Our furry family members deserve quality medical care and I’m happy to report that my experience with French veterinarians has been top notch. Vet care in France is one of my favorite things about living here and probably makes my top three list of things I love about France. That’s not to say that excellent wine and cheese aren’t major perks, but when it comes to serious stuff, knowing that my dog is taken care of puts me at ease.
If you’re considering a move to France or are just curious about what it’s like having a pet in France, read on for information on going to the vet!
Vet care in France
It’s been quite a while — several years — since I’ve written any pet content on Oui In France and I have no idea how that happened. Actually, yes I do. It’s called neglecting your editorial calendar. A lot goes into blogging and I need to be better at planning content ahead of time!
So to get back to my roots, I’m doing a little series on what it’s like having a pet in France. This first part is all about going to the vet. I’ve written about the specific differences on having a pet in the USA vs. France in this post but I’m starting fresh today.
Update: Dagny sadly passed away March 5, 2022.
So first, some background. I have one dog and had planned for her for years before moving to France. I got her on my birthday about a week after moving to France. Dagny is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and is a huge part of my life. I really don’t know where I’d be without her. Aside from my husband, Dagny is the most important “furson” (like furry person, get it?) in my day-to-day life.
We talk, we cook, we clean, we work, we walk… she’s my right-hand woman and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s why her care is super important to me. We want the best for our loved ones — furry or not!
First, I feel that veterinarians in both the USA and France are well educated and generally provide great care. Some vets have better bedside manner and personalities, but that’s the case with doctors anywhere. You have to find someone you like and trust.
France is well connected in terms of veterinarians and most towns have several vet clinics from which to choose. Their offices are modern and provide a wide array of services. Our particular clinic is a practice of 2 doctors who are both excellent.
They always make time to fit us in, never make me feel rushed, and I know they care about Dagny.
As a foreigner, vets in France have never made me feel stupid when I’ve asked what have surely been some stupid questions. They’ve been patient and more than accommodating and tend to go the extra mile without nickel and diming me.
Again, this is just my experience, but my vet will empty Dagny’s anal glands and trim her nails at no extra charge. Our vet also liaised with a colleague to research homeopathic treatments (at no charge) a couple of years back and is really good with email. They never make me feel like a burden.
I also bring the office a Christmas gift every year, which Tom says is an unusual thing to do in France, so maybe they go the extra mile for me because I show my appreciation in the form of large gift baskets of specialty chocolate. 🙂 But honestly I don’t think that’s the reason.
Making an appointment at the vet in France
To make an appointment, you simply call your vet. If it’s something more urgent, they’ll do their best to fit you in the same day. At our practice, the vet techs also do administrative work so when I call, I’m talking to someone I actually know and not an answering service.
They are familiar with my dog and will usually remind me to bring my dog’s passport, which is a little booklet of his or her records that gets updated.
Here is Dagny’s slightly weathered passport:
At the vet’s office
When we arrive, I give Dagny’s passport to the front desk and then take a seat in the waiting area. The vet herself comes out to greet us when it’s our turn and takes us into the exam room. All vaccines and treatments are done right in front of us so there’s no stress about what might be happening “in the back.”
She’ll look in her ears, take her temperature, administer vaccines and do anything else that needs to be done right there with us. The tech is only called in if needed and we usually help by holding Dagny still or assisting the vet in whatever she needs.
I find that our appointments are 100% about us and that French vets give us their undivided attention. I’ve had pets in the US growing up and have taken friends’ pets to the vet as well and I’ve found US vets to be a little more rushed. Or you see the tech first to go over why you’re there and then the actual vet comes in for a few minutes and jets out as soon as he/she is done.
That’s not to say that no US veterinarians are relaxed and spend more time with the patients, but in general I’ve found the care to be a little more personalized and hands-on in France across the board.
If something warrants a call to the vet, I always speak with the tech and she’ll call me back after speaking with the doctor (or the doctor will herself depending on what it is) usually within an hour or two. Great service!
At our practice, when the appointment is over the vet herself handles the bill, but in larger practices, you head back out to the front desk to pay your bill. Speaking of costs…
French vet costs
I’m incredibly pleased with vet care costs and it’s one of my favorite things about having a pet in France. Vet bills are much, much more affordable here. A regular consult at our vet in the Maine-et-Loire is about 30€. Medicines are reasonably priced and even specialists’ visits tend to be under 100 euros for a consult.
An after-hours ER visit is about the same price as a specialist’s consult (about double the cost of a regular vet consult but this can vary). Then any tests and services have the after-hours rate as well. (but a small price to pay to ensure your animal’s safety, in my opinion).
The biggest surprise was a trip to a veterinary dentist when Dagny was about a year old and had slightly chipped her canine tooth. It didn’t expose the root thankfully, but without treatment, it would decay. Between the x-ray, anesthesia and small filling, it was 400€. I don’t even want to think what that would have cost in the USA.
Most vets have a selection of treatments, sprays, pills and creams right in their office so you can buy everything you need right there at the vet. From antibiotics to flea/tick treatment to joint supplements, it’s all available just a shelf or drawer away.
If your dog has any issues that require daily medication, your vet will give you a paper prescription that you can then fill at any pharmacy.
Back in the US, my childhood dog’s daily prescription medication would be filled — quite expensively I might add — right there at the vet’s office but in France, medication is compounded and dispensed at a regular pharmacy. Yes, the same pharmacy you’d go to for human medication.
Specialty care & emergencies
You tend to find vet specialists in and around larger cities although some vet practices have specialists on staff. Over the years, Dagny has seen a fair share of specialists/ER vets for various issues including the orthopedist and ophthalmologist.
It feels strange writing this — almost like it’s too good to be true — but every vet we’ve seen has been excellent and exceeded my expectations. They’ve been efficient, thorough, kind (one’s bedside manner was a bit lacking, but hey, you can’t win ’em all) and I’m so pleased with the treatment we’ve received.
An example of that kindness was when we saw a specialist’s willingness to meet Dagny’s comfort level by adapting his routine to her needs. Dagny was scared of the metal exam table and was hiding under a chair, so instead of being impatient and forcing her up on the table, the vet had no problem getting down on his hands and knees on the floor and doing the exam little by little down where Dagny was under the chair.
He was happy to take breaks and give her some space, all the while explaining everything he was doing without a hit of annoyance in his tone.
I’m sure any veterinarians or techs reading this would consider the above example normal behavior — doing what it takes to put the animal and the owner at ease. But when you’re a foreigner, not sure of how things work, stressed about your pet, and having to explain something quite complicated in your second language, anything to put the patient and her mom at ease is so appreciated.
If your pet has an emergency or any type of issue after hours, most areas have emergency vet services. In my town, there’s always a vet on call and the contact information is on my particular vet’s answering machine.
We can call at any time and can get the vétérinaire de garde‘s name and phone number for that night. The on-call vet service is on a rotation, so sometimes the emergency vet on call is our own vet. That way, no one vet is always stuck with the night shift.
Also, as you get closer to Nantes, there are some vet clinics that have 24/7 services so you can always go there no matter the time of day/night and get help. No need to find out who is on call since that particular clinic is always open.
Several times, we’ve had a slight issue after hours or on a Sunday and have called the on-call vet for advice. They’ve been happy to help over the phone for free if it’s not dire. I’ve never felt like I was bothering the vet.
Again, after-hours fees for an emergency appointment are about double the cost of regular appointments but are wholly worth it in my opinion. My motto is “better safe than sorry” when it comes to my pet. “Wait and see” to save a few bucks can end badly so I’d rather call than chance it. France makes it easy for me to keep Dagny healthy and happy.
If you’re considering having a pet in France, don’t let any stress or anxiety about French vet care stop you.
How has your experience been with having a pet in France and going to the vet?
Here’s Part 2 of my having a pet in France series!