Locally-Owned in Oakdale and St. Paul, Minnesota

Veterinary Teaching Hospital or Private Referral Hospital for My Pet

Veterinary Teaching Hospital or Private Referral Hospital: What’s Best for My Pet?

Veterinary teaching hospitals exist mostly to train new veterinarians using the latest research, techniques and equipment. If you go to a teaching hospital for care for your pet, you become one part of the education that is being provided to veterinarians. A veterinary teaching hospital usually consists of the following: a major referral hospital that has a full complement of services and specialties, including critical care, cardiology, internal medicine, surgery, dermatology, dentistry, ophthalmology, and so on. Patients will often be referred to a veterinary teaching hospital from family veterinary clinics or even private referral centers for specialized types of surgeries or expensive advanced diagnostics, like MRI.

A private veterinary referral hospital is also made up of the core specialties listed above, but it may lack the additional sub-specialties that a teaching hospital has—like behavior and oncology. At a private referral hospital, your pet will usually only be seen by board-certified veterinarians as opposed to veterinary students or veterinarians training to be specialists, but not always. At Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, all of our specialty departments are staffed exclusively by board-certified veterinarians, but in some specialty hospitals, that is not the case. If board-certification is important to you, it’s always best to ask.

During a single appointment at a teaching hospital, you and your pet may be seen by students on their rotation through the specialty department, veterinarians in training to become specialists and board-certified specialists. Specialized certified veterinary technicians may also take part in your pet’s care. You will be communicating with veterinary professionals who have a broad range of experience—from students who have never practiced medicine before to board-certified specialists. Your pet may pass through many hands in such an environment. It is important to advocate for your pet so that, amongst the variety of people your pet might see, he or she receives a consistent, high-quality experience.

Going to a private veterinary referral hospital is an experience that usually more closely resembles your trip to your family veterinary clinic. Your pet will usually see one specialist and his or her certified veterinary technician at each appointment. Consistency of care doesn’t become a problem since one person is managing your pet’s care.
If your pet needs to see a specialist, should you take him or her to a teaching hospital or a private referral hospital? Many pet owners consult with their family veterinarian on this question, and if you ask yours, he or she will likely be able to help guide you. In general, however:

Teaching Hospitals

  • Offer the latest and greatest in technology and research
  • Offer interaction with a lot of different veterinary professionals with varying levels of experience
  • May require owners to advocate strongly in order to continuity of care

Private Referral Hospitals

  • Offer an experience more akin to seeing your family veterinarian
  • Are not involved with educating veterinary students or ongoing research projects
  • Are staffed by board-certified veterinarians (but be sure to ask!)

Hopefully, your pet will never need to see a specialist. But if he or she does, it’s good to know what type of referral center is best for your individual needs!



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