Research local vets before you bring your new puppy home, as he or she should have a puppy wellness check as soon as they're home and will need vaccinations before long.
1. Word of Mouth
Asking friends and neighbors where they take their dogs is one of the best ways to find a vet. You'll tend to get local recommendations and can ask a wide variety of people. It doesn't hurt to ask about their specific experiences. For instance, have they needed their vet for emergency treatment or to solve a mystery illness? How did that go? Did they feel the vet gave their dog the proper care?
Keep in mind that we all have different tastes so what's best for your neighbor might not be best for you. For example, if your neighbor has loads of dog experience themselves due to having dogs their entire life, they might have different needs than a new puppy owner.
2. Independently-Owned Vet or Chain?
There are pros and cons to both types of practice. With a small, independent practice you'll usually see the same one or two vets each time you go. This is great for establishing a relationship and for continuity. With a larger practice you may see many different vets, having to re-explain your dog's history each time you visit. Sometimes, however, a new set of eyes can shed light on a tricky case.
If your dog ends up with a recurring condition, you'll be much happier if your vet is located nearby either your home or your favourite walking spot. While most new owners don't ever expect their puppy will suffer from a recurring condition, illnesses like ear infections and skin allergies are actually quite common. According to Healthy Pets, skin problems from rashes to infections are the number 1 reason dogs visited the vet in 2018.
3. 24-Hour Care
Most small practices don't work outside of normal business hours, which means you'll need to visit an alternative "cover" practice if your pet is seriously ill out of hours. Find out what the emergency care arrangement is for any practice you're considering to find out how far away it is.
5. Will the Vet Submit Pet Insurance Forms?
Having pet insurance is one thing—getting reimbursed is another. In order to receive payment for covered conditions, you need to submit a claim form to your insurance company. The time to submit forms ranges from as little as 60 days up to one year. Regardless of how long you have, it can be a hassle. Luckily, many vets will submit the forms for you. Find out if yours will—and if they charge. (Some may charge a £10 - £15 admin fee, but most do it for free.)
6. Will the Vet Accept Payment from your Insurance?
While it's typical to pay your vet directly and claim the money back from your insurance company, this may not be ideal for larger vet bills. If your dog needs an MRI or surgery, the bill can easily reach into the thousands of pounds. Depending on your financial situation it may be handy or even necessary to ask the vet to wait to accept payment directly from the insurer, without requiring you to pay. (You'd still need to pay the excess, of course.)
7. Will the Vet Send Vaccination Reminders?
While perhaps not make or break when choosing a vet, it can be very convenient if your vet sends alerts to remind you that your dog is due for their vaccinations or even for other appointments.
It may not hurt to have a look at reviews on Google to look for any glaring problems, but be skeptical about what you read. Some people write poor reviews when upset, and even the best vets may have a few unhappy clients. For example, owners who are understandably very emotional about their beloved dog in a tragic situation may blame the vet for the inevitable.
9. Gut Feel
Finally, pop in to any vets you're considering to see what it's like inside. Is it clean? Are the reception staff friendly? Try stopping by around 11:30 in the morning to get a feel for how backed up the appointments are. If the waiting room is full of barking dogs, they may not be great at sticking to appointment windows. That said, if it is busy ask it's that the norm—it could be that an emergency came in which took precedent that morning.
Choose a vet you like best, but remember that you can always make a change later on. In case you move to a new vet you'll need to have your dog's records transferred over to the new vet, but they may be able to initiate that process for you.