Illustration by Sandra Macdermott for Vet Confidential

If you've just moved to a new town or if you've recently adopted a pet, one of the first things you'll want to do is to find a veterinarian you can trust to care for your animal's health. But how is the best way to do that?

Paw Nation asks Louise Murray, D.V.M., Vice President of the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City and author of "Vet Confidential: An Insider's Guide to Protecting Your Pet's Health," for advice on finding the right doctor for your pet.

Start by seeking recommendations from friends, animal-shelter workers or neighbors in the dog park. Use the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) website to find accredited clinics in your area. Once you have a short list of recommendations, Dr. Murray advises that you call and ask them key questions about their approach to veterinary medicine and the services their practice offers.

"It does make a difference, and there are objective parameters you can use," Dr. Murray tells Paw Nation.

Round One - Phone Evaluations

1. How many veterinarians are in the practice?
Your pet can benefit from a clinic that has more than one veterinarian. One vet might be a specialist in a particular field, and multi-vet practices are often more able to afford better technology, more staff members and perks like extended office hours and overnight care.

2. Does the vet refer patients to specialists?

"This speaks to the vet's priorities," says Dr. Murray. "It's about that the pet is the number-one priority, above money, above ego, above time." Most practices will not be able to provide every type of care your pet might need, so referring should be essential.

3. How are overnight patients monitored?
The practice might have an overnight employee who monitors the patients constantly, or one that just stops by periodically. If the practice is unable to provide round-the-clock care, then they should be able to refer the patient to another facility.

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