Pet owner perceptions of veterinary hospitals are declining, while awareness of veterinary hospital accreditation has increased, according to fresh survey results released by AAHA.

AAHA Chief Executive Officer Michael Cavanaugh, DVM, DABVP C/F (Emeritus) presented the new data during the AAHA Opening Session in Nashville during the AAHA Yearly Conference.

AAHA contracted with third-party Trone Brand Energy —a full-service advertising, research, and branding agency with a passion for pets—to conduct the survey in fall 2016. The survey was a follow-up to pet owner research Trone had conducted for AAHA in 2013. The research sought to shed light on one of the biggest questions in veterinary medicine: What are pet owners thinking?

Results indicate while perceptions of veterinary hospitals’ value have decreased in 2016, awareness of AAHA accreditation and its value have increased.

Pet owner perceptions toward AAHA accreditation were positive in 2013, and continued to increase in 2016:

  • 30% of pet owners reported they looked for an accredited hospital the last time they chose a veterinary hospital (compared to 16% in 2013)
  • 62% of pet owners reported it is important to find an accredited veterinary hospital (compared to 51% in 2013)

After learning what AAHA accreditation is:

  • 85% of pet owners would choose an AAHA-accredited hospital over a nonaccredited hospital (compared to 81% in 2013)
  • 58% of pet owners would be willing to pay more for the assurance that comes from choosing an AAHA-accredited hospital (compared to 44% in 2013)
  • 63% of pet owners would drive farther for an AAHA-accredited hospital (compared to 51% in 2013)

Results also indicated overall pet owner perceptions of veterinary hospitals have decreased:

  • 79% of pet owners believe their veterinary hospital provides appropriate staff education and training (compared to 84% in 2013)
  • 75% of pet owners believe their veterinary hospital adheres to the latest standards (compared to 83% in 2013)
  • 76% of pet owners believe their veterinary hospital has appropriate facilities (compared to 82% in 2013)
  • 80% of pet owners believe their veterinary staff works as a team (compared to 86% in 2013)
  • 70% of pet owners believe their veterinary hospital provides good value (compared to 76% in 2013)

“While the news of overall pet owner perception of veterinary hospitals is discouraging, we were pleased to see an increase in attitudes toward accredited hospitals,” Cavanaugh said. “Given the decline in hospital ratings, there may be growing receptivity toward hearing and learning about the value of accreditation. Increasing accreditation awareness and relevancy among pet owners is one of AAHA’s top initiatives; these insights reveal that significant progress is being made.”

The data also revealed an increased opportunity to reach pet owners online. Word of mouth is still the primary factor for selecting a new veterinarian, but it has decreased to 53% (down from 62% in 2013). In addition, finding an AAHA-accredited hospital through an online directory has increased to 79% (up from 68%) and looking for accreditation on veterinary websites has also increased to 44% (up from 38%). This indicates the growing importance of online searches, particularly for millennials.

“The research from Trone puts hard data behind what we already know to be true: Pet owners are increasingly seeking out AAHA-accredited hospitals,” Cavanaugh said. “We are proud to be able to help veterinary hospitals provide excellent care for their patients.”

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