An AAHA Moment: How I Found the Best Vet for My Dogs and Cats

Note: I was not compensated in any way for writing this post. AAHA has generously offered to provide a $50 credit to an AAHA-accredited veterinary practice to one of my readers. I accepted the offer as a way to spread the word about an organization I believe in, and one I am happy to share with others who care as much about their pets as I do.

Calvin comforts Tucker when he has to wear a cone

When Tucker tore a nail and had to wear a cone for a Very Long Time, Calvin was there to comfort him.

Top Ten Reasons I’ve Called My Vet:

10) One of my dogs / cats  (pick one) barfed.

9) Tucker tore a toenail off.

8) Dawn had blood in her urine.

7) Pasha tore his cruciate ligament.

6) Jasper and Tucker found a bat in our back yard.

5) Tucker chewed on a pool thermometer.

4) Jasper’s anal sacs ruptured.

3) Pasha got hit by a car.

2) Athena had a piece of straw sticking out of her rear.

1) Tucker had a temporary bout with paraphimosis. (I’ll let you look that up.)

Pasha of Life with Dogs and Cats

Pasha, in his later years. With all that happened to him, the dog lived a long and happy life.

Life with Dogs and Cats

Life with three dogs and four cats means I need to make sure I have a veterinarian whom I can trust. One I can call on for a standard question or  in an emergency, and feel confident I am getting the best advice and care for my non-human family members.

But how do you choose a vet in the first place? How do you know the vets and the staff will do the best for your pets?

Tucker and Athena have an interesting relationship.

Tucker and Athena have an interesting relationship.

A Search for the Right Vet

Years ago, one of the veterinary groups I had gone to for years merged with another practice, and soon afterwards began to specialize in emergency and speciality vet medicine. While I (and my dogs at the time) were grandfathered in and could still see the vets for routine visits, it became a challenge  to schedule a non-specialty vet appointment, and I would have to pay emergency-visit costs when I brought my dogs in if I didn’t want to wait several days. I reluctantly began to look for another vet.

A friend recommended a practice that she brought her dog to, and when I adopted two kittens (that would be Dawn and Athena), I figured it was a good time to test out a new vet.

Back in the day, Dawn actually tolerated Athena's presence.

I brought Athena and Dawn to a new vet as kittens.

Something is Wrong

The vet was nice enough. He seemed to do the right things. But maybe it was because he “forgot” to weigh the kittens. Or maybe there was something in his overly friendly manner. Whatever it was, I felt uncomfortable, and I have learned to trust my gut. Soon after that visit, I did some research online and found out that there were multiple actions taken against the vet by the state of New Jersey, and I read credible and disturbing comments written by former employees.

Calvin and Tucker share an interest in squirrels.

I wouldn’t trust just anyone to care for Calvin, Tucker and any of my other family members.

The Search for a Vet Begins Again

My friend knew nothing of these issues, but I needed to find a vet I could trust. I asked my dog trainer, Anne Macaulay of On Good Behavior, who I know is a careful researcher about all things dog. I also asked the folks at Camp Bow Wow where I sometimes boarded my dogs. After my own online investigation, I ended up at a veterinary hospital that was 30-40 minutes away, but worth every mile of the drive: Harlingen Veterinary Clinic.

I loved the staff there, and the vets. They nursed Jasper through multiple surgeries and serious congenital issues with his anal sacs. (Thank goodness for pet insurance, but that’s another story.)  I wound up adopting Calvin and Elsa Clair through Harlingen. And when Elsa Clair got deathly ill less than 24 hours after I adopted her, they took care of both kittens, free of charge, until they were ready to come home again.

Calvin and Elsa Clair were very close as kittens.

No, Calvin and Elsa Clair did not come in a box, but they were very close as kittens.

Unfortunately, none of my four cats travel well, and as traffic increased and my life became busier, that hour and a half of travel (45 minutes each way) became too burdensome, particularly when multiplied by the seven animals who are now part of my family. I had to find another vet that was closer.

Jasper always wants to make sure everybody is happy.

Jasper always wants to make sure everybody is happy.

Once again, I did careful research, and now I work with Dr. Bruce Levinston and the staff at Bridgewater Veterinary Hospital. They’ve been wonderful, with Dr. Levinston coming in on a Saturday to help check and vaccinate every one of my pets when we realized that two of the dogs had encountered a potentially rabid bat. (Turns out it wasn’t, but that, too is another story. Stay tuned.)

Everyone finds their spot at my house; Athena seeks the sun and Lilah the shade.

A close encounter with a bat by two of the dogs meant everyone needed rabies boosters. Even the indoor cats. I was very thankful I could count on my vet to tell me what to do.

My AAHA Moment

Here’s the thing: I could have saved myself a ton of angst and time. Both Harlingen and Bridgewater are accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association, or AAHA. AAHA is the only veterinary association dedicated specifically to companion animals (as opposed to those used for food.)

When a vet is AAHA certified, you know that someone — actually a bunch of someones — have done the research for you. Veterinarians aren’t required to be accredited; it’s a voluntary and time-consuming process. Practices may spend weeks or months preparing for the on-site visits that are required for accreditation. During these visits, the hospital or clinic must have a total score across 900 standards that is high enough to achieve accreditation. Even if they pass — and not all do — the practice is re-evaluated every three years to make sure that the hospital is up to date on the most current thinking and methods related to pet care.

Active dogs can get into trouble; one of the reasons it's essential to have a vet you can trust.

Active dogs can get into trouble; one of the reasons it’s essential to have a vet you can trust.

Is Your Vet AAHA Accredited?

How do you know if your vet is accredited? There are two ways:

1) Look for the AAHA logo on their website or at their office. aahalogodedicated_cmyk

2) Use the AAHA-accredited hospital locator to search for your vet. You can also use it find all AAHA veterinary practices near you.

The Best Part: Enter to win a $50 credit at the AAHA-accredited veterinary practice of your choice.

AAHA credit sweepstakes horizontal Life with Dogs and Cats

I was lucky enough to be chosen by AAHA to offer this credit to my readers. One lucky entrant will win a $50 credit to be used at an AAHA-accredited hospital.

Use the Rafflecopter tool to enter below.

Please note that while AAHA covers the U.S. and Canada, this prize is only applicable for U.S. practices.

Congratulations to the winner: L. Harbert!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sweepstakes can also be found on the following sites:


26 Comments on "An AAHA Moment: How I Found the Best Vet for My Dogs and Cats"

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  1. Love the list of your calls. When I first became a dog mom, I called my vet regularly. It’s probably why he wasn’t my biggest fan. He thought I was nuts. So I got a new vet who loved that I called regularly – better safe than sorry.

  2. Kitties Blue says:

    I am happy to say that our vet is AAHA accredited. We have been going to the same vet since the mid-80s, and I will never change. I won’t go into any details, but they have gone above and beyond more times than I can count, and they always come to the house to do our yearly wellness visit for all eight…what we call the yearly round-up. I’ll be back later to enter the raffle. Hugs, Janet

  3. suzanprincess says:

    Thanks for today’s informative post; I’m pleased to learn my long-time vet is AAHA accredited. I’ve forwarded this post to my granddogter’s papa, aka my son, and suggested he subscribe and also use the locator to find a new local vet. Their beloved vet retired and the replacement is not satisfactory to either client, so they want to find a good local one to augment Sydney-dog’s across-town oncologist.

  4. I searched for our AAHA vet after discovering them through the BlogPaws conference. It makes a huge difference in the care my boys receive. I now have both of my kids using an AAHA vet for their pets.

  5. Earl Lover says:

    Finding a good vet is so important!

  6. Emma says:

    Finding a good vet is not easy. We went through quite a few before we found ours. A good vet is very important.

  7. We’re vet hunting so I’ll keep this in mind! It’s super important to do vet research… a vet by us has been convicted of mis-using prescription drugs and assault.

  8. Ellen Pilch says:

    You have had a lot of emergencies over the years. A good vet is very important.

  9. Having a good vet is so important! Ours is not AAHA accredited, but we still like her. 🙂

  10. So glad you found such a wonderful vet!

  11. Clever title! Goodness, that’s quite the list of reasons to call your vet! Our vet is AAHA certified. But we lucked out for finding a good vet. When we moved back to San Diego, I just asked my sis for a recommendation. She’d already done all the hard part and found a great vet. We’ve been going to him for 3 consecutive dogs now!

  12. Deziz World says:

    Dat’s pawsum Gweat posty. Weez currently lookin’ fur a new VET so this is weally helpful.

    Luv ya’

    Dezi and Lexi

  13. Laura says:

    Over the summer, we had to take our husky/ pit/ Russian wolfhound mix to the vet for a copperhead bite to the lip. To the tune of $450! Luckily her brother the beagle didn’t get bite defending her.

  14. I did a major search 4 years ago when I was getting Truffle and Brulee as kittens. I was thankful I found an AAHA accredited vet at Cherokee Trail Veterinary Hospital.

  15. Sara B. says:

    My vet isn’t accredited but they have proven themselves knowledgable and competent.

  16. Susan P. says:

    My vet is AAHA-accredited and on the locator. I use them for boarding my cats and they have the best cat condos and assistants. Dr. Kugler diagnosed one of my cats with ear infections and he healed up quickly. He had been scratching his head and was tearing up his face. I really like Dr. K (as everyone calls her) and the care she shows for the animals.

  17. Jill H says:

    I’m not sure if my Vet is but I’m I like that he allows me to put my input & he usually does what I ask & is considerate of me & my animals. he also did his residency with another vet I totally trust.

  18. Abbie says:

    I don’t think they are AAHA certified, but they are a pretty small practice, so I’m not surprised. We absolutely love our vet because he listens to us, is very knowledgeable, and most importantly is good with the dogs. He goes slowly, and will take the time he needs so that they are comfortable, rather than just rushing through it and getting done so he can move on. Our dogs love him, and they are much less stressed than with other vet offices we’ve been to trying to find a good one. He is a good 45 minutes away from us, too, but is well worth the drive. We have five vets within walking distance of our house, but they aren’t as good as our vet. ☺ I like the sound of AAHA, though, and will keep it in mind if/when I need a new vet, cause we all know that will happen some day! Thanks for spreading the word!

  19. Amy Orvin says:

    I believe that my vet is AAHA accredited and that’s important to me because I look for a hospital that has passed the highest standards in veterinary care for my fur babies.

  20. Joy Q says:

    My vet is accredited. I just like that AAHA vets follow guidelines set forth by AAHA and that AAHA does go out and makes sure they are following those guidelines.

  21. Jeannette Harkin says:

    My vet is AAHA-accredited and she is great. Our vet is extremely knowledgable, down to earth, and reasonably priced. We really trust her with our dogs!

  22. Cindy Peterson says:

    My vet is AAHA accredited. This is important as they follow unbiased set standards of excellence.

  23. stacey grantham says:

    Yes, Marion Veterinary Hospital is AAHA accredited and Dr. Lee has been wonderful for our German Shepherd, Ryka.

  24. Birdiebee says:

    Yes, our vet is AAHA-accredited. It matters because I know that my pets are getting the best care as they have standards they follow.

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