How to Find a Veterinarian for Your Special Pet

By Don J. Harris, DVM

One of the first responsibilities you have as a pet owner is obtaining quality medical care for your pet. The process of finding a qualified veterinarian, who is educated, trained and experienced in treating non-traditional pets like ferrets, birds and small mammals, is often more difficult than you initially might think. Perseverance and some good common sense on your part can result in finding a veterinarian who is skilled in treating your special pet.

Here are some methods you can use.

1. Yellow Pages and Online Advertising – While this may be the easiest method, it does not necessarily qualify the practitioner to treat your pet. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) allows the term “specialist” by only those veterinarians who have fulfilled certain defined criteria in that specialty. Beyond that, these ads can reflect marketing skills more than veterinary competence.

2. Pet Suppliers’ Recommendations – Pet retail stores or breeders will often recommend a veterinarian they work with on a regular basis. Their recommendations may be based on positive experiences with this particular veterinarian’s care and treatment. On the other hand, pet suppliers occasionally have relationships with veterinarians based on discounted services in exchange for referrals. While this business relationship is not in itself bad, pet owners should be advised to verify the veterinarian’s credentials.

3. Word-of-Mouth Recommendations – This is one of the best ways of finding a competent veterinarian. If a veterinarian’s own clients are making recommendations, there must be a reason why. Unfortunately, these personal recommendations are not always available, especially if you recently moved into the area and don’t know anyone to ask. If you have joined a local pet club or are active in a rescue shelter, you have good sources for recommendations.

4. Colleague Recommendations – This is probably the best and most consistently reliable method, but it demands a little sleuthing on your part. Here are the steps you can follow:

  • Identify and call veterinarians in the yellow pages that have a dog or cat practice, or better yet an exotic animal practice. Some dog and cat practices have experience in treating nontraditional pets; some do not. Some exotic practices see animals like ferrets, and small mammals, and some limit their practice to birds. There’s no way to tell for sure if you don’t probe for more information.
  • Call to ask if they will see your ferret, bird or small mammal.
  • If they decline, ask whom they would recommend.
  • Continue this process until you get enough answers to form a consensus.
  • The veterinarian whose name was recommended the most often is the veterinarian most recognized by his colleagues for competence.
  • Congratulations! Through hard work and some common sense, you may have found just the right veterinarian for you and your special pet.

If you need additional help, let ZuPreem help you find a qualified veterinarian. Just call 1-800-345-4767 to talk to a ZuPreem Customer Care representative.