Information for Small Animal Owners

If your vet has referred you and your pet to see one of our specialists, you can find all the information you will need to know about your visit below.

How can I arrange an appointment?

If your pet has a problem that requires a specialist opinion or treatment, your local (“primary”) vet may choose to refer you and your pet to the Animal Health Trust. Your vet will make an appointment, and our Receptionists will send you a letter to confirm the appointment date, and provide you with a map and other relevant information.

Your vet will write a letter summarising your pet’s problems with copies of any relevant blood tests or x-rays; these will be sent in advance, or given to you to bring with you to the appointment.

Please note that clients are not able to make appointments at the clinic themselves. Appointments can only be made by your primary veterinarian.

What will happen on the day of my appointment?

You will receive a letter confirming your appointment with a map and directions. Please note that traffic on the A14 can be very bad during peak times and allow for this in your plans. Traffic may also be bad in the area on racing days in Newmarket. Please call to let us know if you will be delayed as we may be able to rearrange our schedule.

Your confirmation letter will indicate if your pet needs to be starved that morning. This is suggested for many cases where further investigations may be performed.

Your appointment will normally last 30-60 minutes. The vet will take a full history of your pet’s health and lifestyle and perform a thorough examination in the consult room. This, combined with information your own vet has given us, will help decide what happens next. Your pet may be then admitted and hospitalised, or kept in for the rest of the day, to allow investigations to be performed.

We have a coffee shop on site, at the Visitor’s Centre, that provides drinks, snacks and lunches. Newmarket is less than 4 miles away with its shops and museums, and Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds are also within easy reach.

Our friendly reception team will be on hand to meet you.

What happens if my pet is hospitalised?

Some patients will be admitted to the hospital for further tests or for surgery. The clinician in charge of your pet will discuss how long the hospital stay will be and will make arrangements for contacting you regularly.

If your pet requires a special diet, please bring a sufficient quantity for three days, or longer if needed.

At the AHT, infection control is a high priority so we can ensure we provide the small animal patients in our care with a very clean, infection-free environment. This means that if your pet needs to stay with us, unfortunately we aren’t able to accept any leads, collars, harnesses, bedding, toys or cat carriers – but rest assured, we will provide them with very comfortable bedding and suitable toys. Our lovely team in the Small Animal Clinic are happy to answer any questions you may have on this if your pet is due to be admitted.

Our wards are staffed 24 hours a day by veterinary nursing staff so that all animals are kept a careful eye on. Each discipline has a vet on call so that an expert is on hand if special care is needed out of hours.

As you might expect, our vets are very busy with patient care. When you call to check on your pet’s status, please bear with us if you cannot immediately reach the vet in charge of your pet’s case. He/she will return your call as soon as possible. If you wish to visit your hospitalised pet, this must be arranged by the vet in charge of the case.

Our veterinary team will try to answer any questions you may have.

What makes the AHT’s vets so special?

Most of our vets are either qualified specialists in their field of expertise, such as neurology, or are undertaking further training to become specialists. Our vets are highly experienced individuals and most have spent time in general practice before embarking on their journey to become either a European or American Specialist. The only difference between being a European or American Specialist is the vet has followed a European programme or an American programme, but the resulting qualification is fundamentally the same.

In order to achieve specialist status, vets have to complete a one year rotating internship in a university or specialist referral clinic, such as the AHT, after which they can apply for a European or American approved residency in their chosen discipline.

Residencies generally last for three years (and are also offered at the AHT) during which time the resident must complete a published project from their own clinical research and sit final exams. Only then if they pass the exams are they awarded Specialist status.

We have at least one European or American specialist working within each of our disciplines: Dermatology, Internal Medicine, Neurology, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Orthopaedics, Soft Tissue Surgery, Anaesthesia and Diagnostic Imaging.

Then, after five years working in their chosen discipline as a specialist, they can apply to become a Royal College Specialist (RCVS). To be granted this – the highest veterinary specialist status – their application must be supported by two references from peers in their specialist discipline and the RCVS must be satisfied that they have made an active contribution to their specialty, have national and international acclaim and publish widely in their field.

This is the highest qualification a vet can achieve in his or her field of expertise and involves a great deal of hard work, time and commitment. Reaching this level of specialist accreditation takes at least seven years, after initially qualifying as a veterinary surgeon.

At the AHT we currently have eleven Royal College Specialists, and 17 European and American Specialists, working in our Small Animal Centre as well as several residents working towards specialist status which make up our highly skilled and passionate team of vets.

The Animal Health Trust Small Animal Referral Centre is a world class referral and diagnostic service for cats and dogs.

Cost of treatment 

Although our basic charges are similar to primary veterinarians, the extra time, tests, equipment and number of people involved with each pet’s treatment add up to a significantly larger cost. The veterinary medical needs of each patient vary widely, according to their problems. Please discuss the estimated cost of your pet’s medical treatment with the veterinarian in charge of the case when your pet is admitted.

You should be aware, however, that it is not possible for our veterinarians to determine the exact cost of diagnosing and treating your pet’s problems. Since no two pets’ problems or responses are identical, the numbers and kinds of tests and treatments required can seldom be precisely predicted at the time of admission.

Full payment is required at the time of discharge. We accept VISA, Mastercard, American Express, Switch, personal cheques and cash. If your pet is insured, we may be able to claim directly from your insurance company. Please note that direct payment is NOT automatic for all insurance companies; our receptionists will be able to tell you whether your insurance company will provide this service.

For direct insurance claims a £15 administration fee is charged per claim (not including subsequent continuation claims), which will be payable on the day of your appointment.  Indirect insurance claims are handled free of charge.  Further information can be found in the Insurance Claims handout below.

If the cost of your pet’s treatment will exceed the original estimate, it is our policy to notify you as soon as possible. You should also note that we may not be aware of all charges at the time of discharge. You may be billed by mail for ‘supplemental’ charges.

If your pet is being collected outside normal hours (i.e. 9-5pm Mon-Fri), you will be asked to contact our reception staff to arrange payment prior to discharge.

Case Study

Herbert has a lump on his neck and has been referred to the oncology department. At this consultation it is decided that Herbert will need an ultrasound examination and as Herbert is a wriggly dog he will need a light sedation to get the pictures we need to help understand Herbert’s disease. His owner brings him in but only meets one vet and one nurse – but there are many people involved with Herbert’s visit:

  • The oncologist (a vet who specialises in this field) who spends up to an hour examining Herbert and talking to his owner both before and after Herbert’s tests and treatment. They will also look at test results to decide on possible treatment plans, and will write a detailed report back to Herbert’s local vet. They will also speak to Herbert’s owner if they have any worries in between visits.
  • The oncology nurse who will weigh Herbert, take him to Wards and organise and coordinate all of his tests
  • The ward staff who will put Herbert in a clean kennel, feed him, take him for a walk and check on him regularly, and clean the kennel when he leaves
  • An anaesthetist (another vet) who will examine Herbert and plan his sedation and organise the most appropriate drugs for his overall health
  • A diagnostic imager (another vet) who will perform an ultrasound on Herbert and write a report detailing the results
  • If Herbert’s lump needs surgery then a soft tissue surgeon (another vet) will be involved in discussing the surgical options before Herbert is booked a slot for his operation –and that will involve another whole group of people to ensure the best outcome.
  • A receptionist who will book Herbert’s next visit
  • A secretary who will process any insurance paperwork

So you can see that Herbert gets to meet lots of people who are directly involved in his care at his visit to the Animal Health Trust.