Veterinary specialty hospital

Human-Style Veterinary Care: My Dog’s Experience

When my dog Baxter was sick, I wished that he could tell me what was wrong. “Does it hurt? What are you feeling?”

Unfortunately, he couldn’t answer me.

But I feel we got as close as possible to the answer through a consultation at a veterinary hospital that takes the human model of care and translates it to animals.

Our previous veterinary experience had been, in my opinion, pretty typical. Yearly check-ups, vaccinations, a teeth cleaning and some stitches for an injury.

Our local vet clinic is typical with its single waiting room, exam rooms, surgery rooms, a recovery/kennel area and some outdoor space. The staff do x-rays, blood and urine tests, surgeries, examinations and prescriptions.

The team there has always been kind, knowledgeable and conscientious. But as Baxter’s illness remained a mystery, they were limited.

Cat at the veterinary specialty hospital
Image courtesy of Animal Health Partners

So, our local vet referred us to a veterinary specialty hospital called Animal Health Partners in Toronto. We hoped that their expertise and diagnostic abilities would help us find an answer of what was happening.

Veterinary specialty hospital – Animal Health Partners

As I looked up Animal Health Partners online, I felt like we were going to the best place for us.

I had known that human-style animal care existed, but I had never experienced it, and I was immediately blown away.

The specialties of the vets, the technology available and the procedures they offered were equal to or beyond that of human hospitals! There were more than 20 vets on staff. They focused on reducing stress, fear and pain. There was a lab and pharmacist onsite.

They had departments for:

  • neurology
  • internal medicine
  • medical imaging
  • surgery
  • cardiology
  • anesthesiology
  • an ICU
  • 24/7 emergency services

Here is a video showing more about Animal Health Partners:

Even the decor is thoughtful. The walls are painted yellow, blue and grey, colours dogs can see. There are multiple waiting areas and lounges for clients, and separate waiting areas for dogs and cats. Animal Health Partners only treats dogs and cats, and their clientele is about 70 percent dogs and 30 percent cats.

Our appointment was with internal medicine. This department focuses on gastrointestinal, renal, immune-mediated, urinary, infectious, hepatic, and respiratory conditions.

Our regular vet had provided all of Baxter’s medical records in advance. I then had a detailed intake conversation with one of the technicians where I went over everything that had been happening, what I’d observed, what we’d done, and what my own opinions were.

Teach your dog leave it
My dog Baxter (at home)

The staff seemed to want as much information as possible. I never felt rushed or intimidated. They made me feel comfortable and confident that they had Baxter’s best interest at heart.

Ultrasound for my dog Baxter

My big wish for our appointment was an ultrasound. Our family vet had recommended that as the next step for Bax, but it wasn’t something they were able to perform at our clinic.

An ultrasound was going to be part of our appointment—in fact, it seemed to be a standard part of most internal medicine appointments. And if we needed more assessments, Animal Health Partners also had CT, MRI, endoscopic and numerous other imaging options.

Despite all of the tools available to the vets, Baxter’s diagnosis was still inconclusive after his appointment with internal medicine. They also noticed neurological symptoms, which led the internal medicine vet to consult with the neurological department.

Siemens 3T Magnetom Skyra MRI
Image courtesy of Animal Health Partners

Having all of this expertise available in one place was very helpful. I felt like they were looking at Baxter’s case from multiple perspectives and were committed to finding an answer for us.

Neurology is one of the specialties of Animal Health Partners. They have advanced imaging capabilities that rival those of many hospitals, including high-field MRI (3 Tesla) and 32-slice CT.

They are able to diagnose and treat:

  • weakness
  • paralysis
  • pain
  • seizures
  • movement disorders
  • balance issues
  • and cognitive changes
Cat at the vet at a veterinary specialty hospital
Image courtesy of Animal Health Partners

Ultimately, Baxter’s condition had worsened so much that I decided not to put him through further tests. But the vets still supported me, offering advice over the phone and by email. They asked me to describe what was happening and send videos so they could see his behaviour themselves.

Cost of care at a veterinary specialty hospital

Vet care is expensive. A specialty clinic like Animal Health Partners, with its specialized tests, equipment and procedures is extra expensive. I thought about cost ahead of time and knew I was wiling to spend about $1,000. At the end of the day, after opting in to additional tests and filling a prescription, I paid close to $1,500.

Veterinary neurology
Image courtesy of Animal Health Partners

I realize that not everyone has access to a clinic like Animal Health Partners, whether it’s not available in your area or it’s not affordable for you.

When your pet is sick and can’t tell you what is wrong, you want the best diagnostic options possible, and I feel that’s a major benefit that human-style clinics like Animal Health Partners offer.

Animal Health Partners is the type of place that you hope you never have to go to. But, when I needed it, I was grateful that it is there.

Vets checking anesthesia during a procedure at Animal Health Partners
Image courtesy of Animal Health Partners

What specialty healthcare have you experienced with your pet?

Julia Preston writes for That Mutt about dog behavior and training, working dogs and life on her farm in Ontario, Canada. She has a sweet, laid-back boxer mix named Baxter. She is also a blogger at Home on 129 Acres where she writes about her adventures of country living and DIY renovating.

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