Choosing a Veterinarian: The Certification to Look For

shutterstock_121844566Like most us, when it comes to choosing a veterinarian, I choose carefully. Criteria number one is that I visit an American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) accredited practice.

I’ve been around the veterinary world for over 20 years writing and broadcasting about companion animals. I’ve presented at all the major U.S. veterinary conferences on numerous occasions, and have spoken at veterinary conferences and shelter events around the world. I’m also certified as animal behavior consultant. Still, I’m not a veterinarian. So, at the end of the day, I am just another pet owner, albeit an educated pet owner.

The truth is that not all veterinary practices are equal. Let’s be real; how can they all be equal?

For my pets, I want to be assured the clinic I visit with our pets is a cut above the rest – that’s AAHA accreditation. Only 15 percent of the nation’s veterinary clinics are AAHA accredited.

I’m a pretty savvy pet parent – but how could I possible know what anesthetic cocktail is being delivered, the type of continuing education the certified veterinary technicians at a practice receive, how efficiently vaccines are being stored or that appropriate pain management based on AAHA Guidelines is offered behind-the-scenes, as only a few examples.

However, if the practice is AAHA accredited, you know that a gazillion standards (actually over 900) are being met or exceeded.

I’m not suggesting clinics not AAHA certified can’t excel, as many do. However, there’s no way for clients to KNOW for a fact that indeed those clinics do excel without that AAHA that accreditation.

Established back in 1933 by leaders in the veterinary profession, AAHA was created to follow human medicine accreditation for those going above and beyond what is required. However, even all these years later, AAHA is the only available accreditation in veterinary medicine.

To become accredited, companion animal hospitals undergo regular comprehensive evaluations by AAHA veterinary experts who assess on all those 900 or so standards. It’s expected that the standards include specific equipment and medical protocols. However, even recording an appropriate greeting on the telephone is included. The accreditation isn’t only for the doctors; it’s for the entire staff.

Of course, veterinary medicine is always changing. To ensure AAHA practices are maintaining relevance, practices require recertification every three years.

If you want the best – and be assured of the very best for your pets, look for the AAHA logo on a practice’s website and on their front door, or visit the AAHA practice locator at

Steve is a certified animal behavior consultant, and the author of several books, including ebooks “Good Cat!” and “Good Dog!” He’s a co-editor of “Decoding Your Dog” (by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists” which Victoria wrote the foreword. He’s the host of several radio shows, including nationally syndicated Steve Dale’s Pet World, and can be heard on WGN Radio, Chicago. He has a long list of TV credits., from Oprah to Animal Planet shows, including his current appearances on “HouseSmarts TV. He serves on several Boards, including Winn Feline Foundation.
His website/blog:

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily state or reflect those of Victoria Stilwell. 

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Positively Expert: Steve Dale

Steve is a certified dog and cat behavior consultant, has written several books, hosts two nationally syndicated radio shows, and has appeared on numerous TV shows including "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "National Geographic Explorer," and "Pets Part of the Family." Steve’s blog is


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