Brian J. Lowney: November 04, 2010 11:55 AM
Pet experts agree that selecting a veterinarian is as important as choosing a family doctor.
Popular author, lecturer and Abyssinian cat fancier Linda Kaye Hardie recalls that when she moved to Nevada from California several years ago, she pulled out the phone book and began searching for a small animal practitioner who understood the idiosyncrasies of her exotic feline breed.
“I called a few, made appointments, and talked with vets,” she said. “Sometimes I paid a small office fee, sometimes not.”
Hardie says she compiled a list of specific questions pertinent to Abyssinian cats and general medical policies, such as whether an owner needs to make an appointment for an office visit to get a prescription refilled for a common medical condition.
“I chose the vet who didn’t think any of my questions (or me) were stupid or unnecessary,” the writer said.
Sylvia Lesnikowski, a third-year veterinary student at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in Grafton and the recent winner of an AKC veterinary scholarship, says it’s important for owners to observe the cleanliness of waiting and appointment rooms when visiting a veterinary practice.
The Pawtucket, R.I. resident remembers that when she worked as a veterinary technician several years ago, the first lesson she was taught was to make sure that there was “no visible hair, blood, toe nail clippings, urine or feces” in an appointment room before allowing the next patient to enter. She adds that it’s also important for clinic staff to use a quality disinfectant when cleaning the facility and to “wipe down everything,” because while an animal might not exhibit symptoms, it could still carry a contagious disease.
Gail Parker, a Philadelphia-based pet writer and Irish setter fancier, said it’s important that a receptionist (or veterinarian) take a few minutes to answer questions over the phone from a prospective client before making an appointment.
“When I first considered my current veterinarian, I asked if she knew about bloat, as it can be a problem in my breed,” Parker wrote in a recent e-mail. “A veterinarian should be willing to listen and want to learn what I can share that is specific to my breed, such as the fact that Irish setters can drop weight so fast with just an upset stomach.”
Dr. Thomas Burns of Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod in South Yarmouth advises pet owners who are moving out of the area to check for practices in their new location that are accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).
“A veterinary hospital that is accredited by the AAHA clearly strives to provide the best care possible by meeting their rigorous standards,” Burns said. “Since accreditation is purely a volunteer process, such facilities enjoy benchmarking themselves among some of the best practices in the country.”
The respected veterinarian emphasizes that only 17 percent of all veterinary hospitals in the United States and Canada are AAHA accredited. These facilities pay an annual membership fee to the national organization.
“Just because a veterinary practice is not accredited does not mean they are not a great practice,” Burns continues. “But AAHA accreditation is an almost guarantee that a practice is a high-quality facility delivering progressive care.”
He adds, “Nothing is left to chance with the detailed and numerous standards necessary to pass the accreditation process. Everything from pain protocols, anesthetic safety, facility cleanliness, to client care matters.”
Burns says that the AAHA has a team of experienced veterinary consultants who service member and prospective member practices in their territory. These experts spend a full day at the clinic conducting a review, which includes an inspection of the facility, equipment, protocols and medical records system.
“The necessary protocols to meet the standards are many and rigorous,” Burns said. “Every hospital protocol, from anesthetic safety, required equipment, staff safety to facility maintenance is reviewed against the benchmarks of AAHA.”
After weeks of intense preparation, Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod was recently reaccredited for another three years.
Nationally acclaimed pet writer Cheryl Smith said she feels confident entrusting her animals to an accredited veterinary practice.
“My vet is the only one in the area who is AAHA certified,” she said. “That alone wouldn’t be enough to make me choose him, but he has a quarantine room and has passed baseline regulations for cleanliness and other important matters.”
Smith says she also likes that her veterinarian has 24/7 coverage, practices both Eastern and Western medicine, makes a special effort to make her pets comfortable and allows her access to his well-stocked library.
For more information about accredited veterinary practices and other pet care-related information, visit the website, http://www.healthypet.com.
Swansea resident Brian Lowney has been writing about pets for more than a decade. His column also appears in The Standard-Times and on its website, http://www.southcoasttoday.com.