Choosing a Veterinarian and Veterinary Practice for Dental Care and other Veterinary Care Needs!

When choosing a veterinarian and veterinary hospital, be very selective!  Learn some critical issues of standards of care and interview the staff and veterinarians about those issues.  If they don’t answer or communicate in a way that meets your expectations in a clear, concise, and effective way then you have not found the practice for you.

If you want to see how much thought is put into your pet’s care, request your medical records and look at their comments.  A medical record for a pet is the documentation of the findings and thought process that went into the diagnostics and treatment of your pet.  Very few words in a medical record indicate very little thought; whereas, a well-formatted, thorough, and linear documentation trail indicates a knowledgeable & competent staff and practice.

In summary, when evaluating a veterinarian or veterinary practice, request to review a medical record, interview the staff (especially the licensed veterinary technicians who typically administer medications, anesthesia, and other care), and  tour the facility (evaluate for cleanliness, organization, evaluate areas that speak toward the “attention to detail” by the practice, look to see if the hospitalized patients have cage cards to identify who they are and to see if the crates/cages/runs are comfortable, is there water/food/litter?).  We encourage people to spend time touring local veterinary hospitals in Bremerton, Port Orchard, Silverdale, Belfair, and Poulsbo to see what is available to you, your pets, and your family.

One of the many challenges I face regularly as both a veterinarian Dental Treatment Equipment and Set-up 2014 Standards of Careand veterinary practice owner is dealing with issues of standards of care.  To better illustrate this idea of Standards of Care, let’s explore a well known event in this country, National Veterinary Dental month, during every February.  I did a brief Google search on the various “specials” and “discounts” and, wow, there is tremendous variety being offered by veterinarians.  I saw some “dentals” for $89 and others for $599 (after a $200 discount).  This finding got me thinking.  How do dog and cat owners process this information?  What does it mean to them?  Then I started thinking about how the typical pet owner makes decisions about their pet’s care, veterinarian, or veterinary hospital.  I think, or better said, hope that most of our pet owners / clients recognize and understand there is a balance between budget-care and over-the-top-expensive care.  There are reasons for the prices you are being offered..but unfortunately the reasons are not as apparent to the average pet owner.

My friends, family, and even people I meet casually in public regularly ask about prices of veterinary care.  And often, they are very specific (i.e., how much is a neuter? How much is a spleen removal or a fractured leg surgery?).  What, very few, if any, recognize is that it is very difficult to have the courage and conviction to not only recognize or suspect an identified problem in a dog or cat, but also recommend the needed steps to remedy the problem.

The best example of the need for courage and conviction is dental care.  Anyone who works Anesthesia Monitorin a veterinary practice and provides excellent dental care can tell you, finding a pet with unanticipated disease during general anesthesia (e.g., under the gum-line, not visible during oral exam without general anesthesia) is not “convenient”  for anyone except the pet.  However, “convenience” for our staff is not always the higher priority; but rather, our job (we should take very seriously) requires us to have the courage and conviction to identify and offer the needed care for that dog and cat.  Too often, veterinary practices oversimplify or worse ignore obvious problems.  However, in the case of identifying unanticipated dental problems during general anesthesia, the staff, veterinarian, and client now need to alter their plans.  Staff and veterinarians routinely work through lunches to deal with these unexpected findings.

While medicine is not a perfect science, nearly all of the conditions that are present in an sick or injured pet can (and should) be identified with a definitive diagnosis and in most cases there are many effective treatments to explore.  The best and most efficient way to get the best outcome (recovery) for your pet is to work with a veterinarian and veterinary hospital that values and exceeds the Standards of Care in our profession.  While costs are certainly one component of your decision making, I believe we, as veterinarians and veterinary hospitals, need also to be subject to competence, knowledge, skill, efficiency, and communication.  Clients and community, please, be selective with your pets’ medical needs and decisions.  Thank you!

–Dave Luttinen, DVM, DABVP (canine/feline)


Cat Stomatitis Post-extraction X-rays (all rosts & fragments must be removed)

Cat Stomatitis 8 weeks after extractions




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