CHOOSING A VETERINARIAN
So, you are a new pet owner OR you are awaiting for your puppy to come home in the nearest future and you are wondering how to choose a veterinarian? What is means to "have a veterinarian" and how much a veterinarian will be involved in the future of your puppy?
If you are a pet owner and do not have a veterinarian yet - be aware that a veterinarian will be your new best friend! So, please choose carefully!
You see, being a pet owner, you are in control where to take your new pet. You do have choices and we advice you to take time while conducting your research. There is a saying that finding the right veterinarian is very similar to choosing a partner in life. And we believe this is true. Many pet owners will start looking locally - the nearest vet clinic to their home (and it can be a great way to start). However, it might be worth driving an extra mile to receive better care for your pet. A good veterinarian is never a guarantee your dog will not have health issues. But a trusted professional is a guarantee that your pet's health needs will be addressed in good timing manner with in-depth knowledge and understanding of the issue. And if your veterinarian does not feel confident that they can help your pet - they will refer to a specialist.
It is important that your veterinarian asks details about the dog's genetics background, understands the breed and looks into the details to see the "big picture". Many times we see veterinarians making very general assumptions based on the breed itself and not performing any diagnostics to confirm their worries. Such, we all know that Hip Dysplasia is a big issue in the breed. Regardless of the lines and pedigree, Hip Dysplasia can happen to any puppy of a German Shepherd Breed. Working with good, health tested and proven lines minimizes the chances of a puppy to develop HD tremendously, almost to the zero, however it can still happen. Many times (especially in rural areas) veterinarian has never seen a GSD that would not have a Hip Dysplasia. We think it is due to the fact that in most cases, those German Shepherds were never from a reputable program, but rather back-yard bred "farm dogs". So, when a new family comes with a German Shepherd Dog, this veterinarian will automatically assume Hip Dysplasia and diagnose it based on the fact that this is a German Shepherd Dog. If you think this is funny - it is not! One of our families had this happen and they performed a series of absolutely unnecessary X-rays on a 5-months old puppy that all came back absolutely normal. A veterinarian did not believe that finally in his practice there was a German Shepherd with good hips.
Another example we want to bring is a veterinarian diagnosing a puppy of 8-weeks with "Cryptorchidism". Cryptorchidism is a condition in which one or both of the testes fail to descend from the abdomen into the scrotum. In most cases, testes begin descending at 6-7 weeks, but this process can happen at 4-5 months of age. We have seen some males just to be "late bloomers" and descend their testicles as late as at 6-7 months. All those situations are considered normal and are all within a healthy timeframe. A condition of Cryptorchidism can not be diagnosed before a puppy is at least 9 months of age! We must provide adequate time for a puppy to descend the testicles before diagnosing this condition. It does not surprise me when we see one testicle descended, when we see no testicles descended or when both are present at the exam of 7 weeks. It is NOT a concern at 7-8 weeks, but if they do not descend by 9 months - then, yes - this is a case of Cryptorchidism. In my professional opinion of a breeder, a proper way to address an undescended testicle during a first puppy exam at 8 weeks is to say, "Oh, we have one (both) undescended testicles. It happens and there is no reason to worry at this time. We will continue monitoring the descend of his testes and will discuss a plan of action if they don't". What is so scary about undescended testes? Well, a dog should not be used in breeding, but if a family is adding a family pet that will be neutered anyway (once age appropriate) - this should not matter. A veterinarian will be performing a different style of surgery to neuter, if a dog is a Crypto, but they will be discussing this with the family once a dog will be getting ready for a procedure. A veterinarian that is diagnosing a pet with Cryptorchidism at 8 weeks and urges to neuter immediately - is a big red flag for me.
Unfortunately, there are poor professionals in veterinary field, just like in any other field. Do your research and ask questions. See what online reviews say and what other people's experiences were. Pay attention to details, such as :
1. From which school did the doctor graduate? What kind of specialized studies were offered in their school programs? What, if any, are their personal specialties?
2. What species of clientele do they regularly see? (If a clinic/doctor specializes in cats - look somewhere else. You want to find a good "dog" doctor)
3. Does the clinic staff participate in continuing education programs? Does the clinic staff participate in the social events, parades, fundraisers and charitable actions?
4. Will the clinic provide you with educational resources on the care and health of your shepherd? What other types of vets can they refer you to if any specialists are needed for your dog?
*** We want to add that when our puppies are sold to families, they come with an added benefit of AKC Pet Insurance and complimentary AKC Veterinary Network Coupon for one FREE vet exam. This coupon is for a wellness exam with any participating vet, please check for clinics in your area here: https://webapps.akc.org/vetnet/#/main
To us it is also very important that the style of a doctor, their inner personality matches ours. We want to speak the same language and understand each other clearly. But please keep in mind, that a good person does not mean a professional, and vise versa. It is awesome when all pieces of a puzzle come together and you can get both - awesome person AND a skilled professional - and it is a blessing when that happens.
To us, breeders, choosing a veterinarian is also part of the business strategy and we look into more specific aspects, such as:
Are they certified to take x-rays (hips, elbows, etc.)? Are they willing to help with reproductive procedures and do research, help with very specific cases?
Are they interested to work with a breeder - see multiple dogs at once, provide references, answer MANY questions, etc.?
Do they have experience with cesarean procedures? Are they willing to assist in emergencies during labor?
Do they have an after office service for emergencies?
We visited more than a dozen veterinary clinics before we found one that we felt comfortable transferring our business with. We trust our veterinarian and we know that our dogs are in good hands and if we need help - it is just a phone call away.