Have you heard of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)?
Probably not. And why would you?
Maybe you think the AAHA is some backwater acronym for a minor hockey league in Manitoba. Perhaps you’ve read a pet health blog or website that mentioned AAHA Accreditation. Or, maybe you’re familiar with the red-and-white logo you’ve seen at the entrance to the Cabbagetown Pet Clinic.
What do we know – or care – about AAHA Accreditation?
Unlike human hospitals, veterinary hospitals in Canada do NOT require to be accredited by any specific regulatory body. AAHA Accredited animal hospitals are the ONLY facilities that choose to be evaluated on over 900(!) quality standards that go above and beyond basic provincial regulations.
AAHA-Accreditation = Superior Care + Better Value + Healthier Outcomes
What is the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)?
The Standard of Veterinary Excellence.
Established in 1933, the AAHA has focused on promoting high-quality standards for the constantly progressing segment of small-animal practice through accreditation and other initiatives.
The original directors were convinced that it was necessary to provide better protocols and methods than were generally available for small-animal practices.
That philosophy is still alive today as a guiding principle of the AAHA. It has helped inspire and sustain the growth and development, not only of the AAHA but also of the practice of small-animal medicine throughout Canada and the United States.
“Enhance the abilities of veterinarians to provide quality medical care to companion animals.”
“Enable veterinarians to successfully conduct their practices and maintain their facilities with high standards of excellence.”
“Meet the public’s needs as they relate to the delivery of small-animal veterinary medicine.”
The AAHA Standards of Accreditation were developed to push this mission and has established itself as the leader in developing benchmarks of excellence, business practice standards, informative publications, and educational programs – all designed to help veterinary practices thrive.
“Seeks to lead the profession in the provision of the highest quality of care for companion animals by improving standards of care, championing accreditation, and supporting our member practices in all aspects of this pursuit.”
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) is the ONLY organization to certify animal veterinary hospitals across Canada and the US. Today, more than 4500 practices (12-15% of all veterinary practices) are AAHA-accredited.
More information about the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) can be found at aaha.org
Why AAHA Accreditation is Important to our Cabbagetown Pet Clinic Clients.
At the Cabbagetown Pet Clinic, we believe becoming an AAHA-accredited veterinary practice wasn’t about prestige or status – it’s about operating at the highest level. It’s a way to force ourselves to be the best we can be – our dedicated staff is constantly looking to make things better.
AAHA Accreditation serves a variety of purposes.
- It recognizes and quantitatively certifies excellent veterinary practices in Canada and the United States.
- It helps good veterinary hospitals become great ones by bringing out the maximum potential of the practice. AAHA provides the framework and support of running a highly professional practice.
- Practices want the best for their patients and pet owners, and AAHA provides resources for our team to deliver the best medicine.
- It serves as an excellent recruitment tool for us – it acts as a beacon to attract the best-of-the-best candidates who are dedicated to operating at the highest standards.
The accreditation process is challenging, rigorous, voluntary, and not guaranteed. When we made the promise to step up to become accredited, we were making a statement that our practice is committed to excellence to our clients in Cabbagetown.
To become AAHA Accredited, we were required to undergo a rigorous evaluation process to ensure we met ALL of the protocols prescribed by the AAHA.
These include these areas:
- Diagnostic Imaging
- Diabetes Management
- Fluid Therapy
- Infection Control, Prevention and Biosecurity
- Mentoring and Continuing Education
- Nutritional Assessment
- Pain Management
- Preventative Healthcare
- Senior and End-of-Life Care
- Weight Management
- Canine and Feline Life Stages
- Dental Care
- Medical Records Management
- Emergency/Urgent Care
To maintain accredited status, we undergo a wide-ranging, on-site evaluation every three years to certify that we are compliant with the AAHA’s mandatory standards.
The Case Against AAHA Accreditation ?
We’ve heard the argument that the stringent AAHA requirements are too rigorous and costly to put into practice, and that those costs get passed onto our clients.
Is there a downside?
No. We would say it’s a commitment to a higher standard by the Cabbagetown Pet Clinic and our clients to go the extra mile and ensure their pets receive best-in-class treatment and preventative care. If that’s considered a downside, we’ll accept that. By the way, our pricing structure is reviewed regularly and is always competitive across the entire Toronto market.
Three Reasons Animal Hospitals may NOT seek AAHA Accreditation.
- The goals are too burdensome and time-consuming for vet clinics that are limited by space concerns, such as those in big-city, high-expense storefronts.
We recognize this difficulty, but this did not impede our cozy and welcoming facility in downtown Toronto in pursuit of accreditation.
- AAHA Accreditation standards discriminate against older, established clinics where the quality of care is excellent, but the structural changes necessary for pre-1980 practices are cost-prohibitive.
So, it costs too much? If a practice is still operating with policies and procedures instituted 30 years ago, it seems hard to fathom (but is still possible) that your pet is receiving the latest advances in technological and preventative care.
When purchased in 2008, Cabbagetown Pet Clinic made the commitment to invest in the process to ensure the clinic was prepared to meet the challenges of the stringent AAHA procedure. We were accredited in 2012.
- Some believe the process is impractical, countering that the vast majority of the pet-owning populace has no idea what it means for an animal hospital to have obtained AAHA Accreditation.
This may be true in some cases, but clients do their homework nowadays and capable of doing research that will put them and their pets in the best possible situation. If more hospitals (currently 12-15% are accredited) worked harder to gain certification, then clients would come to recognize what AAHA means when they see the plaque on the door or the logo on the website.
Eventually, there will be a tipping point – likely initiated by an increasingly highly educated client base – where the majority of practices feel it’s in their best interest to welcome the extra pressure to perform and meet this high AAHA bar. Until then, we will proudly continue our ongoing obligation to meeting (and exceeding) the latest AAHA requirements.
As more practices get onboard with AAHA, we feel that professional practice standards in the veterinarian community will rise and pets everywhere will receive better care.
AAHA and the Future.
Since AAHA was founded, everything they represent has been done has been with one goal in mind: to help veterinary professionals provide exceptional care for companion animals.
We share this goal.
At the Cabbagetown Pet Clinic, we are driven to ensure that your pet is happy, healthy, and has access to the latest innovations in veterinary medicine so you and your pet can enjoy a long, wonderful life together.