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Switch vets? Or use two practices?

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  • Switch vets? Or use two practices?

    How kosher is it to use one vet for basic services (yearly checkups, heartworm preventative, etc.) and maintain a relationship with another (larger and better-equipped) practice in the event a pet needs more extensive treatment or surgery?

    The reason I ask is because we took our dogs to a new vet today for a yearly checkup and heartworm preventative renewal. Money is a bit tight right now (temporary), and while I wasn't going to let the boys go unprotected, our regular practice is super expensive. I've been using them for nearly 20 years and really like them, but I knew I wasn't going to be able to walk out of there without a bill for 2 dogs of over $400.

    Enter Vet #2. I did a lot of searching and asking and found a small practice near home with rave reviews. The cost? Not including the Trifexis prescription (for which I got discount cards), it was $100 for both dogs. Heartworm test and full physicals for both. No one needed shots (I keep copies of their records), but even if they had it wouldn't have been much more since the basic vaccines are not particularly expensive anyway. Fecal was included in the physical exam.

    Vet was super, super nice and took lots of notes, was very thorough. He asked about Simon's little meibomian cyst and whether it ever gave him trouble. The overall experience was very positive. He is very client-centered; how many vets provide their home and cell numbers to pet owners????? I believe the practice started as a non-profit to provide mostly low-cost spay/neuter services. They're no longer non-profit, just committed to providing good care that's affordable for most.

    Now, as to why I hesitate to fully switch over: this new vet's setup is pretty basic. He is a one-man show with just a tech, receptionist, and general assistant, which you don't see much of anymore. Basic setup by no means indicates a lack of skill, I know that, but if heaven forbid one of my guys needed extensive surgery, I'd just feel better having that done in a clinic that's better staffed and equipped to handle such a situation. Of course, their prices are much higher precisely BECAUSE they've got the high-end equipment and the staff. It makes perfect sense.

    But I don't want to bruise any professional egos. Is this acceptable - to use one vet for the basic care, dental work (he does have the ultrasonic scaler/polisher and does do the pre-anesthesia bloodwork, but is STILL 1/3 the cost of the large practice), etc., but maintain a relationship with the big clinic?

  • #2
    I have a friend who regularly uses 3 different vet practices!
    One is the guy who she's been using forever - he's older and can be a bit prickly, but she feels that he's a great diagnostician. Number 2 has a lovely fancy facility, and she's friends with the vets and staff there - but they're not inexpensive and require a bit of a drive to get there, so they're not particularly convenient. Practice 3 is close, not the cheapest in town, but will do emergency calls for existing clients, so one of her dogs goes there so she's on the books if she needs emergency services (plus they have Sunday hours anyways).
    That doesn't even factor in the specialty clinic or the regular emergency/specialty clinic that we all hope we don't have to use, but have ended up at before.
    My friend is very aware of her dogs' (she has three) medical situations, so it works for her.

    It sounds like you like the new guy and the price is right, so I don't see any reason why you shouldn't/couldn't use him for "regular" stuff and use the fancy practice for consults, etc. Just keep good records for yourself, so you'll be able to provide a good history to the fancy clinic if necessary (since they won't have it in their own files).


    • #3
      Most people do. For regular checkups vaccines etc they go to their general practitioner. If the pet is ill, they ask for a referral to a hospital which can provide better diagnostics. Most vets are fine with this, and the good vets recommend it.


      • #4
        How kosher is it to use one vet for basic services (yearly checkups, heartworm preventative, etc.) and maintain a relationship with another (larger and better-equipped) practice in the event a pet needs more extensive treatment or surgery?
        this is very common- I do this. My regular vet runs a 1-vet, 1-nurse/receptionist tiny practice, and whenever anything crops up that he can't handle, he sends me to the big vet hospital. It works very well- you get the personal relationship with a vet who knows you and your animal, and charges a lot less than the big hospital for basic stuff, plus you have the fancy things when you need them.

        that's how human medicine works- you have your general doctor, and then he sends you to better-equipped specialists as needed.


        • #5
          I do it. I have some animals that go strictly to one vet, and some that go only to the other. I love them both; both make house calls, but one will do emergencies and the other will not. One is also slightly less expensive than the other.


          • #6
            I think it is completely acceptable. I wouldn't expect my GP to perform open heart surgery. Similarly, my heart surgeon wouldn't be upset if I went to a GP about an ear infection.


            • #7
              I go to one practice, but I would not hesitate to take any of my various beasts in to Tufts or Angell for a specialist. I've done so frequently with guinea pigs, rabbits, my previous dog for dyplasia specialist, and my old cat who was failing but not diagnosed by my regular vets. My regular practice was happy to share their records.

              Edit: I would be very upfront with both offices that you expect them to share information if there are any specific issues you feel aren't being addressed appropriately. Any professional is only interested in the animal's well-being, not who you see more often!
              I realize that I'm generalizing here, but as is often the case when I generalize, I don't care. ~ Dave Barry


              • #8
                I use three different practices, for different things, and no one seems to mind (or they are not letting on that they do). One is the regular, long term, vet, who has followed all my animals for their entire lives. They don't really do small animal emergencies in the middle of the night, though, so I also use the Emergency Vet down the street. Then there's another, further down the road, who is WAY expensive and totally focused on wealthy, naive, small animal only owners...not my style, BUT they have state of the art equipment, so I'll use them for certain "one offs"....like a lap spay.


                • #9
                  I use 2 different vet facilities. The traveling vet comes here for vacs because we have sooo many it would look like the circus rolled into town if I packed them all up and took them to the other vet for vacs. The other vet does the more extensive stuff and anything that requires hospitalization. I am very open about it and they really dont care. I keep medical records on the animals my self to help both vets with past medical history. I am lucky that I dont have to worry about their egos, because I am just too busy for that nonsense. I watch my cash flow no matter how tight or not tight the budget is, that is just smart.
                  Just like our eyes, our hearts have a way of adjusting to the dark.--Adam Stanley


                  • #10
                    I think using two practices, or more than two makes great sense. A good general vet practice for everyday things, and I bet that vet will refer you for specialists, or complicated problems. It's just as Grace said, where humans go to specialists for complicated things, or surgeries, and pets do also.
                    You can't fix stupid-Ron White


                    • #11
                      I use two. One does cats and horses and the other for the dog. I just feel it gives me more options.
                      Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                      Incredible Invisible


                      • #12
                        I'm doing this now. I could have written the OP! Very similar experiences. I am keeping a positive relationship with the more state-of-the-art facility while doing regular visits with a lovely small practice just around the corner from my house. Should I have have need for ER services, we have an amazing facility for that just a few miles away that BOTH practices we use recommend.
                        Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people.
                        W. C. Fields


                        • #13
                          I use three vet clinics as well. One has a horse specialist, the second is a decent all round practice and the third is a good dispensary but not as well equipped as the first two.
                          Founder of the Dyslexic Clique. Dyslexics of the world - UNTIE!!

                          Member: Incredible Invisbles


                          • #14
                            speaking as a small animal vet, the new vet you like so much will almost certainly refer you to someone else for anything he's not comfortable with or capable of doing. I've worked solo and in practices with up to 7 vets and you should not see a 300% difference in prices for same things (vaccinations,flea/tick,etc.) The high ticket items in the larger practice (probably laser,digital x-ray, ultrasound etc.) more than pay for themselves. Stick with the vet you are most comfortable with and your pets also like.


                            • Original Poster

                              Originally posted by Eye in the Sky View Post
                              I'm doing this now. I could have written the OP! Very similar experiences. I am keeping a positive relationship with the more state-of-the-art facility while doing regular visits with a lovely small practice just around the corner from my house. Should I have have need for ER services, we have an amazing facility for that just a few miles away that BOTH practices we use recommend.
                              In the same boat! ER is very close by. Heaven forbid we ever have to use them, but nice to know they're available.

                              Thanks everyone - I didn't realize it was so common to use two different vets for different services. I'd just been with the state-of-the-art practice for so long I hadn't really given it a lot of thought.

                              We really like the new practice. The vet was more than happy to show us around the clinic, with the exception of the quarantine area (which had no patients in it at the time, but best to keep it clean as possible). One of my dogs tends to be scared of men, so the fact that Simon accepted a male vet - that's TWO strikes in his book, usually! - is a very good sign.

                              To be clear: the high-end facility is not noticeably more expensive for vaccines and meds. Last time I had to get metronidazole from them I was stunned that it cost about $30 for a week's worth of pills, but then found out that metro was in very short supply at the time, so that made sense. They are, however, drastically more expensive for yearly physical assessments ($70 vs. $26 at the new place), yearly heartworm testing ($40 vs. $20) and teeth cleaning. Last time I had Simon's teeth cleaned the total bill was well over $300. Pricing at new vet will start around $80 for the pre-op bloodwork and actual cleaning, including anesthesia.


                              • #16
                                Sometimes you get what you pay for and sometimes not so much.

                                The practice I currently work in does not (IMHO) have any leg up on practices I've worked at or used in the past--in fact, in some ways, I think it's less good. But the prices? OMG. I had my dog's teeth cleaned back home before we moved and with all of the same technology and training at hand, it was less than 1/3 of the cost it would be here.

                                A physical exam here is about 80 dollars. I've never paid more than about 30 unless it was an emergency after hours.

                                My thought would be...go with the less expensive veterinarian IF you feel like you're still getting quality of care. (which it sounds like you are)

                                Some veterinarians aren't very hip to the idea of people using multiple clinics, some could not care less. That's a personal thing I think. But when it comes to quality, find it and use that doctor. IMHO of course.
                                A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                                Might be a reason, never an excuse...


                                • #17
                                  I would talk with the new vet and let him know you used to go to the other vets. He may have a good working relationship with the other practice or may be able to recommend somebody else for emergencies, etc if there is a need. I would imagine he knows his limitations regarding surgeries, emergencies, overnight stays, critical care, etc and would be more than willing to refer you and assist in facilitating the switch during those times. Most big referral type practices rely on referrals so they try to maintain good relationships with the referring vets.

                                  ETA: The only problem with using multiple clinics is that it gets very difficult to know what's been done at the previous clinic without records. What a client hears and can relay to the second veterinarian is often not accurate so it helps to be able vet communicate with vet and transfer records.