I cross the threshold and allow my eyes to adjust to the new lighting. Once I’m acclimated, I immediately begin my quest to determine my new doctor’s qualifications for “doctoring.” Scanning the walls of the lobby, I find what I’m looking for, a fancy looking certificate with intricate font stating that Doctor so-and-so has attended X university. Scanning further, I see licensure plaques and other documents regarding accreditation prominently featured. I breath a sigh of relief, he’s legit! I check in, and continue with the process of obtaining the medical care I had been seeking, from qualified provider. I can’t be the only person who does this! I’m sure others look (maybe not as overtly as me) for the documents that prove that the doctor is equipped to provide medical care.
If you take the time to ensure that the doctor you’re visiting is accredited and qualified, why on earth would you not follow suit for your pet’s veterinarian?
The truth, put simply, is that a lot of individuals assumethat their animal hospital is accredited. They must be...otherwise they wouldn’t be able to be a vet, right? The unfortunate (and surprising) answer is no!
Yes, you read correctly. Animal hospitals are not required to receive accreditation! There is a single agency that provides accreditation for veterinary hospitals and the process for doing so is voluntary, it is not mandated by any larger veterinary body. Those animal hospitals that seek accreditation willingly go through an evaluation of 900 standards, which is conducted by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).
Plainly put, if you don’t see any signage in your animal hospital that looks like the image below, then you’re visiting a site that is not accredited! I didn’t know about this accreditation process (or, lack of formal requirement) up until my participation in this year’s BlogPaws conference! I simply assumed, like so many folks, that the policies were similar to doctors that serve humans and that all veterinary practices were accredited! In fact, according to the AAHA website, nearly 60% of pet owners think their veterinary hospital is accredited when it is not! At least I wasn’t alone, but that doesn’t really give me much peace of mind!
Why is accreditation important? You’ll notice in the helpful infographic some of the key points connected to why AAHA accredited hospitals are a step above. As with medical practices that treat humans, attention to a certain standard of care reduces the risk of infection and avoidable medical errors. It provides a checks and balances that helps to ensure all members of the staff are abiding by the same rubric for providing services.
I’m writing this post because I feel that empowering pet owners through sharing information will lead to positive change. Now that you know about the importance of accreditation, I encourage you to ask questions! Use this AAHA Accredited Hospital Locator to determine if your veterinary practice is accredited. If not, next time you visit your veterinarian, ask why they have not yet sought to have this accreditation at their location. Perhaps, they simply don’t think the pet owners in their practice know or care of its importance. Perhaps it’s because they don’t want to go through the lengthy process. Perhaps they’re afraid that they won’t cut the mustard. Make them sweat, ask the tough questions. If your gut tells you they’re holding something back, seek medical care elsewhere from an animal hospital that does have their AAHA accreditation!
Were you as surprised to hear about the lack of governing body like I was? Do you you know if your animal hospital is accredited? If it is, take a photo with your pup in front of your veterinarian’s AAHA plaque and tag us! Who knows, maybe we’ll send you a special prize!