached to your pet can help you think through the situation and make sure that you’re getting all of the information you need to know to make the best decision for your pet.