Ideally you will choose a veterinarian before you even bring your pet home, but that is not always an option. At the very least, choose a veterinarian for your hamster before your pet becomes ill. Hamsters do not need annual checkups and vaccinations like other pets do (which is one of the benefits of owning a hamster as a pet), however, hamsters can die very quickly from an illness, so time will be of the essence if your pet hamster becomes sick. Choosing a vet before you need one could save your pet’s life.
Even if you already have a vet for your dog or cat, you may not want to bring your hamster to him or her. Not all veterinarians are qualified to treat small mammals, and some actually refuse to treat them.
You may not think of your cute little hamster as an “exotic” pet, but that is the type of vet you wish to seek – most veterinarians consider anything that is not a dog or cat an “exotic” animal. Small mammals such as hamsters require specialized equipment and training, so you don’t want to convince your dog or cat’s vet to see your little pet just because you like the way he or she cares for your other pets.
You can find your hamster’s vet in a variety of ways. One way is to check your local phone book. Call the vets who advertise that they treat exotic animals and see if you like what you hear. Searching the web is another option. Again, if you find a vet whose listing you like, call him or her and ask questions.
Word of mouth is by far the best way to find a vet for your hamster. Ask several sources, such as the local pet shops, local breeders, local hamster club members, and friends who have a vet for their small pet. If you hear the same name more than once, that is a good start.
Once you have narrowed your list down to a few names, you need to ask some questions, such as how long they have been treating hamsters; what types of common conditions do they see in hamsters; do they recommend annual checkups for small animals; what are their fees; how do they handle emergency situations, and so on. Find out office hours and on call procedures. Inquire about how payment is handled, both for emergency and non-emergency visits. Find out if there is more than one veterinarian on staff – if not, then you might not be able to see your vet right away in an emergency. After all, no one can be on call 24/7, right?
If you are not comfortable with any of their answers, contact the next person on your list. If you like what you hear, pay a visit to the vet’s office. Look for a clean facility with friendly staff and happy patients. (Well, as happy as the pets can be, since they are probably sick, but the owners should be happy.)