13 Signs You Need to Switch Veterinarians

Your pet is a family member, so when it comes to his health you want to both like and trust your veterinarian. Beware of these red flags.

“The bond between a veterinarian and pet family is meant to be special. I cherish both my patients and my clients,” says Kim Vanduzer, DVM, at Prettyboy Veterinary Hospital in Freeland, Maryland. That’s the ideal scenario pet parents desire. Whether you’ve been seeing the same veterinarian for years or just started seeing one for the first time, vets say if you notice one of these signs, it’s probably time to switch doctors.

You feel out of the loop

Your vet tells you what she is going to do but doesn’t explain any specifics with you. All you hear is, “I’m ordering blood work,” or “Here’s what I’m going to do.” “It is important for you to understand available diagnostics, results, and diagnosis,” says Dr. Vanduzer. “Good veterinarians want you to be involved in the treatment of your pet.” To be the best health advocate for your pet, these 50 secrets your pet would tell you if he could talk can help you understand your pet’s nonverbal cues.

She’s not taking into account your finances

We all wish money was no object when it comes to our pet’s healthcare, but for most people, it’s a valid concern. “Conversations such as finances and quality of life can be difficult,” says Dr. Vanduzer. “You need to be able to freely ask questions and discuss family finances that impact your decisions.” New pet parents tend to underestimate the expenses of adopting a furbaby. Your new furry addition will come with more expenses than just vet bills. Here’s the low down of how much it actually costs to care for a dog.

You’re always fact-checking him

No one’s going to fault you for Googling your pet’s weird rash, but if you’re fact-checking before and after a vet visit, it could be a sign that you don’t really trust your vet. “You need to believe that the advice they provide is not only medically sound but also right for your family. If you are constantly looking up your pet’s problems on Google instead of picking up the phone to talk to your vet, it may be time to switch veterinarians,” says Dr. Vanduzer.

She doesn’t respect you

She openly disagrees or doesn’t support most of your pet-parenting decisions. “Even if your veterinarian doesn’t agree with some of your choices, like diet, it’s important that they respect your right to make decisions for your pet. Their job is to give you information to guide you in making medical decisions,” says Angie Krause, DVM, a holistic vet at I and Love and You in Boulder, Colorado.

You don’t connect

Remember back in high school when you had a teacher for every subject? You probably had a favorite—somebody who really understood you—and a not-so-favorite, whose class you dreaded. It’s not that your veterinarian is “bad,” you just don’t jibe. “Veterinarians have different personalities and communications styles. Finding a veterinarian that uses a communication style that works for you is important,” says Dr. Krause.

You’re getting the “hard sell” at every visit

Making decisions about your furbaby’s care isn’t always easy, especially if your vet is constantly urging you to try the latest procedures or specialty pet products. “You shouldn’t feel like you’re in a high-pressure sales environment… It’s important your veterinary team provides you with all the options for your pet.” says Dr. Krause. If visits are leaving you feeling guilty that you didn’t make a purchase, that’s a red flag. When budget’s an issue it may help to know that some homemade pet products work just as well as store-bought.

Your vet is offended

Our pets are members of our family. When any family member isn’t feeling well after months of treatment, it is natural to want a second opinion, to get another perspective as to what’s going on with your pup. And you shouldn’t be met with a harsh response. If your vet gets angered when you want a second opinion, especially on something requiring surgery or hospitalization, that’s your cue to switch doctors, says Karen Halligan, DVM in Marina del Rey, California.

He’s hiding info

“A vet should not withhold information about diagnostic tests performed, such as x-rays and blood work,” says Dr. Halligan. Sure, you might not fully understand the medical terms, but as your dog’s advocate, Dr. Hallligan says you have the right to know, and your vet should be able to explain things in layman’s terms. These are the 50 things most vets won’t tell you, but should.

She’s MIA

“Your doctor deserves a healthy work/life balance,” says Bernadine Cruz, DVM, but adds that if your veterinarian doesn’t return phone calls, emails, or texts within a reasonable timeframe, it isn’t very reassuring to you that your pet’s health is a priority. Likewise, if your vet doesn’t respect your time and is always late for office appointments without an explanation, it might be time to switch vets, Dr. Cruz says.

He dismisses your concerns

Your vet has the degree hanging on the wall, but you live with your pet every day so you may notice subtle nuances in the animal’s behavior or physical traits that your vet might not take into consideration. So what does it mean when he or she doesn’t even acknowledge your observations? “It’s a red flag if he/she doesn’t listen to your concerns or declines to investigate issues that you believe are problematic,” says Dr. Cruz.

Your pet is anxious

No one looks forward to a doctor’s appointment—including your pet. It’s normal to expect them to be nervous in the car on the way there and in the waiting room. If you tell your vet about this, and she dismisses your pet’s anxiety or doesn’t recommend options to alleviate it, future visits going forward won’t be pleasant. “Your veterinarian is your pet’s physician, and both you and your pet need to enjoy interacting with this health professional,” says Dr. Cruz. You can try these tricks to calm an anxious dog, no meds required.

What’s behind those closed doors?

Should you expect a tour of the facility? Are you allowed to visit your pet while it is in the hospital? Yes and yes, says Dr. Cruz. It’s a natural and healthy curiosity to want to see the condition and cleanliness of the kennels and outdoor space your pet will spend time in. And when an overnight hospitalization is necessary, pets love to get visits from their pet parents. (Keep in mind, not all clinics are 24-hour facilities, so there may be certain restrictions like visiting hours to ensure your pet’s rest and recovery.)

Trust your gut

“I always tell my clients to trust their gut,” says Dr. Halligan. “If your vet is not someone you would want to have coffee with, then maybe another vet should be treating your pet.” Read on for the 50 secrets your pet would tell you if it could talk.

Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a Baltimore-based writer who writes regularly about pets and home improvement for Reader's Digest. Her work has also been published in The Healthy, Family Handyman and Taste of Home, among other outlets. She's also a certified personal trainer and walking coach for a local senior center.