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What Is an Animal Hospital?

By K. K. Lowen
Updated Mar 05, 2024
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An animal hospital is a medical facility that offers care to non-human patients. Some animal hospitals treat many different kinds of animals, while others specialize in one type of animal. Hospitals for animals typically feature the services of a trained veterinarian. The hospitals may offer a range of services, and although many offer only light care including immunizations and prescriptions, others offer a full range of services, such as surgery and physical therapy.

To let the public know that an animal hospital meets certain standards, accreditation is often available from veterinary organizations. Individual accreditation organizations may have different rules and regulations, and policies also may vary from country to country. Common standards may require that veterinary hospitals have proper medical equipment available to diagnose health problems and that staff members record and maintain certain types of documents. Another common accreditation criteria is employing at least one licensed veterinarian.

Some animal hospitals specialize in one or a small number of animals. Cat hospitals and dog hospitals are common because dogs and cats are two of the most popular types of pets. Horse hospitals are also common. There are hospitals for farm animals, but they are not as typical because many times it is inconvenient to move livestock to a hospital. Some animal hospitals may have a mobile unit that can function as an ambulance, transporting a veterinarian to a location in which urgent care is needed.

An animal hospital may provide emergency care, whereas others do not. Some facilities allow individuals to bring injured or sick animals for immediate medical care. Many animal hospitals operate strictly on an appointment basis, while others accept animals at any time of the night or day.

Payment methods also may vary from one hospital to another. Some animal hospitals are similar to community care clinics for humans, offering reduced prices, flexible payment schedules, and even free services. Other hospitals for animals may have strict payment policies with no sliding scale fees or free services.

An animal hospital may offer a variety of services. Beyond treating injuries and diseases, many hospitals also provide regular pet check-ups and pet prescription refills. Some animal hospitals offer elective surgery for pets, such as cosmetic procedures or laser eye surgery. Animal hospitals may participate in other types of non-medical activities as well, including pet placement, animal rescue, and educational services.

Some individuals who keep exotic pets must travel great distances to locate proper animal care. Animal hospitals that can offer full services for exotic pets can be difficult to find, but they do exist. For some health issues involving exotic pets, the veterinary medicine provided at an animal hospital could be insufficient. When an exotic pet has a severe health issue, its owner may need to seek an expert in zoologic medicine rather than trying to locate an animal hospital.

Frequently Asked Questions

What services do animal hospitals typically offer?

Animal hospitals provide a comprehensive range of services, including emergency care, routine check-ups, vaccinations, dental care, surgical procedures, and specialized treatments for chronic conditions. They often have advanced diagnostic equipment, such as X-rays and ultrasound, to aid in accurate diagnoses, ensuring pets receive the most effective treatment plans.

How do animal hospitals differ from regular veterinary clinics?

Animal hospitals are equipped to handle more complex medical situations than regular veterinary clinics. They typically offer 24-hour emergency services and have the facilities for prolonged hospitalization. With a broader range of medical equipment and specialists on staff, animal hospitals can perform advanced surgeries and treatments that a regular vet clinic might not be able to provide.

Can animal hospitals handle all types of animals?

While many animal hospitals cater to common pets like dogs and cats, some are equipped to treat a wider range of animals including exotic pets and wildlife. It's important to check with the specific hospital, as some may specialize in certain species, offering tailored care for animals such as birds, reptiles, or small mammals.

What should I look for when choosing an animal hospital?

When selecting an animal hospital, consider accreditation by organizations like the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), which sets high standards for veterinary practices. Look for a facility with experienced staff, a clean environment, up-to-date medical equipment, and positive reviews from other pet owners. Accessibility to emergency care and a compassionate approach are also crucial factors.

Are there any certifications that animal hospitals can earn to demonstrate quality care?

Yes, animal hospitals can earn certifications such as AAHA accreditation, which requires hospitals to pass rigorous evaluations and adhere to over 900 standards of veterinary care. Additionally, certifications for individual veterinarians, like board certification in veterinary specialties, indicate a high level of expertise in specific areas of animal medicine.

How do I know if my pet needs to visit an animal hospital?

If your pet is exhibiting signs of severe distress, such as difficulty breathing, profuse bleeding, sudden collapse, or unresponsiveness, it's crucial to visit an animal hospital immediately. For less urgent concerns, consult your regular veterinarian who can advise whether specialized hospital care is necessary based on your pet's symptoms and health history.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By KoiwiGal — On Apr 28, 2014

@clintflint - I can't ever bring myself to watch shows like that. I think they do a great job in bringing attention to a lot of problems, but I have such sad memories of taking my pet to the hospital, I don't really want to be reminded of it.

It also makes me think of all those poor animals that won't be treated for illness or injury because their owner doesn't have the money to spend on that kind of thing.

By clintflint — On Apr 27, 2014

One of the few kinds of reality TV that I actually enjoy watching are the ones based around animal hospitals, or zoos or animal control. Since they are based around a place rather than a particular person, you don't have to worry as much about producers making up stories in order to get higher ratings. There is plenty of drama in an animal hospital already, without needing to create more.

And the stories are often genuinely heart-warming or heart-breaking. I particularly like seeing examples of people going above and beyond in order to help an animal. Gives me a little more faith in the human race.

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