Hey guys, I am conducting some research on this subject and appreciate any of your feedback related to the subject of veterinary care and why you choose the veterinarians you use?
High level of expertise. Sees my horse quickly in a true emergency. Listens to me, e.g. if I want an x-ray or other test for my peace of mind, is willing to do it. Fair pricing. No receptionist or other difficult person who gives me poor advice or gets in the way if I have a true emergency.
I have been really fortunate to have good access to several good vets and a good vet hospital (Morven Park), that meet all of the above criteria.
High level of expertise, experience managing upper level sport horses, FEI license and familiar with passports and drug rules, access to all modern diagnostics (portable digital x-ray and ultrasound, bone scan, MRI all in-house)
Values my input (i.e. left pirouette isn’t carrying or right half pass is uneven means something, and results in an appropriate exam)
Professional competence. Knows when to make a referral. Values my input. Appropriate fee structure. Understands, respects, and is comfortable with my limits for care. (I have mostly older horses who are not surgical candidates, etc.) Pleasant “stall-side” manner also a plus.
My current vet is preferred over others I’ve used because the appointments never feel the slightest bit rushed and he explains things so thoroughly… Not in a dumbed down fashion but everything is turned into a leaning experience for the owner. And everyone is so friendly! A few lameness issues I have dealt with I thought he did a great job by starting with diagnostic procedures and/or treatments that provided the most bang for my buck, knowing that I am a little budget conscious.
Thanks guys!!! these are great!
If they don’t know, they aren’t afraid to research or help you find a second opinion.
They’re local, do large animal, and will come to me. Finding a large animal vet is not always easy, and I would not haul my horses into the clinic unless they had to have some sort of MAJOR procedure.
Affordable. I do not want every single test under the sun unless there are no alternatives. I do not need or want medications unless absolutely necessary. I liked the vet who looked at Lucky for me in NY who flat-out told me “He jogs sound, he’s racing sound, he has no history of injuries, I can tell you at his age he’s probably got arthritic changes, I can spend a lot more of your money taking X-rays and tell you he’s got arthritic changes, but I don’t see any reason to.” No attempts to guilt me into more expensive/extensive diagnostics or treatments. I want to know something is being suggested because it’s necessary, not because they’re just base-covering.
Is as on-time as is feasible (all vets have issues. I had to wait 45 minutes at the cat’s vet once because right at my appointment time they had a dog emergency come in. Farm calls run over, emergencies come up. Stuff like that happens.) Keeps the appointment as long as it needs to be and no longer.
A professional office staff who’s good with billing (prompt and good communication), keeps your records up to date, good with the phone, etc. This is so important…
John Malark, board certified and MSU vet school grad.
I want just what I got last weekend. My vet telling one of his vets to get to my horse and check him out. And then my vet being on call and taking care of my horse at his horsepital all weekend; being there Saturday and Sunday when I went over to visit my horse, and taking great care of him. And having support staff there 24/7 to make sure my horse was OK.
The only thing I miss is my vet coming over to GA as he used to do to give shots and all. Now he has assistants who do that. And they aren’t great like he is.
I once took a friend’s horse to him for colic surgery at 3:30am. He saved that horse. The horse in the stall next to Cloudy last weekend had the colic belly band and went home Sunday. Another successful colic surgery by my vet in his operating room. Fortunately my horse did not need surgery, just $$$ liters of Iv solution.
The only problem is that the hospital is 100 miles from the barn. I would like for him to build a surgery on this side of the bridge. And for him to come give shots and all as he used to. He’s the greatest.
I’ve paid a thousand dollars for a dead cat before and I’d like a vet who is a realist. I see no point in test after test and keeping the animal uncomfortable because he “might” make it - it hurts doubly to have to bury my best friend plus be depressed every time I write a check for a payment on the un necessary bill. I guess I really want a vet who is psychic and makes all the right calls at a reasonable price. I like our clinic now, really like the small animal vet who treats the cats and they like her, nobody hides or gets tense. The large animal vet is a bit gruff but understands the level of care for the old horse that we’ve all agreed upon.
I use a couple of different vets for different reasons. One, my “main vet” is what I would consider the “primary care” doctor. He sees them twice a year for shots, teeth, Coggins, general minor owies and illnesses, basic lameness exams (nerve blocks, X-ray, great eye) and is an extremely responsive, delightful guy who’s wonderful with horses and always available for a call or a question. I know I can expect a call back from him within an hour virtually any time, for any reason.
However, he does not do very advanced lameness or breeding stuff, which of course I occasionally need. He readily refers to MSU for that if I need a referral, and it’s wonderful in that he knows everyone there and they respect him greatly. I use a reproductive vet who’s much closer to me geographically and who also manages several broodies at my trainer’s barn, so that’s just very convenient for me and my “main” vet was one of his mentors and speaks highly of him so there’s no bad blood or any sort of professional jealousy going on. When my primary vet retires (he’s in his late 60s) I will transition to this group for everything.
Things I value the most: responsiveness to calls and questions, ability to work with my schedule and minimal rescheduling, (I know it happens, I’m in the same business, but I sure do love kept appointments!) and good communication. I do not need a lot of hand-holding or spelling out every detail of tests and treatments, but just good dialogue over “here are the options, what do we do now?” I think is priceless.
Lots of great comments above.
I would just like to add one thing: when my guy developed an usual eye problem (turned out to be a squamous cell carcinoma of third eyelid), my vet (who is terrific, and who handles almost everything) told me to take him to a large teaching hospital for the surgery. I really appreciated the fact that he thought an eye specialist was warranted.
I would like my vet to stop jacking the price of medications I need to obscene levels. I do get prescriptions, but sometimes I need something right away and I pay double or triple the normal retail price.
They do price matching, but I had to find that out from someone else, they didn’t offer it to me until I asked. I just think that’s kind of sneaky.
Muller II (Peter) @ Briarcliff Animal Hospital, who wrote his boards paper on my cat
Well if we count all vets in addition to equine vets, my choice would have to be Muller3, who wrote his board certification paper on my Cat’s disease. At age 13, Dominica contracted cryptococcus, lost an eye, got hepatitis from the experimental drug, and had to have a stomach tube inserted. In addition to her daily, including Sundays, infusion of ketaconozole in her IV line in her leg. She survived, thanks to his heroic efforts, and lived in good health to be 18 yoa. Was it worth 20,000? Yes. And we did have many talks about her quality of life. But he said she would recover, and she did. Alley cats are as valuable as imported German horses are in my family. And my vet hospital let me spread out those payments over years. And still they did freebie work for people I brought to them, with TV cameras in tow.
I expect my vets to help me decide when to quit treatment. Like when my teenage aussie got liver cancer. If you know much about animals, you can make decisions with the help of your vets. I’ve never had a vet take advantage of my relationship with my animals for monetary gain.
But for the money, I must have vets available 24/7. Briarcliff in Atlanta, and Edisto in Charleston fit that bill with 24/7 service and board certified vets.
I agree with just about everything above! Something I didn’t see mentioned (forgive me if I missed it):
A vet who stays up to date with the latest literature, research, and techniques.
Too many vets in this area practice and preach the same medicine and husbandry they learned in school 25 years ago.
True story: a friend uses an equine practice in our area. She called to make an appointment to bring her gelding back for a recheck where a cancer had been surgically removed. She said “I need to bring in Dobbin in, my flea bitten gray, to have his surgical site re-checked.” The receptionist asked “While he is in here to have the site checked do you want us to treat him for fleas?”. Friend replied “What did you say?” and the receptionist asked again if she wanted her horse treated for fleas when he was in the clinic. :eek: The receptionist was serious, she was not joking. My friend got the recheck done but she is vet shopping now.
So, I want the clinic staff to be knowledgeable of basic horse terminology. Bonus points if they remember me by name and my current practice does.
I want my vet to be curious. A not so curious equine vet cost my horses time and wasted my money when he gave me wrong diagnosis’s on 3 different horses. I don’t use that practice any longer.
A young vet who rode or competed with horses is fine but I’ll pass on a young vet who did little to nothing with horses growing up. Nothing replaces years of being around the horses to add to a medical background. Generally I am leery of vet’s just out of school because a young vet missed a skin cancer on a white cat of mine just because of her inexperience. It took twice as long for her to get the diagnosis, that cost me twice as much money. I wish she had consulted with the owner vet early on with my case.
Communication is the key to everything from how much I will spend to save a horse to going over a treatment plan one more time to make sure I get it right. A sense of humor is always a bonus.
Otherwise, what others have said is important too.
I use two vets. At least two vets. Actually, there are several vets.
General vet: I use him because he’s brilliant, nearby and totally no nonsense. He is excellent with emergency suturing, non-surgical colic and general normal stuff or general emergency stuff. He’s reasonably priced. I use him for vaccines, coggins, general emergencies and other stuff like that. He does not have fancy equipment.
Specialty vet: I use her because she is incredibly brilliant, has an excellent eye for lameness, and has contacts all over the industry and is not afraid to use them when she needs more info about something odd. She’s got all the fancy equipment and is building her own clinic with a full surgery suite. She is reasonably priced for what she offers. I use her for anything complex, lameness, or anything that requires imaging.
Dentistry vet: I use him because he’s a fully certified and licensed vet who specializes exclusively in dentistry. He is brilliant and keeps up on the latest data out there. He sees a lot of weird shit, knows what to do with it and has all the tools required. I use him (obviously) for dentistry.
You’ll note that I consider everyone I use brilliant. They all are. I’ve worked for several years to identify these people and I refuse to work with anyone who doesn’t demonstrate exceptional abilities. I feel really incredibly lucky to have such wonderful vets available.
wow you guys are fantastic! I love your feedback. Thank you so much for sharing!
My big thing is someone who isn’t afraid to say “I don’t know” and then proceeds to find out from a reliable source as opposed to pulling sh!t out of their ass just to appease me.
I had a young vet who did a high suspensory block during a lameness exam, and I asked if it completely blocked the suspensory because I suspected it didn’t. She said “yes”. I was very impressed when she called me up the next day unprovoked and said “you know what, I spoke to a colleague and I was wrong.” It took a lot of guts to do that; she could’ve easily just let it go and never called me.
And on the same note, if there is a vet school in the area, I use them almost exclusively for every issue because every service is under one roof. I brought a horse in for a severe injury to see surgeons. He was a long-term resident and developed a myriad of issues. During his stay, he saw vets boarded in surgery, medicine, radiology, clinical pathology, anatomical pathology, and vets specializing in complementary medicine (acupuncture, etc). Worth it in every way to me.