Vet examining cat

Q. Do you think it matters if a pet sees a different vet at the same practice each visit? When our pet is sick, we get the first appointment that fits our schedule, but it’s rarely with the same vet.

A. In pets, as in people, having one doctor to oversee and coordinate care has definite advantages. Your veterinarian is familiar not only with your pet and his medical history, but also with you. Over time, you and your veterinarian can develop a mutually respectful relationship that promotes a partnership dedicated to keeping your pet healthy.

That’s not the end of the story, of course, because your pet may need to be seen by other veterinarians, not only when your veterinarian isn’t available for urgent or emergency care, but also when your pet can benefit from a referral to a specialist. Ideally, your veterinarian will help you decide when calling in colleagues can help your pet. She’ll also work to integrate the specialist’s work into the overarching care plans for your pet.

Still, seeing a different veterinarian in the same practice isn’t the worst thing that can happen. After all, your pet’s records will bring the attending veterinarian up to date, and the practice’s expert veterinary technicians are there to help with continuity of care as well. In a well-run veterinary hospital, the standard of care is very high overall, and your pet will be well cared for, no matter what.

What will suffer may be your ability to communicate with a doctor you don’t know as well. That’s especially important if you don’t feel as comfortable about asking questions of a new veterinarian or following up on recommended treatments.

Fortunately, there’s a way to resolve this for the most part: Shift your focus to preventive care.

When you concentrate on working with your veterinarian on preventing health problems instead of reacting to health emergencies, you’ll not only save money by catching little problems before they become big ones, but you’ll also be saving your pet the suffering and stress that comes with a full-blown illness.

The cornerstone of preventive care is a once-a-year — or, ideally, twice-a-year — comprehensive veterinary visit that gives your vet the chance to go over your pet nose to toes to tail and with simple diagnostic tests that can spot problems before symptoms show. During these visits your veterinarian can review other preventive care strategies, such as good nutrition, parasite control and maintaining a healthy weight and active lifestyle.

In terms of seeing the same veterinarian, when you switch to focus on preventive care, you can schedule your veterinary visits far enough out to almost always see the same veterinarian in the practice. Though accidents and other emergencies will still need to be treated urgently by the first veterinarian available, with a preventive care plan, the majority of your pet’s care will be in the hands of the same doctor.