Choosing a veterinarian for new pet owners

Alexandra Smith

With the start of the new school year, many ISU students have been settling into their new apartments. With their new apartments, some have even taken the opportunity to get a new pet.

Many new pet owners can oftentimes find themselves in a mess as soon as they take home that brand new furry bundle of joy. Between housebreaking, socializing and health care, owning a pet can consume a lot of time and money. An important part of being a pet owner is choosing which veterinarian is right for your pet.

A lot of things factor into finding a health care provider. Factors could include which veterinarian family members have used in the past, price, quality or proximity. Reputation is one of the most common elements in the choosing of a veterinarian.

Emily Askland, pet owner of 2-year-old shih tzu named Raj Percival, attends the same clinic as her parents did for all their animals.

“My parents have gone to the clinic I go to for 15 years, so I trust them,” Askland said.

Hannah Fulton, owner of a 3-year-old Bengal mixed cat named Elliot, also chose her clinic in Huxley because of some suggestions from her mother’s friends.

“They said it was a really good place and that they were caring and nice to the animals they treat,” Fulton said.

Daniel Azeltine, new pet owner of an 8-month-old Australian shepherd puppy named Zephyr, chose his veterinarian because of suggestions from his parents as well. Azeltine takes Zephyr to Ames Pet Hospital.

“My parents have always gone there, and I think they do a good job,” Azeltine said.

Cost is a huge factor for new pet owners who do not know what to expect from the soon-approaching vet bills that come along with their new fur ball.

Dr. Audrey Ricklefs from All Pets Animal Hospital in Ames, said vet bills in the first year of life will range greatly from town to town and clinic to clinic.

“The best thing to do is call different practices and find out the price of physical exams, vaccinations, deworming and preventive care,” Ricklefs said.

Azeltine said he thinks that his clinic charges a little more than others but feels it is worth it because the quality overrides the expenses.

Dr. Charles Felz from Somerset Veterinary Hospital in Ames said the first year of life for a pet owner’s vet bills depends on the clinic.

“You just have to get on a proper vaccination schedule for preventive reasons,” Felz said. “Spaying and neutering is also extremely important because it ensures that your animal will live longer and healthier, and that can cost anywhere from $150 to 300.”

Felz said the three-round vaccine for first-year animals is anywhere from $60 to 100.

In order to save on the cost of a vet, Fulton said she drives to Huxley because she finds better prices there.

“That’s mainly because I’m broke, but I still want good care for my cat,” Fulton said. “Ames is more expensive than Huxley, so I found the Huxley one is better and cheaper.”

However, veterinarians that are closer could be more convenient for drive time. Ricklefs suggested something that is closer, in case there is an emergency and pet owners need to get the veterinarian as soon as possible.

“The closer the vet, the better in an emergency situation,” Ricklefs said.

Having a vet who is able to answer questions about pet health care is something for new pet owners to look out for.

“I like to know if the treatments will have long-term or short-term effects and if it will affect her lifestyle and general health,” Azeltine said. Azeltine said he usually does not have to ask a lot of questions because his veterinarian is really good about clearing everything up.

Talking to a vet to make sure they are established in dog or cat care is important for new pet owners. For new puppies or kittens, finding out information on kennel training will help with the housebreaking.

“My cat wouldn’t pee in his litter box, so I got a lot of advice on things I could try,” Fulton said.

Finding a pet health care provider with an attractive venue is as telling about the vet as their health care.

“When you get to the clinic, did you like the entryway? Also, make sure you like the receptionist and make sure everyone is personable,“ Ricklefs said. “Look around; make sure everyone is friendly and welcoming.”

Ricklefs also suggests getting a tour of the facility beforehand if considering the veterinary hospital as a potential place for boarding pets.

Felz suggested looking for places accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association. The group goes around clinics and inspects them to make sure they are following policies by checking the standards of quality of care, diagnostic and pharmacy, management, medical records and facility.

There are three clinics accredited in Ames: Ames Pet Hospital, Iowa State and Somerset Veterinary Hospital.