Veterinarian Jennifer Mills Buchanan performs surgeryon a cat. Photo courtesy of Seattle Humane Society

neuterphoto2.jpg Veterinarian Jennifer Mills Buchanan performs surgeryon a cat. Photo courtesy of Seattle Humane Society

Carl Ware, chief operating officer at Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital in Snohomish, and Dr. Carin Smith, an author, consultant, trainer and speaker in Central Washington, who works with veterinarians to improve their practices, answer this week’s questions.

Question: Generally, what separates a good vet from a mediocre vet? What separates an extraordinary vet from a good vet?

Smith: The client’s perception! What one person thinks is good or extraordinary may be different from another. “Extraordinary,” to me, is the veterinarian who can work with each client as an individual so each client feels the vet is great, from his or her unique points of view.

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Question: What can pet owners expect from good and/or extraordinary vets?

Ware: Good or extraordinary veterinarians communicate in a timely and thorough manner with clients and leave no health-related questions unanswered.

Smith: Good communication. When a veterinarian is a good communicator, he or she is able to communicate what’s going on with the pet, what the best program is for the pet to remain or get healthy and what the veterinarian’s abilities are (thus, when to refer to a specialist).

Question: What are the first things a pet owner should do when searching for a new vet? The Washington State Veterinary Medical Association will list members but not recommend them. How do pet owners winnow the list?

Ware: Consumer-opinion websites provide a good source of information about client experiences. The Better Business Bureau will know if complaints have been registered about a service or veterinarian.

Smith: The best way to find a veterinarian who is good is to ask friends and family. Go beyond asking whether they like their vet and ask what it is they like — because their likes and priorities may differ from yours.

Question: Does where a vet was educated really matter?

Ware: No. The standards for medical education in this country are extremely high.

Smith: No, as long as they attended a veterinary school accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association , which applies to U.S. veterinary schools and some in other countries.

Question: How does a pet owner assess how smart a vet really is? How can a pet owner better judge the keenness of a vet’s diagnostic skills and whether the vet has kept up to date on new studies, medications or new options on treating different conditions?