Choosing a vet

Choosing the right vet for you can be daunting, but it’s worth doing some research to make sure you pick the right practice for you and your pet.

It’s illegal for anyone in the UK who isn’t registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) to practise as a vet. You can check if your vet is registered on the RCVS website registered with the RCVS website.

Choosing the right practice for you

Often a recommendation from other animal owners in your area is a useful way to find out about local practices, but it’s important to find one that suits your own needs and those of your animals. Blue Cross has a page on their website with some advice to think about when choosing a veterinary practice advice to think about when choosing a veterinary practice.

When choosing a veterinary practice, you should look for clean, well-maintained premises with adequate consulting and waiting areas. All staff should be friendly, approachable, neat and efficient. The practice is a business and should appear well-organised with consultation times clearly displayed.

It may be sensible for you to have a look around any veterinary practice you may want to use before registering your pet. Most veterinary practices will be happy to show you around at an agreed time. Any good vet will be happy to discuss any of the above factors with you. At the end of the day you must ask yourself – “will this practice team give my pet the best of care?”

How to vet practices work?

Some veterinary practices operate with just one veterinary surgeon and one member of staff. Others may have 15 of more vets with a similar number of nursing and support staff.

Practices may operate on more than one site – the main practice being supported by three or more branch surgeries. The branch surgeries may have limited on-site facilities and equipment, but they allow you to see a vet without having to travel long distances.

Facilities do vary between practices. Some may have extensive equipment and facilities on-site, while others contract some services out to specialist firms or labs. Similarly, veterinary surgeons may refer unusual or complicated cases to veterinary surgeons who specialise in a particular species or discipline.

What is 24-hour cover?

Whatever the size of the premises, veterinary surgeons have to make sure that 24-hour emergency cover is available for their clients every day of the week. They can do this in several ways; a practice may provide this themselves, or some practices get together locally to provide this service, which may mean that you have to travel to a different practice in a emergency. Other practices choose to use a dedicated out-of-hours service (similar to the ones that we are familiar with from GPs).

Roles in a veterinary practice

There are different staff roles working in veterinary practices including veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, practice managers and receptionists. Visit the RCVS website for more information about how a practice operates and who is involved.

This short video explains the different roles in a veterinary practice and why they are important.

We have also written this guide about the veterinary practice team (109 KB PDF)

What are veterinary specialisms?

There are different types of veterinary practices for treating certain species, such as small animal or equine.

RCVS advanced search can help you find a vet with particular specialisation.

How do I find a vet?

All vets in the UK are registered of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). Their Find a Vet page allows you to search by practice name, postcode or town, and you can find practices that treat specific speciesand those that are accredited under the Practice Standards Scheme.

RCVS Practice Standards Scheme

BVA provides advice and support to all of its members, but cannot endorse any individual veterinary practice, service or business. The Practice Standards Scheme, run by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, exists to help veterinary practices demonstrate their level of service through quality assurance.

What to expect on your first vet visit

Your veterinary surgeon is there to help you care for your pet and make sure it enjoys a good quality of life, and they should be happy to provide advice should you ask for it. Getting to know your veterinary surgeon, your veterinary practice and the team of dedicated professionals who run it, is one of the best things you can do for your pet.

It can be helpful to bring some basic information with you to your vet visit, such as your pet’s previous medical history, their habits, travel history and vaccination record. Some clinics ask that you bring cats and small animals in travel case, and that dogs remain on a leash.

Don’t be afraid to take notes or to ask questions, your veterinary surgeon will be happy to help.

Pre-purchase consultations

BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey found that over 71% of practices offer pre-purchase advice as part of routing consultations. We would encourage all those thinking about buying a pet to arrange to speak with their local vet to receive advice on the health and welfare problems associated with certain breed types.

Your vet will also be able to provide advice as to which pet is most suitable for your lifestyle and budgetary considerations.

For more information about how to choose the right pet for you, see our related page.