Finding a good veterinarian in Vietnam

In my last article I outlined three choices to consider in bringing a cat or dog into your home – buy, adopt or foster. Another important factor in owning a pet is finding a good veterinarian clinic offering an acceptable level of health care services for your pet, hopefully near your home. Selecting the right vet is a personal decision as you should be looking for a balance of trust in the doctor, good ‘bedside’ manners, experience, training and a well-managed clinic. Unfortunately, this is not an easy task as the vet care service industry in Vietnam is still developing – the first consumer vet clinic for small companion animals (pets) only opened in 2003. Furthermore, there is no formal organization in Vietnam, like the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), that can guide you in selecting veterinary practices based on the quality of pet care services, facilities and personnel.

So, who do you talk to and where do you go to find a good vet here? First, contact friends or trusted neighbors that are current pet owners and have direct experiences with a clinic. However, the resulting discussions will invoke passionate debate about their credentials and you will encounter varying, conflicting opinions. Many controversial issues associated with a clinic’s history are sometimes the result of a lack of understanding of preventive care by a pet owner in spotting signs of a major illness. It might have been too late as a pet was diagnosed as critical and died in the care of the vet, or shortly after. The clinic is blamed. Get all the facts right before making judgment on any veterinarians from peers, especially from what you read online.

A picture of a dog being fed by a vet over white background

You can also find suggestions on Facebook’s pet related groups and pages. The “Dog-Owners in Saigon” Facebook group is filled with ongoing discussions on vets along with details, so make a list of names and contact information mentioned. Also search Google for “expat in Vietnam” websites using keywords “living with pets in Vietnam.” Another suggestion is to contact members of any animal rescue organization in your area as they can introduce you to the vets that manage their pets, as many have their own Facebook pages as well.

Remember, you will encounter language issues as most clinics are managed by Vietnamese-speaking vets. Good, clear communication is key because you will need to discuss your pet’s current problems and their history for a good prognosis. So, search for foreign-managed clinics that offer services in many languages.

Once you’ve compiled a short list of potential candidates, visit first without your pet. Ask the vets about their training, education and practice. While some will think this is intrusive, others will welcome your questions. Ask for a tour to get an overall feel of the clinic, looking for order, a well-stocked pet shop, cleanliness and proper staff management. Inquire about their customer service: What is their policy on answering the phone during business hours and after hours, and do they reply to emails within a reasonable amount of time? Finally, ask if they have some form of ambulance for home pick-up and does the vet provide home visits, as most pet owners in Vietnam may not realize that dog thieves loiter around vet clinics.

Contact Wayne directly at wayne.c@digi-escape.com for his recommendations in Saigon, Hanoi and Da Nang.