Finding the Right Vet
Choosing a new veterinarian for your pet can be stressful. There are a number of things to consider. Will you like them? Do the clinic hours line up with your availability? There are certifications beyond the practical worries you might have, which you should always check for to ensure that your vet is qualified to provide service to your beloved companion animal.
Mandatory U.S. Veterinary Qualifications
When you are searching for a vet, make sure you check that they are licensed to practice in the U.S. and in your state. You may also want to take some extra time and find out if others working in the hospital are licensed as well, such as the veterinary technicians. Drop into their office and take a look around. If you don't see their licenses hanging on the walls, you can always ask to see them. You can also contact your state's board of veterinary medicine for further information.
Here are the two main certifications you should look for:
DVM (VMD) - Doctor of Veterinary Medicine - The first thing that you need to check is that your vet is qualified to practice in the United States. When a person graduates from an American veterinary school they receive a DVM—Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree (sometimes called a VMD degree). All vets practicing in the U.S. must have a DVM degree. A DVM degree means that the person you are considering as your animal's vet is a fully qualified veterinarian qualified able to perform the duties of the profession.
State Veterinary Licensing - To practice veterinary medicine, some states also require a veterinarian to pass a state-specific exam. These examinations typically test the vet's knowledge of the state's laws and regulations governing veterinary medicine. In order to maintain a state veterinary license, vets must obtain continuing education and may need to renew their license on a regular basis (in some cases as often every 3 years).
Additional Veterinary Qualifications
If your pet has health care requirements above and beyond standard veterinary care, you may want to find a vet with qualifications that go beyond the standard DVM degree. Two such certifications are:
Diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (DABVP) - Veterinarians who are ABVP Certified (ABVP Diplomates) begin with a DVM degree and then go on to acquire expertise outside of standard veterinary medicine. ABVP Diplomates have undergone a 3-year process of studies and examinations to become specialists recognized by the American Veterinary Association (AVA). These vets have put in the hard work and training to specialize in the treatment of one or more categories of animals.
Fear Free Certification - If your pet is high-strung or anxious you may want to take the extra time to locate a Fear-Free Certified vet near you. Fear-Free certification can apply to an individual vet, another veterinary professional within the hospital, or even the hospital itself. Fear Free training teaches ways in which veterinary professionals can make pets more at ease in their office and during their examinations and treatment.
Vets That Often Require A Referral
Veterinary Specialists - A board-certified specialist is a veterinarian who has gone through additional training specific to an area of veterinary medicine and has passed examinations that tests their skills and knowledge. If your pet is unwell, your regular vet may refer you to a specialist who has undergone specialized training in a relevant area to your pet's medical issue. There are 41 distinct specialties within veterinary medicine ranging from behavior to ophthalmology and surgery to dentistry. You may be referred to a veterinary specialist if diagnosing or treating your animal's health issue requires specialized equipment and/or expertise that your primary care veterinarian does not have. Veterinary specialists take pride in working with your regular vet to provide your pet with the best possible care.