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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Picking the Perfect Vet

Olga Pershina learned her lesson the hard way. After losing her first cat to a botched surgery performed on her kitchen table, she isn't taking chances with unfamiliar veterinarians any more.

"I called the first vet I found in the ads," said Pershina, a foreign languages student in Moscow. "She came right away and said an operation was needed urgently. It cost me 3,000 rubles, and she operated right on the kitchen table. What's more, my stepfather had to assist her."

After the operation, the cat didn't feel better, and the fever didn't go away. The vet made daily visits, but in the end the animal died.

"The vet said it was an infection. Later I found out that a different kind of surgery was needed," said Pershina, adding that she partly blamed herself for not calling a vet earlier.

When a pet falls ill, it's not always obvious who to call. In Moscow, pet owners can choose between government-owned public clinics, private clinics and services offering vets on-call. Numerous veterinary services are listed in telephone books and on the Internet, such as the Russian-language web site, which can help consumers locate a service in their local area.

However, since vet licensing was abolished in 2005, there is no way to be sure which vets in a directory list are sufficiently qualified. Frequent reports of misdiagnoses and medical mistakes have led the Moscow city government to come up with the idea of creating a vet service database that would include all working veterinarians, whether private or in clinics, with information about the vet and his or her level of qualification. Registration of vets has begun and the site is due to start working in four to six weeks, the Moscow veterinary committee said.

In the meantime, consumers are advised to choose a vet carefully. Nikolai Loginov, a veterinarian with the Loginov veterinarian clinic at the Kuklachev Cat Theater, advises pet-owners to follow the recommendations of friends and to avoid contacting vets off the Internet.

"Nobody is warranted against an unqualified professional," he said. "Only personal recommendations can save you a lot of trouble."

Practicing veterinarian Konstantin Mamonov said pets' illnesses were usually caused by incorrect feeding, poor care or diseases due to failures to vaccinate in time.

"The other problem is that people try to treat animals themselves. In the end, the pets' illnesses develop bad complications," Mamonov said, adding that a few visits to a clinic for check-ups each year are a good idea.

In general, a visit to a vet at a private clinic costs about 200 rubles, while a vaccination will call for an extra 200- to 800-ruble fee, depending on the animal and the type of vaccine. Blood tests go for between 50 and 700 rubles and various surgeries will set you back 500 to 5,000 rubles. Most clinics work 24 hours a day and there is always the option of calling a vet for a house visit, which should cost 500 to 1,500 rubles, depending on location. The prices at public vet clinics are not much different. For example, a consultation costs about 130 rubles and vaccinations cost about 400 rubles.

Valery Matytsin / Itar-Tass
Visits to private clinics cost about 200 rubles. Public clinics are only a little cheaper.
Most clinics treat cats and dogs, but if you own an exotic animal, be it a parrot or an iguana, you need to seek a specialist's advice. The problem is that Russian general vets are not sufficiently trained in veterinary academies to treat exotic animals.

"It is a relatively new field for us," said Vladimir Romanov, general director of Zelyony Popugai bird clinic, which treats exotic birds and reptiles, among other pets (

He recommends heading to a clinic that specializes specifically in handling exotic animals and has permanent veterinary doctors on staff. Another option is finding a zoologist specializing in your kind of animal. Zoologists at the Moscow Zoo ( can provide advice on treating a pet but not the treatment itself.

Zoovet veterinary center ( has specialists working with birds and hamsters, as well as cats and dogs, and a 24-hour emergency service.

Another clinic that comes highly recommended is called Vettsentr ( Located in the vicinity of the circus on Tsvetnoi Bulvar, it handles not only the circus animals (including sea lions and crocodiles) but also regular pets.

But what to do if your beloved pet has suddenly taken ill and you cannot transport it? Have a trusted vet come to your house.

"If the animal needs help urgently, it is better to call the vet ambulance," Mamonov said.

"Vaccination is better done at home, especially if it's the first time. Stations are disinfected but there's always a small chance for a weak, small animal to catch a disease. Traveling is also a big stress -- drafts and cold may weaken immunity, which is undesirable during vaccination."

After Pershina's sad experience, she said she was now more careful with her new cat, an exotic breed.

"At the breeding center, where I bought it, I was given recommendations about a particular clinic and a vet. I take my cat to that clinic, where it has its own medical card with case history.

"There I was told when to do the vaccinations and other specific things that are needed for proper care," Pershina said.