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If you're trying out a new veterinary clinic, there are elements you need to look for. On your first visit, you'll see the facilities and meet the staff. Use these criteria to help decide if you've found the perfect partner for your pet's health.

Is the clinic neat, clean and well equipped? Your nose shouldn't wrinkle when you walk through the door and both the hospital and its staff should be neat and professional. Find out what services are available such as surgery, dentistry, laboratory services, X-rays and critical care. If not all of these services are available or if a specialist is necessary, ask the staff to explain the process for utilizing outside services and getting specialized medical care for your pet. Also, it may be a good idea to see if the clinic offers boarding.

Is the staff friendly and knowledgeable? A good veterinary team greets you and your pet warmly, makes you feel welcome and answers all of your questions even if they need to do a little research to give you the right information.

What are the clinic hours? It is important to make sure the clinic hours are compatible with your schedule. Otherwise, it may be difficult for you to schedule your pet for appointments. Additionally, it is important to find out if the clinic is available for emergencies. If it is not, is an emergency clinic recommended?

How does the staff handle delays? Good clinics will usually keep your wait brief, but remember that even the best hospitals have busy days and emergencies. Staff members should notify you of any lengthy delays and give you a chance to reschedule or leave your pet and collect him later.

Do you feel comfortable with the veterinarian? Is he or she easy to talk to? Your veterinarian may someday help you make critical choices about your pet's health, so it's important that you feel comfortable asking questions and the doctor answers your questions clearly. If there are multiple veterinarians, find out if you can request the same veterinarian each time.

How does the veterinarian handle your pet? Does the veterinarian seem to like your pet and does she treat him gently and with respect? Observe the way the vet handles and talks to your pet.

Is the veterinarian a member of professional organizations and does she specialize in any one area? If you have a small animal, bird or reptile, you may wish to ask for a vet who specializes in your animal type. Memgbership in a professional organization may also be a signal that the vet is in good standing with other veterinarians and has a good reputation in his field.

Finding a great veterinary hospital and veterinarian is well worth the effort. You and your veterinarian will work together to give your pet the best care and longest life possible.