What Is an Animal Hospital?

Different types of animals.
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  • Written By: K. K. Lowen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 30 March 2014
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An animal hospital is a medical facility that offers care to non-human patients. Some animal hospitals treat many different kinds of animals, while others specialize in one type of animal. Hospitals for animals typically feature the services of a trained veterinarian. The hospitals may offer a range of services, and although many offer only light care including immunizations and prescriptions, others offer a full range of services, such as surgery and physical therapy.

To let the public know that an animal hospital meets certain standards, accreditation is often available from veterinary organizations. Individual accreditation organizations may have different rules and regulations, and policies also may vary from country to country. Common standards may require that veterinary hospitals have proper medical equipment available to diagnose health problems and that staff members record and maintain certain types of documents. Another common accreditation criteria is employing at least one licensed veterinarian.

Some animal hospitals specialize in one or a small number of animals. Cat hospitals and dog hospitals are common because dogs and cats are two of the most popular types of pets. Horse hospitals are also common. There are hospitals for farm animals, but they are not as typical because many times it is inconvenient to move livestock to a hospital. Some animal hospitals may have a mobile unit that can function as an ambulance, transporting a veterinarian to a location in which urgent care is needed.


An animal hospital may provide emergency care, whereas others do not. Some facilities allow individuals to bring injured or sick animals for immediate medical care. Many animal hospitals operate strictly on an appointment basis, while others accept animals at any time of the night or day.

Payment methods also may vary from one hospital to another. Some animal hospitals are similar to community care clinics for humans, offering reduced prices, flexible payment schedules, and even free services. Other hospitals for animals may have strict payment policies with no sliding scale fees or free services.

An animal hospital may offer a variety of services. Beyond treating injuries and diseases, many hospitals also provide regular pet check-ups and pet prescription refills. Some animal hospitals offer elective surgery for pets, such as cosmetic procedures or laser eye surgery. Animal hospitals may participate in other types of non-medical activities as well, including pet placement, animal rescue, and educational services.

Some individuals who keep exotic pets must travel great distances to locate proper animal care. Animal hospitals that can offer full services for exotic pets can be difficult to find, but they do exist. For some health issues involving exotic pets, the veterinary medicine provided at an animal hospital could be insufficient. When an exotic pet has a severe health issue, its owner may need to seek an expert in zoologic medicine rather than trying to locate an animal hospital.


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