Choosing a Veterinary Hospital

Is there a new puppy in your family? Has the backyard cat installed himself on your family room sofa? Have you inherited grandma’s piano and her parrot? If so, you won’t want to leave the important decision regarding the choice of your new pet’s healthcare provider to chance. Here are some tips for choosing the right veterinarian and veterinary hospital for your pet.

Location, location, location
In Sunday’s New York Times, healthcare reporter Elizabeth Rosenthal, talks about choosing a hospital for your own care. She writes, “Indeed, with thousands of good hospitals across the nation, the best selling point for routine medical care may simply be convenience…” Whether or not you agree with her point of view regarding your personal healthcare, proximity may be a consideration in choosing a primary care veterinarian. A new puppy will need several rounds of vaccines and a spay or neuter surgery requiring transporting the pet to and from the hospital on multiple occasions. But if you have a parrot, the closest veterinary hospital may not have a veterinarian with expertise in avian medicine and you will need to choose a clinic providing bird care, not necessarily the closest clinic.

Proximity plays an even more important role in the selection of an emergency hospital. When your pet is hit by a car and in shock, has serious bleeding or can’t breathe, time is of the essence and the closest animal ER is the best ER for your pet.

Assessing hospital quality
If you personally needed a heart valve replacement, for example, you might look for data on outcome for valve replacement surgery at the various hospitals in your area. In New York State we have the New York State Hospital Report Card. You could also search the doctor ratings on the website of your healthcare provider. Since this type of information is lacking for veterinary hospitals, you might turn to online sources to read the opinion of pet owners who have posted their experiences. I must admit, to me, these online reviews can often seem more like rants and may not provide the objective information you need to guide your pet healthcare decision making process.

A better method of assessing hospital quality would be to look for a hospital accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Their website also allows you to search for the AAHA accredited hospital nearest you. Choosing an AAHA accredited hospital assures pet owners that the hospital they select has the staff, equipment, medical procedures and facilities that AAHA believes are vital for delivering high-quality pet care. The Animal Medical Center has been AAHA accredited since 1976, and to maintain our accreditation we voluntarily receive triennial evaluations on over 900 standards of small animal hospital care.

Finding the right specialist
The easiest way to find a specialist for your pet is for your primary care veterinarian to recommend one she works with on a regular basis. This will ensure a good line of communication and seamless medical care. If your veterinarian doesn’t have a recommendation:

  • Search the website of the type of specialist you are looking for, e.g. veterinary cardiology, veterinary surgery or veterinary dentistry.
  • For a cutting edge therapy, you might have to travel a good distance to find the specialist your pet needs. Use a scientific search engine like PubMed or Google Scholar. Search for the procedure your pet needs. When the search identifies a particular hospital where the procedure is commonly performed or a veterinarian who is a frequent author of scientific articles on the procedure, focus your search on this clinic or veterinarian. Examples of this type of procedure include repair to a ruptured ligament in the knee or image modulated radiation therapy.

Quick tips on finding the right veterinary hospital

  • Know where the closest animal ER is and keep its address and phone number in your GPS device, cell phone and on the refrigerator list so you are prepared for an emergency.
  • Don’t be afraid to visit potential veterinary hospitals before booking an appointment. Find out if their clinic schedule matches your availability. Ask the receptionist about their preventive healthcare protocols.
  • In case your pet develops an unusual medical condition or requires specialized surgery, ask your trusted primary care veterinarian about the network of specialists they recommend.

33 thoughts on “Choosing a Veterinary Hospital”

  1. WOW!!! Your posting article was full of useful information.Because your trying to tell us why and where we can get better service for our pets.Pets health are very important for very person whom have pets.You are telling us step by step importance of find out good hospital for caring pets perfectly.So nice…..

  2. I want to go to the best and inexpensive veterinary hospital for my cat checkup. Your tips will help me a lot to get the best place.

  3. Choosing the right vet for your pet is important. The Internet is the right place to start your search.

  4. My dog recently swallowed some of my medication and I had to take her to the hospital. Proximity was definitely at the top of my list. I was able to get her the help quickly. She is now doing better and I’m grateful for having a veterinarian so close.

  5. I appreciate your tip on how location is very important when choosing a veterinary clinic. I would imagine that finding a clinic that is close by would be helpful for both you and your pet. We recently adopted a puppy and so when we look for a vet for the little guy we’ll be sure to choose one that is close by.

  6. Thanks for the post. This is full of great information. I would prefer to drive a further distance to go to an animal hospital where I know the treatment is quality. I like the idea to look for a hospital that is accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association. I think that is a great way to narrow down your searching.

  7. I think the most important thing is quality. I would look for the closest hospital, but if it didn’t have the quality care that I want my pets to have, then I would drive farther. I think checking reviews on the internet is a really great idea, but I do agree that you have to find the right reviews, because rants really won’t get you anywhere.

  8. I agree that you should find a hospital that has the right specialist. My sister owns a cat, and she has had to take it to multiple places before finding the right one. I wouldn’t want to be in an emergency situation and not know where my pet can be treated.

  9. I definitely agree that it is important to make sure that you choose an animal hospital that is close to you. You definitely don’t want your pet to suffer when they’ve been injured, and it takes a long amount of time to get to the hospital, like you said. I have a dog who has a high risk of getting bloat, so I should take this under extra consideration. After all, when a dog gets bloat, then they need to be at the vet in under 30 minutes, or they don’t have a high survival rate.

  10. In your article, you stated the easiest way to find a specialist for your pet is for your primary care veterinarian to recommend one she works with on a regular basis. My wife brought home a brand new puppy last week and he has been throwing up a lot. Do most veterinary clinics also include an animal hospital or are they separate facilities? Finding a reputable pet medical service might be our best option.

    1. Hi Derek,

      Congrats on the new pup! a veterinary clinic and an animal hospital are essentially the same thing and would be the typical place to go for routine veterinary care. A specialty hospital such as AMC encompasses the regular clinic, specialty care (oncology, neurology, etc.), and emergency care. We hope this information helps.

      Thanks!

  11. You mentioned in your article that finding a animal hospital that is close in proximity is a major part of choosing a veterinarian. A person would definitely consider this as it could save them time and money when they run their pet for checkups or routine shots. But more importantly it will be close by when there might be an emergency. Thanks for the great blog.

  12. I agree that the proximity of the Veterinary hospital should play a major role in your selection so that if an emergency arises, you are close enough to get help quickly. You also mention choosing a veterinarian that is AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) approved. I think it’s important to see what equipment the doctor uses and whether or not the hospital uses up to date x-rays and surgical equipment.

  13. I feel like this article is spot on when it talks about choosing a veterinarian hospital that is very close to you. This is important just in case of a medical emergency for your animals. If you don’t have to travel far to the hospital, you reduce more serious injuries!

  14. I’m glad I can look for the AAHA certification, because you are right, you can’t get very reliable insight from most online reviews. Most people only take the time to say something if they are angry, so the reviews can definitely be skewed in the negative direction. People don’t review their neighborhood pizzeria when their food is good and shows up on time, but will gladly host an online roast for anyone who disappoints them in any minor way. A personal visit will tell you a lot as well!

  15. You wrote in your article that one of the first things you should consider is convenience. I’ve been looking for a vet to take my dog to as I really care about keeping her as healthy and happy as possible. Having a vet close by would be terrific, as I could drop by if I have questions or my dog isn’t acting his usual self. Thanks for the blog.

  16. My dog is always getting into trouble, and we wanted to make sure that we knew where to take him if he were to get hurt from them. I really like that you say to look online and see if the hospital is accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association! It would also be nice to see if they have references of past clients that you can talk to to confirm the quality.

  17. My family and I have recently adopted a dog. She is a wonderful husky named Hazel, and we want to make sure she stays healthy. I didn’t realize how important it is to find an animal hospital that has hours that fit with your schedule to ensure there is more opportunities for appointments. I’ll definitely keep that in mind as I continue my search.

  18. Thanks for pointing out that for a medical procedure happening on yourself you would be very interested in the history and successes of the doctor you were considering working with. I can definitely see how it could be a good idea to do the same thing for your beloved pets. I feel like nothing would beat reviews from past customers in this area.

  19. Choosing a veterinary hospital is a big decision. If your animal is in harm or pain, you want to make sure that they get the best possible care! I agree with this article in that location is a very important factor. If your pet is hurt, I think the sooner you can get them to the vet, the better!

  20. Thanks for the tips for finding a good vet. I just got a new puppy, and I want to find a good vet before we actually need one, to save time. I agree that finding someone who is close is important, especially in emergencies.

  21. I like that you mentioned to not be afraid to visit an animal hospital before you book an appointment. That way, you can take a tour and gauge if it is up to your standards. My wife and I are trying to find an animal hospital for our puppy. We will definitely keep this in mind as we search.

  22. I didn’t realize how important it is to choose a vet service that offers cutting edge therapy and surgery to ensure your pet has the best chance at good health. My wife and I just adopted a puppy. Hopefully, we can use this info to find a pro that can help her grow up strong and healthy.

  23. My cat has problems with her stomach a few years back and we had to find a veterinary hospital after she started having problems eating. I like your point about how most animal hospitals are qualified so location is the most important. Especially in an emergency, knowing where the closest hospital for a pet is really important. Thanks for sharing!

  24. Thanks for the great tips for finding a vet. I like how Elizabeth said that convenience may be the deciding factor, since there are so many good choices. I definitely want to find a clinic that is close by, since we have a brand new puppy.

  25. When it comes to choosing a vet hospital it’s important that you find a place is as close as possible but you also want to make sure that you don’t lose any quality with the care. Getting reviews can help you make the best choice.

  26. When someone adopts a pet and considers as a part of his life, from that day onwards he becomes responsible for his pet’s nourishment, health, safety, and care. But if he thinks it’s effortless to spot the right veterinarian, then I will say that he has a wrong conception. Because locating a veterinary surgeon never just comes off by accident. In fact, rooting out the right vet requires the same level of forbearance and intentness that anyone would pledge to detect any other professional. Thus, one should not be in a hurry, rather he must go through the website thoroughly, ask for referrals, comprehend the operation of the clinic and if possible he can also meet each vet separately before fixing his pet’s meeting with the vet.

  27. My wife and I just got a new puppy but we aren’t sure how to find a good vet to take him to. I like that you suggest finding a location that is close to home to make trips for convenient. This would also put my mind at ease if there was an emergency like you mentioned. Thanks for sharing.

  28. My husband and I just moved, we are looking for a fantastic veterinarian that we will be able to take our cat to in the future. So thanks for pointing out the fact that we should try to find a clinic or hospital that is fairly close to us in case any sorts of emergencies happen. Since I know that I won’t want to worry about a long drive if our cat has trouble breathing or is hit by a car, I will definitely start looking into veterinarians that are close to our home.

  29. Thanks for the tip to visit potential veterinary hospitals before booking an appointment. My family is thinking of getting a kitten, and we would like to check out various hospitals before we decide what we’re going to do. Finding a vet that is close by and is on top of cutting-edge therapy are traits I’m looking for.

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