American Animal Hospital Association

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American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) corporate logo.jpg

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) is a non-profit organization for companion animal veterinary hospitals. Established in 1933, the association is the only accrediting body for small animal hospitals in the U.S. and Canada. The association develops benchmarks of excellence, business practice standards, publications and educational programs. Any veterinary hospital can join AAHA as a member, but must then pass an evaluation in order to receive AAHA accreditation.


The American Animal Hospital Association was founded by seven leaders of the veterinary profession in 1933.[1] From its inception, AAHA focused on promoting high-quality standards for the rapidly evolving sector of small animal private practice through accreditation and other initiatives. The 1960s saw the establishment of an organization staff and normalization of many of the policies and processes AAHA adheres to today. The first paid practice consultants were hired, and AAHA grew into a more professionally managed organization.

Rapid growth in membership and member services occurred in the 1960s and early 1970s with the development of additional education programs and publications for veterinary professionals. Significant change occurred in the early- to mid-1980s, when AAHA added services in the area of veterinary practice management and relocated from Indiana to Denver, Colo.

Today AAHA claims to be known internationally for professional development, hospital accreditation standards, and educational programs. [2]

The purpose of the American Animal Hospital Association is to:

  • Enhance the abilities of veterinarians to provide quality medical care to companion animals
  • Enable veterinarians to successfully conduct their practices and maintain their facilities with high standards of excellence
  • Meet the public's needs as they relate to the delivery of small animal veterinary medicine

AAHA Accreditation[edit]

Unlike human hospitals, veterinary hospitals are not required to be accredited. Accredited hospitals are the only hospitals in the U.S. and Canada that choose to be evaluated on approximately 900 quality standards that go above and beyond basic state regulations,[3] ranging from patient care and pain management to staff training and advanced diagnostic services. A complete list of accredited hospitals in the U.S. and Canada can be found using the AAHA hospital locator tool.[4]

To become AAHA-accredited, practices undergo a rigorous evaluation process to ensure they meet the AAHA Standards of Accreditation, which include the areas of: Patient care, diagnostic imaging, laboratory, pain management, pharmacy, safety, surgery, client service, anesthesia, contagious disease, continuing education, dentistry, examination facilities, medical records, leadership and emergency/urgent care.[5] To maintain accredited status, hospitals undergo comprehensive on-site evaluations every three years, which ensures that hospitals are compliant with the Association's mandatory standards.

Because the accreditation process is so thorough and rigorous, some states are beginning to accept AAHA accreditation in lieu of state inspections. Alabama was the first state in the United States to accept AAHA accreditation in place of a state inspection by the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.[6] The Alabama decision has shown that the 900-plus standards of accreditation set a high standard for how animal hospitals should be run.

Veterinary specialty hospitals can become accredited as a "Referral" practice. AAHA-accredited referral practices are required to have a board-certified veterinarian on staff for each specialty within the clinic. For example, a hospital accredited as a surgery referral and also an oncology referral, must have a board-certified surgeon and a board-certified oncologist on staff. Currently, approximately 225 veterinary referral practices are accredited by AAHA.[7]


AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool[edit]

The AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool[8] is an internet-based application that enables veterinarians, humane organizations and pet owners to serve various participating pet recovery service registries and identify those registries on which a particular microchip is registered. The tool was developed to help alleviate the guesswork for veterinary hospitals, animal control facilities and shelter staff members by searching the databases of companies that elect to participate in the program.

The tool works by checking the databases of the participating pet recovery service registries to determine which has registration available for a microchip. Once a microchip identification number is entered into the tool, a list of all the registries with microchip registration information available, along with the registries' contact information, appears in chronological order with the registry with the most recent update appearing first. While the tool will not return the pet owner information contained in the registries' databases, it will identify which registries should be contacted when a lost pet is scanned and a microchip is found.


AAHA produces guidelines developed by teams of veterinary experts that provide recommendations to improve the quality of pet health care in a veterinary practice. Guidelines are reviewed periodically to ensure that they are accurate and up-to-date with leading data and trends in the veterinary profession.

The AAHA Guidelines include:

  • AAHA Anesthesia Guidelines for Dogs and Cats[9]
  • AAHA Canine Life Stage Guidelines[10]
  • AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines[11]
  • AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats[12]
  • AAHA Diabetes Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats [13]
  • AAFP/AAHA Feline Life Stage Guidelines[14]
  • AAHA Fluid Therapy Guidelines for Dogs and Cats [15]
  • AAHA Mentoring Guidelines [16]
  • AAHA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines for Dogs and Cats [17]
  • AAHA/AVMA Preventive Healthcare Guidelines[18]
  • AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats [19]
  • AAHA Referral Guidelines[20]
  • AAHA Senior Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats [21]
  • Basic Guidelines of Judicious Therapeutic Use of Antimicrobials [22]

Position statements[edit]

The AAHA Board of Directors have adopted position statements on many pet health and animal welfare issues. Position statements are reviewed periodically to ensure that they are current and up-to-date with the latest research.

  • Analgesics
  • Animal Abuse Reporting
  • Animal Identification
  • Animal Welfare
  • Animals Used in Spectator Events and for Exhibition
  • Canine Devocalization
  • Dangerous Animal Legislation
  • Declawing (Onychectomy)
  • Ear Cropping/Tail Docking
  • Euthanasia
  • Frequency of Veterinary Visits
  • Good Samaritan
  • Humane Restraint of Animals
  • Leghold Traps
  • Meeting the Cost of Pet Care
  • Non-Economic Damages
  • Pediatric Neutering (Gonadectomy/Ovariohysterectomy/Orchiectomy) of Companion Animals
  • Pet Food Handling
  • Pet Overpopulation
  • Raw Protein Diet
  • Radiofrequency Identification Devices (RFID; Microchip)
  • Use of Animals in Education and Research
  • Sentient Beings
  • Vaccine Issues
  • Wild Animals as Pets

Partners for Healthy Pets[edit]

Partners for Healthy Pets (PHP)[23] was founded by AAHA and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) to address the widespread decline in preventive care visits to the veterinarian. The group is composed of more than 20 leading veterinary associations and animal health companies and is committed to combating the increasing prevalence of serious diseases and the declining health of pets. Research has shown that even though the pet population is increasing, visits to veterinary hospitals have declined every year for nearly a decade.[24] Partners for Healthy Pets works to ensure that pets receive the preventive healthcare they deserve through regular visits to a veterinarian.

Experts agree that the decrease in regular visits can lead to an increase in preventable and treatable illnesses in dogs and cats. This includes diabetes, ear infections, and dental disease.[24] A 2011 survey of veterinary professionals revealed that declining pet healthcare visits are recognized as a problem and identified communication issues and the education of the value of preventive healthcare to pet owners as factors that impact the downturn.

Pet Nutrition Alliance[edit]

The Pet Nutrition Alliance (PNA)[25] was created by veterinary organizations including the American Animal Hospital Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) and others to help raise awareness about the importance of proper pet nutrition, and the value of nutritional assessments for every pet, every time. The PNA is a response to the education gap in providing nutritional assessments and proper nutrition for pets. With 55% of U.S. dogs and cats overweight in the United States (according to a 2012 survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention[26]), proper nutrition is more important now than ever before. With the rise of obesity, dogs and cats are at an increased risk for weight-related disorders such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, hypertension, and many cancers.

Veterinary Education[edit]

AAHA is recognized as a leading provider of staff training and continuing education for the veterinary industry. AAHA has educational programs for virtually every veterinary team member, including veterinarians, practice owners, practice managers, veterinary technicians, veterinary assistants and front-office staff members. The AAHA conference was the first veterinary conference to host live-streaming surgeries for veterinary professionals.[27]

The AAHA Yearly Conference[28] is the only conference that focuses exclusively on companion animal care. It has been one of the most respected forums for the sharing of both scientific and management knowledge in the veterinary profession since 1934.

Pet Owner Education[edit]

AAHA works to spread credible pet health information and raise awareness about accreditation of veterinary hospitals. AAHA's pet health library includes a variety of credible, reliable pet health care information for dogs,[29] cats[30] and other small animals.[31]


AAHA produces a variety of resources for veterinary professionals and pet owners:

  • AAHA Press: AAHA Press, the publishing arm of the American Animal Hospital Association, is an internally regarded publisher and distributor of titles for veterinary care providers and pet owners.[32]
  • Trends magazine: Trends magazine is the premier business and practice management magazine for veterinary professionals. The magazine offers big-picture perspectives and proven strategies that veterinary professionals can use to enhance their patient care and operate their practice more effectively and profitably.[33]
  • Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association (JAAHA): JAAHA is the official scientific veterinary journal of the American Animal Hospital Association. The peer-reviewed journal is published online and in print bimonthly.[34]
  • NEWStat: NEWStat is a weekly veterinary e-newsletter and blog that covers veterinary breaking news, intriguing veterinary trends, innovative new research and technology, and legislation that could affect practices locally and nationwide.[35]


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