AAHA: THE STANDARD OF VETERINARY EXCELLENCE
While I was at a conference some years ago, I attended a special session sponsored by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA.org). Having previously worked as a vet tech, I’m familiar with this organization and learned even more during the presentation by Dr. Heather Loenser. If you’re not familiar with this wonderful organization, here’s what you need to know.
What Is AAHA?
The American Animal Hospital Association, founded 82 years ago, is a voluntary accrediting organization for small animal hospitals in the United States. That’s right…accreditation is VOLUNTARY, and it is not required by law. Only 12-15% of animal hospitals have gone through the rigorous and stringent evaluation process to attain this distinction.
To become AAHA accredited, practices undergo regular, comprehensive onsite evaluations by AAHA veterinary experts who evaluate each practice on more than 900 standards of veterinary care. As of 2023, the organization boasts over 4,500 practice teams (about 15% of veterinary practices in the United States and Canada) are AAHA accredited or pre-accredited.
That’s not to say that animal hospitals without AAHA-accreditation don’t offer great care from talented and dedicated veterinarians. Dr. Loenser noted that to achieve accreditation requires cooperation and dedication from the entire staff, from veterinarians and technicians to front desk staff and everyone who has a “paw” in the practice’s success.
It’s not easy to achieve AAHA accreditation, or to maintain it. So when you see the red logo on your hospital door, website or their educational materials, you know they’ve gone the extra mile. These folks hold themselves to a higher standard.
American Animal Hospital Association Accreditation
Once accredited by AAHA, the animal hospital gets reevaluated every three years, measured against 900 standards. Some of these standards are mandatory, while others have a bit of wiggle room depending on circumstances.
For example, having a single-use surgery and ventilated isolation area is mandatory. Hospital design can vary depending on the location, type of building, size of practice and other parameters that are not so black and white.
A few of the other standards include issues related to medical records and even mentoring new graduates, as well as pain management, dentistry, radiology, infectious diseases, anesthesia and surgery. You can see some of these AAHA-recommended guidelines online, too.
Value Added Information
AAHA also lists 26 position statements covering everything from pain management and dangerous animal legislation to declawing, animals in research, wild animals as pets, and THIS:
The American Animal Hospital Association supports the concept of animals as SENTIENT BEINGS. Sentiency is the ability to feel, perceive, or be conscious, or to have subjective experiences. Biological science, as well as common sense, supports the fact that the animals that share our lives are feeling, sensing beings that deserve thoughtful, high-quality care. The care that is offered should provide for the animal’s physical and behavioral welfare and strive to minimize pain, distress, and suffering for the animal.
For pet parents of human kids, there’s a “pet owner resources” section, too. Check out the resources for teaching dog bite awareness and safety, as well as helping kids (and yourself, perhaps) through the loss of a special pet. Be sure to check out the AAHA Pet Owner resources section, too.
Is My Vet Hospital Accredited?
“We voluntarily sought accreditation by the American Animal Hospital Association. This means that we regularly have our practice evaluated by an expert to ensure that we comply with veterinary care standards. And it means your pet is receiving the best possible care, using the latest procedures and technology. Ask us about our AAHA accreditation and how it affects your pet.”
You can also check the AAHA-Accredited Vet Hospital Locator and do a search to see if your vet–or a clinic in your neck of the woods–is listed. If you’re moving to a new home, this is also a great way to help you find your ideal veterinary clinic, one that’s focused on compassionate care and that puts your pets first, just like you do.
If you don’t see the AAHA logo, why not ask about it? Maybe your hospital IS accredited and will make more of an effort to let clients know, when they know how much we care. Educated pet parents and clients make the best advocates for their companion animals, and your veterinarians want to know how much you care. In fact, your interest may be all that’s needed for your clinic to seek accreditation.
Now then…post in the comments. Is your veterinary hospital AAHA-accredited? Do tell!
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!