Since it was first established, the Feline Advisory Bureau has been committed to increasing knowledge about the diseases that affect pet cats, and raising awareness of the vital role of top quality veterinary treatment.
In recent years the importance of the cat as the number one pet in the UK has been reflected in an increased number of practices that go out of their way to cater for the needs of the cat-owning public. There are now some practices that routinely treat only cats, while some others have been able to devote a branch surgery to their feline patients.
If you are looking for a vet for your cat, your first priority should be to seek out a practice that offers a high standard of care and facilities, with staff that seem both knowledgeable and caring. Ideally you should take this one step further, by seeking out a veterinary surgeon who has a genuine interest in the treatment of cats, and an empathy with cats and their owners. Once you find your ideal feline vet, aim to build up a lasting relationship based on mutual trust and respect, so that you can work together for the long-term benefit of your pet.
Premises need not necessarily be grandiose for a practice to be good, but many owners prefer adequate parking reasonably close by. Most practices offer an appointment system nowadays, but you should be able to get an appointment at short notice for urgent problems. Some branch surgeries will only have the most basic equipment to hand, but there should be ready access to the full range of nursing and surgical backup at a nearby clinic or hospital. Hygiene is very important and the reception area should be clean and well-maintained. Most practices prefer to examine and treat cats in the surgery where all the facilities and nursing assistance are readily available, and this will also work out to be less expensive for you. If you feel that house calls may be important, you should establish the practice policy on this at the outset.
The reception and nursing staff should wear clean uniforms, and be courteous and well trained. Qualified veterinary nurses usually wear a dark green uniform and a distinctive VN badge. Barring any recent accidents, the practice should be well-ventilated and odour-free.
A 24-hour emergency service is something that every veterinary practice is obliged to provide by their governing body, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Some work a rota with other surgeries in the area for out of hours duties, others may make use of a central clinic. Find out what the arrangements are, and make sure they are acceptable to you should the necessity to make use of them arise. Although you should be prepared to travel some distance to a really good surgery, you should also be satisfied that the surgery is sufficiently close to hand should an emergency arise.
Diagnostic facilities must include access to suitable laboratory services. Many practices have their own laboratory facilities so that at least the most routine tests can be carried out in-house, giving results on the same day as the sample is taken. Radiography is essential for the diagnosis of many internal disorders such as lung disease and intestinal obstructions, as well as tumours and damaged bones. Ultrasound is also increasingly used. Electrocardiographs, or ECGs, are also becoming more commonly available in general practice to assist with the diagnosis of heart problems. Together with respiratory monitors and blood gas analysers, they also have an important role to play in the monitoring of cats whilst under anaesthesia, and during recovery. It would also be useful if the practice had access to blood pressure monitoring equipment.
Surgical and nursing facilities should provide a modern and well equipped operating theatre, with hospitalisation facilities that are geared up to the needs of cats. Intensive care facilities for acutely sick cats can be a life saver, and in an ideal situation, nursing should be available around the clock when required. Dentistry has become a major part of most small animal practices, with most offering basic procedures such as ultrasonic dental de-scaling, polishing, and extractions if necessary. Some practices have developed a special interest in dental care and can offer services such as root fillings and dental crowns.
There is no control over titles such as ‘Veterinary Clinic' or ‘Veterinary Centre', so titles such as those have no bearing upon the standard of care provided. The term ‘ Veterinary Hospital ' is specifically defined under the terms of the Veterinary Surgeon's Act, and a practice has to conform to a whole range of standards, including the provision of suitable hospitalisation facilities and round-the-clock nursing when necessary.
You may see a sign proclaiming that a practice is registered as conforming to ‘BSAVA Standards'. The British Small Animal Veterinary Association lay down a less demanding list of requirements that any self-respecting practice should be able to meet. In both cases, inspections may be carried out to ensure that the requirements are being met.
Signs of a ‘cat friendly' practice
Although not always practicable, a separate cat waiting area or at least the availability of special appointments away from other species is certainly a sign that the practice is aware of the need to cater for cat owners.
There are currently no specialist qualifications in feline medicine or surgery, but veterinary surgeons may have taken courses leading to further qualifications in subjects such as dermatology (skin disease) or ophthalmology (eye disease), which could well be relevant to the treatment of your cat. While a veterinary surgeon does not have to pass any examination to become a member of the Feline Advisory Bureau or the European Society of Feline Medicine (ESFM), membership does suggest a particular interest in feline medicine. It is worth asking your local practices whether one or more of their veterinary surgeons are members. To view the list of FAB/ESFM practice members click here...
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