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Ask the Vet: What to look for when choosing a vet clinic

Ask the Vet: What to look for when choosing a vet clinic

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Q: I just moved to a new town, and I am looking for a new veterinarian. What are some ways to determine the quality of a veterinary clinic?

A: Veterinary clinics come in all shapes and sizes and offer a wide range of different services. No two veterinary clinics are alike, so it can be challenging to determine the type of veterinary clinic best suited for you and your pet's needs.

One of the best ways to quickly determine if a veterinary clinic is invested in maintaining a high standard of care is to see if it is AAHA accredited. AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) is the only accrediting body for small animal hospitals in the U.S. and Canada. It sets the gold standards for veterinary clinics. For a veterinary clinic to become accredited, it must fulfill or exceed all the set standards.

These standards are detailed, thorough, and encompass all the workings of the clinic. It is quite a task for a clinic to get accredited and then maintain the accreditation. The hospitals that are AAHA accredited get evaluated frequently and must be working at the set standards daily.

When you chose an AAHA accredited clinic, you know the owners and staff are working hard to maintain the industry's gold standards.

It is also essential to understand the clinic's services to pick the one that fits your lifestyle the best.

For example, if you have an exotic pet such as a bird, will they see the bird? Not many veterinarians will see birds, so that is vital information to know.

If you have an after-hours emergency, what will happen? Will they see you, or will you have to go to another after-hours emergency clinic? When is the clinic open? Do those hours fit with your schedule?

Do you want a larger clinic that offers more services with many different veterinarians? Would you be more comfortable at a smaller clinic that may not provide as many services but guarantees you will see the same veterinarian every time?

Finally, I would ask around and see who the local pet owners recommend as personal experience can be a powerful source of information.

Q: I have no idea how much to feed my dog. The bag suggests an amount that seems like it is too much, but everyone tells me that my dog is too thin. What do you recommend?

A: On average more than half of the dogs in the United States are considered overweight or obese, and it does not appear that these numbers are going to get better anytime soon.

I do not recommend following the feeding guidelines on the back of a pet food bag as it does not take into consideration the pet's activity level, age, or weight. Instead, I recommend basing the amount of food you are feeding on your pet's body condition score. The body condition score helps us determine if your pet is at a healthy weight and how to adjust its caloric intake.

Body condition score charts are easy to find on the internet and can help guide you as to whether your pet is a healthy weight. It can be surprising how little dog or cat food a pet needs to maintain a healthy weight, and it can get even less as they age. Dog and cat food are very dense sources of nutrients, and a small amount can go a long way.

In addition, our pets are exceptionally good at manipulating us into thinking that they need more food even when they do not, so careful measurements of daily intake is essential. It is also essential that all pets get daily exercise to help with weight management and boredom.

Dr. Julianne Miller is a Flagstaff veterinarian. She can be reached at


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