Man at veterinary clinic with his dog
Breaking up is never easy. Breaking up with your veterinarian can be even more complicated because your pet still needs medical care from someone you trust. But if you’ve reached the point where your relationship with your vet just isn’t working, it’s time to move on.

Pet owners decide to change veterinarians for a variety of reasons. Maybe you’re moving to a new area, maybe your pet needs specialized care, or maybe you’ve had a difference of opinion with your current vet about how your pet should be cared for. Whatever the reason, there are some simple ways to end your relationship gracefully and professionally, without burning bridges or breaking hearts.

When Things Go Wrong

Possibly the most difficult breakup scenario is the one in which you’re changing veterinarians because you’re dissatisfied with the standard of care or the service you’ve received, either from the veterinarian or the clinic’s staff. In this situation, it’s important to remember that you have every right to change veterinarians. It’s also important to keep in mind that it is possible to part ways with sincerity and good manners, even after a serious disagreement.

When you decide to change vets, you don’t owe the veterinary hospital an explanation — but if you are leaving because you are unhappy with the care or service, it would be courteous and helpful to the practice to talk to the veterinarian or practice manager or to send a letter or email explaining your move. Be straightforward but polite. If you are angry about a specific incident or issue, keep your temper under control and don’t say — or write — anything you might regret later. If you choose to talk to your vet in the clinic, don’t make a spectacle for other pet owners to witness.

And though you might be upset with a particular veterinarian or team member, it’s likely that other members of the clinic staff have been helpful. Don’t take your anger out on them.

Moving On

No matter what your reason for changing veterinary practices, there are some basic steps you can take to find a new doctor for your pet. If your breakup is logistical — you’re moving to a different city or neighborhood — ask your veterinarian if he can recommend someone in your new area. Your veterinarian not only knows your pets and your expectations of service, he also knows other veterinarians and can often be a good matchmaker for you.

If your veterinarian isn’t able to make a referral — or if you are not parting on terms that make you feel comfortable asking for one — talk with pet-owning friends or relatives and get their recommendations. It’s always great if you can go to someone who has been vetted, so to speak, by people you trust.

Finally, if you can’t get a personal referral, look for a veterinarian whose clinic or hospital is accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). An AAHA-accredited clinic must meet certain standards of care, such as requirements for presurgical assessments, anesthesia monitoring, preparation for emergencies and more, as well as participate in regular on-site evaluations.

Finding a Match

Once you find a clinic you like, set up an appointment for an interview. Be sure to do this before your pet needs care — you don’t want to try a new clinic on an emergency or last-minute basis. Make sure you like the veterinarian and staff, that you are comfortable with their “petside” manner, and that you share a similar philosophy of care. Even if you disagree on things such as what to feed or the frequency of vaccinations, you should still feel like the new vet respects and is willing to work with you.

When you are ready to make the move, call your current veterinary clinic and ask to have your pet’s records transferred to the new clinic. Be prepared with the snail mail address, phone number (including area code), fax number and email address. Having your dog‘s or cat’s medical history on hand at the first visit with the new clinic will give the new veterinarian the information he needs to provide appropriate care for your pet.

Finally, if you are leaving on good terms, take the time to thank your veterinarian and individual staff members for the great care they gave your pet. Who knows? Someday you might be back.