The 5 Worst Ways to Choose a Vet
How to Choose a Vet for Your Horse
Routine veterinary care is a vital part of horse ownership. Choosing the right vet is an important decision that involves a range of personal and practical considerations. Ask your farrier, trainer, and fellow horse owners for referrals, or search online for local equine vets. Evaluate a potential vet's education, experience, and specializations, and try to get a feel for their character and bedside manner. Choose a vet who you connect with, and who fits your budget, values, and specific needs.
Finding Nearby Vets
Consult your farrier and trainer.Your farrier, or hoof specialist, and trainer can offer advice from their professional perspectives. In particular, farriers are a valuable source of information, since they have to work closely with vets for issues related to lameness.
Ask fellow horse owners for referrals.Fellow horse owners are another great resource, and can give you a clear idea of what it’s like to be a particular vet’s client.
- Ask fellow owners how much they like their vet. Ask if their vet communicates clearly or uses lots of technical jargon.
- If you’re comfortable with that person, ask about cost, and whether payment is due immediately or if they offer payment plans.
- Ask the horse owner how quickly they are able to get appointments with their vet. You might want to ask if the vet makes after hours calls or how far they will travel to treat horses.
Search online for local equine vets.In addition to getting referrals, you can search for and research local vets online. A basic search for “horse vet” or “equine vet” near your location is a great start. You can also use the search tool on the website of the American Association of Equine Practitioners: .
- If you live outside the United States, look up your nation’s veterinary or equine veterinary association. Many national association websites offer a search tool.
- Check out their website. Most vets should have their own website. Read through the site to see what their availability and policies are.
Look for vets who only treat horses.Equine medicine is a broad, complex, and rapidly advancing field. While you might only find mixed-animal practices in some rural areas, an equine-only vet is usually your best option.
- You might encounter exceptions to the equine-only rule. For instance, an experienced, board certified large animal vet located 20 minutes away might be better than an equine vet who’s fresh out of school and located over an hour from your ranch.
Find a vet who’s close enough to respond to emergencies.Location is a key consideration when you start putting together a list of potential vets. Horse vets typically make house calls, especially in emergency situations. If your horse does have an emergency, you’ll want a vet who can arrive as quickly as possible.
Evaluating Potential Vets
Check a potential vet’s education and certifications.A practice’s website will most likely include information about where a vet went to school, their licensing, and board certifications they’ve earned. In addition, try to find out if they continue their education by participating in workshops, conferences, and by publishing research.
- You can also call their office to find out about their education and any additional certifications.
- Ask them where they did their residency. If they had any internships, try to see where those were completed as well.
Find out how much practical experience they have.Look up a vet’s website or call their office to find out how long they’ve been in practice. A vet who has practical, real world experience is usually more desirable than a recent graduate.
- Larger, multi-vet practices often offer the best of both worlds. They’ll likely have vets on staff with lots of experience along with recent grads who are more familiar with the latest advancements in equine medicine.
Ask if they provide dental care and about their dentistry qualifications.Ideally, the vet will have ample experience with equine dentistry. Horses’ teeth grow continually and require regular maintenance.
- Verify that they sedate the horse to administer a dental exam, and that they use a full-mouth speculum (to hold the mouth open), dental light, and mirror to thoroughly assess each tooth.
- They should also have access to an x-ray and keep permanent dental records.
Research their business practices.Look up a practice on your local Better Business Bureau to find their rating and client reviews. Referrals from fellow horse owners can also give you an idea of how a practice handles their business.
- Equine vets are known for less than stellar business skills.You want to find a vet who’s flexible and can offer payment plans if needed, but who runs a successful business that will continue to operate for years to come.
Evaluate their character and bedside manner.Evaluating character and bedside manner is a personal decision. Ask yourself if you want a vet who’s upbeat and approachable or more stern and focused. When you talk to them on the phone or in person, try to figure out if they’re someone with whom you can build a long-term relationship.
- It might be an intangible spark or gut feeling, but try to find someone who leaves you with an impression of integrity, intelligence, and empathy.
- You're going to be working with this vet quite a bit. Make sure that both you and your horse get along with them.
Determining Your Specific Needs
Find a vet that fits your budget.From ranch visit fees to large medication dosages, providing equine veterinary care is expensive. Ask potential vets what their visit fees are, how much routine exams cost, and about emergency care expenses. Ask if payment is due at the time of service or if they offer interest-free payment plans.
- You don’t want to just go with the cheapest vet available. You might not get the best treatment for your horse. Instead, try to find the most competent vet you can possibly afford.
Decide whether you prefer a solo practitioner over a larger practice.Some horse owners want one individual to treat their animals. While it’s desirable to build a close relationship with a solo vet, a multi-vet practice offers wider availability, faster emergency response time, and diverse areas of expertise.
- With more hands on deck, a multi-vet practice is usually a more practical option. However, you might find that you connect with a solo practitioner.
- If you end up using a larger firm, you may still be able to get the same vet every time if you request them. During emergency situations, however, they might send a different vet if yours is not available.
Have an emergency back up if you go with a solo practitioner.If you do choose a vet who operates solo, it’s a good idea to have a backup who can offer 24 hour emergency care. In an emergency, you won’t want to have to scramble to find another option if your vet is sick, out of town, or treating another client’s emergency.
Get a vet who specializes in your sport or discipline.If you show or race your horses, your vet should have experience that relates to your specific discipline.For example, an equine vet with additional DACVS or DACVIM certifications will have expertise in muscular, bone, and joint issues, which would make them a better choice for a competition racehorse.
- Referrals from your farrier, trainer, and peers will help you track down a suitable vet if you raise competitive horses.
Video: How to choose the right veterinarian for your pet
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