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There are many good reasons to choose an AAHA-certified veterinary practice, first and foremost of which is the peace of mind it brings.

I know I’ll always have peace of mind when I choose an AAHA-accredited hospital.

Human hospitals have accreditation organizations like the Joint Commission, which accredits and certifies more than 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. Most insurance companies will only pay out to hospitals accredited by the Joint Commission. But how are you supposed to know whether a veterinary clinic is high-quality and practices the latest in safety and veterinary technology?

I am a BlogPaws Conference Sponsored Blogger on behalf of the American Animal Hospital Association. I am being compensated to help share information about the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) with my readers and fellow Influencers. Neither AAHA or BlogPaws are responsible for the content of this article.

AAHA logoFear not: there is an organization similar to the Joint Commission for veterinary clinics. That organization, the American Animal Hospital Association, known familiarly as AAHA, provides accreditation indicating that veterinary hospitals adhere to the highest standards of care for their animal patients. AAHA is the only organization to accredit vet clinics in the U.S. and Canada.

While AAHA certification is voluntary, many clinics will undergo the certification process so that clients will know their furry (or feathery, or scaly) friends will be as safe as possible in their care.

In addition to setting standards in veterinary care for hospitals that maintain accreditation, AAHA works with leading veterinary industry experts to develop its guidelines. These guidelines are a set of best practices that help guide veterinary teams–who may or may not choose to maintain accreditation–in delivering care for a variety of pet health issues. These guidelines are used industrywide. Although AAHA accreditation isn’t mandatory, its guidelines do function as a helpful tool for veterinary care professionals and pet guardians alike.

The AAHA guidelines can be a great start for a conversation with your veterinarian about the standards and practices for your cat’s veterinary care. Here are a few examples:

AAHA’s mandatory standard for anesthesia is that a qualified team member, whether that individual is a trained veterinary nurse or another veterinarian, must be present to monitor your cat while she’s under anesthesia. Monitoring equipment like EKG machines are also required. If your cat is going to have surgery, ask your veterinarian who will be monitoring your cat before, during and after anesthesia and what equipment might be used to monitor your cat.

The AAHA mandatory standard for pain management is that pain management and assessment must be part of all veterinary exams and surgical procedures and every pet’s evaluation. Ask your veterinarian which pain medications he or she will use before, during and after surgery, and why he or she chose these medications.

AAHA standards include guidelines for appropriate pain management.

I asked about pain management when Thomas had to go in for a dental and have several teeth extracted. I was happy to know they had a great procedure in place.

AAHA’s mandatory standard for dealing with contagious illnesses is that in order to prevent the spread of disease, veterinary hospital policies must include frequent hand-washing, use of antibacterial agents, and disinfection of all patient areas. This seems like it should be obvious, but as I mentioned in my previous post about AAHA, some TV shows about veterinarians show that it isn’t! Ask your vet about whether they have isolation areas for contagious patients and what procedures they use to prevent the spread of disease to healthy patients.

Regarding emergency care, the AAHA mandatory standard is that emergency services or referral to an appropriate hospital are always available. In smaller towns, clinics might choose to rotate which hospital is “on call” for after-hours emergencies (this was the case in the small Maine town where I used to live), or your vet hospital may have information about local 24-hour clinics for after-hours emergencies. Ask your veterinarian about how often they see emergencies and how they deal with them during regular hours. Also ask where you should go if an emergency happens when their clinic is closed. In Seattle, there are a couple of 24-hour hospitals, and my vet has a definite preference about which one to use. (I asked during my first appointment.)

Even if your veterinary hospital isn’t AAHA-accredited, I strongly suggest that you use the AAHA guidelines to start a conversation with your veterinarian about care standards and care planning for your cat. At AAHA’s Pet Owner website, you can see the organization’s guidelines for everything from senior pet care to diet and nutrition and oncology, not to mention the basics I talked about above.

You can also follow AAHA on Facebook and Twitter.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of AAHA. The opinions and text are all mine. Comments submitted may be displayed on other websites owned by the sponsoring brand.