Grey British shorthair cat with orange eyes

Animal hospitals will usually take a pet overnight.

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Finding an animal hospital near you

By Dr. Liz Barton MA, VetMB, MRCVS Veterinarian

Updated on the

There's a clear difference between a veterinary clinic and an animal hospital. Read on to find out when you should turn to one or the other.

Do you know the difference between a vets clinic and an animal hospital?

Because it's not obvious when you first become the owner of a pet, but you'll need to know at some point. 

What is a veterinary clinic?

A veterinary clinic or practice is a place of work for vets and vet nurses to see your pets for routine appointments. Most clinics have operating facilities for basic procedures. You can find out about veterinary clinics near you here.

What is an animal hospital?

An animal hospital is a veterinary clinic that also has facilities to care for animals overnight and carry out more complex procedures, such as endoscopy and surgery. To be accredited by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), a veterinary hospital must provide 24-hour nursing care for in-patients, with a vet available at all times.

How do I get free vet care in the UK?

If you are worried that you can’t afford a vet, you may be eligible for support from animal welfare charities, such as the PDSA, Blue Cross or RSPCA. Your eligibility for free care depends on what means-tested benefits you qualify for, and whether you live in the catchment area for a charity clinic. To find out who qualifies for free veterinary care, contact the charities directly. You may be able to take your cat or dog to a clinic run by the PDSA, Blue Cross or RSPCA, if you live nearby. If they are unable to see your dog or cat, they may be able to subsidise treatment for your pet at a local private veterinary practice.

How do you get pet insurance?

You can buy pet insurance from many providers, usually by direct debit. Different providers offer varied cover for a range of problems, from emergencies-only through to chronic conditions. It’s important to check if your pet is insured for life, the amount they are insured for per condition, per year, and whether there are any insurance exclusions on the policy. The PDSA, Blue Cross and RSPCA have their own recommended insurance policies.

Do corporate practices do home visits?

Most veterinary practices, whether corporate or independent, will be able to visit your pet in the home. Try to give the vets as much notice as possible, if you think you need a home visit, as they will have to arrange it around consultations and operations in the clinic.

How do I get rid of my dog if I don't want it?

There are many rehoming charities that will ensure your dog finds the best home possible. Rehoming through established centres such as the RSPCA, Blue Cross or Wood Green ensures that your pet will be checked by a vet and is up to date with preventative care, such as vaccinations, and flea and worming treatments. Your pet will be assessed by dog behaviour experts and matched to suitable new owners to maximise the chance of finding a happy forever home. If you choose to rehome through the internet or social media platforms, you cannot guarantee that your dog will receive the correct treatment and care, or that they will find a suitable home.

Can I take my dog in a taxi?

If you contact local taxi companies then you'll find that some of them may be happy to take dogs, but some of them may also refuse. It is the decision of the individual driver. Ask at the time of booking the taxi to avoid disappointment. If your dog is unwell and you are concerned it may be sick in a taxi, contact the nearest vets, so that they can let you know if there is a local pet transport or ambulance service.

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