What are you looking for in your equine veterinarian? When I think of this question four main areas come to mind:
Horse owners look for veterinarians that can come out to see their horses in a timely manner. This means if the horse has an issue that needs to be seen the client can get an appointment in a manner of days instead of weeks. Clients look for veterinarians that are available for ranch calls to go out to where the horse is located for emergencies that occur both during the day and after hours. It’s ok to have a relationship with a second equine veterinarian when your primary veterinarian is not available or is out of town.
Clients are looking for veterinarians that are easy to communicate with. Whether you are dealing with your veterinarian directly or with their office staff you want to feel your message is making it to the doctor. The biggest complaint I hear from clients about other practices is when doctors simply do not answer their phones or if clients are put on extended holds during emergencies. Some veterinarians simply do not pick up their phones and clients are left waiting, wondering if they will get a call back or if they should try vet #2. If the vet does not see after hour emergencies then this needs to be on their voicemail or if they are not available the client would like a call back letting them know.
You should never text your veterinarian about emergencies. Always call! While being able to text your veterinarian is a nice feature we have in this digital society do not abuse the privilege as clients. Texting is a nice way to remind clients of appointments and reorder medications but be courteous when doing so. I do like texts for updates of ongoing conditions and being able to see pictures to determine when the next recheck appointment needs to occur. However, our phones are always on us because we do emergency work. That does not mean I need a call on New Year’s Eve asking when I can come out for a routine dental exam and teeth float.
The biggest complaint among my colleagues is that clients are inconsiderate of our down time. While I am glad the 9 pm call is just a call to reorder medications and does not mean I need to get out of my warm pajamas to go treat a horse for colic in the pouring rain, the call should have been made during normal business hours.
3) Bedside Manner
Clients are looking for veterinarians that show compassion when their fur kids are in pain or during illness. Many of my clients feel like friends or family members. I have heard this from colleagues who are all types of veterinarians. We cry with them when we put their animals down, we have had cups of coffee with them after long after-hour emergencies, and we say hi to them when we’re at the grocery store picking up more coffee creamer.
I am not a specialist. I do several things well but I am not board verified at any one specialty. Whether you are a new graduate or an oldie but goodie, as veterinarians we sometimes see things that make us scratch our heads. Clients appreciate when you think their animal needs to go to a referral hospital for additional diagnostics and another pair of eyes then trying acting like we are experts at an unknown illness we have never seen before.
There are many important areas to consider when choosing a veterinarian. To many of us our horses are our family members. To me it is important to find a veterinarian that is available, accessible, compassionate and honest to help you with all your routine and emergency equine health needs.