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Choosing the right veterinarian and veterinary hospital is a crucial first step for your new puppy. Veterinarians have a unique relationship with their patients. They are the only health professionals that see their patients from puppyhood to old age. A good fit between you, your puppy and your veterinarian means that there is someone who will intimately know your dog throughout his/her life. It is important to have a good history when looking at the health and wellbeing of a dog, and finding the right veterinarian from the start is a great way to do that by keeping it all under the same roof.
All veterinarians know pediatrics, making it unlikely that there will be any issues during their initial puppy visits: from 7-8 weeks of age through 4 months of age. When you get beyond that stage is when a careful choice of veterinarians becomes more important.
The first thing that will happen after puppy shots is a spay or neuter, if you choose to do so. Does your veterinarian do spays and neuters? Don’t laugh; surgical technique in veterinary school has taken a back seat to other studies as the schools succumb to pressure from outside animal welfare groups not to let students practice on shelter dogs. (Did you know that many students travel out of the country to participate in spay and neuter clinics in underdeveloped countries in hopes of gaining those skills?) Read my blog on the dangers of early/juvenile spay and neuter in dogs for more information on the timing of having the surgery done.
The second thing that you should ask, especially in large multi doctor hospitals, is how likely is it that you will be able to see the same veterinarian every visit? Its great if you hit it off well with someone, but not much use if you never see them again.
The third thing that will happen sooner or later is some kind of injury or illness. We all hope it doesn’t happen, but few dogs are lucky enough to make it through life without some kind of health related incident. There is no way for you to divine whether or not a veterinarian is good with his diagnostic and treatment skills. It is best to ask friends and neighbors if their dog has ever had a serious health event and how well it was handled by their veterinarian.
Finally, look at the breed of your dog and ask yourself if there are any special breed problems. For example, most German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers develop arthritis. Does your veterinarian have advance training in pain management? If you are planning on breeding your dog, does your veterinarian have advanced training in theriogenology (similar to an OB/GYN in human medicine?) If not, you need to consider looking for a veterinarian who has these advanced skills.

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