Your companions are important to us, and we treat them like they are our own. As such, we know you have lots of questions regarding their care. Prior to your appointment, please review the following list of frequently asked questions we get from clients. If you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.
A teaching hospital serves to train professional veterinary students, interns and residents in clinical practice by immersing them in the hospital environment. As such, you will interact with veterinary clinical students, interns and residents much as you would at a human teaching hospital.
The University of Missouri Veterinary Health Center is an academic medical center — education of future veterinarians is part of our mission. However, veterinary students never make medical care decisions or perform any procedures without direct and immediate oversight by a licensed veterinarian.
Veterinary students are accepted into the rigorous academic program after completing time in an undergraduate college program, often earning a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree. At the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, our professional degree students spend 2 ½ years in classrooms and laboratories learning about anatomy, physiology and animal disease as well as medicine and surgery. During the final year and a half in the program, the students move from the classroom to the teaching hospital. Here, they work with faculty veterinarians to put into practice what they have learned. Student veterinarians never perform any procedure on any animal until the supervising faculty veterinarian is convinced they can perform the procedure safely, and then only under close supervision.
Our veterinary students are among the best trained in the world thanks to your willingness to let them interact with you and your pet. During your appointment, a student will escort you and your companion to an examination room to obtain a history of your pet’s condition and perform a physical examination. The student will review your pet’s history and exam findings with the clinician, who will then re-examine your pet to confirm the findings before having a discussion with you about various options. We understand that this makes your appointment slightly longer than if you were to go to a private referral practice. However, as one of our missions is to train tomorrow’s veterinarians, we appreciate your patience and understanding.
Interns are licensed veterinarians who are pursuing an additional year of training after earning their doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) degree. These doctors are learning about a select segment of veterinary care in more depth than is possible during four years of a professional veterinary curriculum. Although interns are legally allowed to perform any and all duties of a veterinarian, interns at the teaching hospital manage clinical cases under the close supervision of faculty veterinarians.
Residents are licensed veterinarians who are pursuing additional training in a specific field of specialty medicine, with the goal of becoming a board-certified specialist. Typically, these residents will have already completed not only their veterinary degree, but also a year or two of internship training, and perhaps time in private practice as well. At the end of their residency program, these veterinarians will take stringent examinations to demonstrate their expertise in their chosen field, eventually becoming a board-certified specialist.
Veterinarians must complete a rigorous professional degree program, followed by a set of licensing examinations, in order to practice veterinary medicine. This training gives veterinarians a license to practice all types of medicine and surgery on any non-human animal. However, it is difficult to maintain expertise on every aspect of medicine. Specialists concentrate on a single area and become true experts.
To become a specialist, it is not enough to simply restrict practice and education to a single area. Specialists are recognized after completing a rigorous four to five years of internship and residency training after they earn a veterinary degree. They must also successfully complete a number of additional credentialing steps and examinations. These specialists are said to be “board certified” or diplomates of a given specialty organization. There are a number of such specialty organizations, such as the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, the American College of Veterinary Surgeons and the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists, among others.
Veterinary technicians are essentially the registered nurses of veterinary medicine and surgery. Our hospital employs professional, licensed veterinary technicians who have attended a technical program or college. Many have earned bachelor’s degrees in addition to having passed a professional licensing examination.
Depending on where they went to school and were first licensed, you may see the letters RVT (registered veterinary technician), CVT (certified veterinary technician) or LVT (licensed veterinary technician) after their name. Some of our veterinary technicians have undergone additional training and passed a series of rigorous credentials criteria and examinations to become veterinary technician specialists (VTS). Their expertise far exceeds even that of a typical licensed technician in fields such as veterinary emergency and critical care, physical rehabilitation, oncology, cardiology, equine medicine or other specialized areas.
As a veterinary teaching hospital, the students working with your animal are just that — students. They are in the final phase of a very long process required to become a veterinarian, and this final phase allows them to work on client-owned patients under the close supervision of faculty veterinarians. In addition to collaboration on each case, time is set aside for group learning where all the students and faculty on a given service discuss each patient and topics related to the animal’s care. This is, essentially, class time.
The name “rounds” comes from the idea that the doctors and students walk around from cage to cage to see and discuss the animals, though these days we may conduct rounds in a classroom instead of on the go. During this daily time period, neither the veterinary student nor the veterinarian is available for discussion by phone or in person. However, you should know that even during rounds our technical staff (nurses) can perform tests or treatments on your animal if needed.
Unfortunately, we cannot offer house calls for dogs and cats. However, we do offer farm calls for equines (e.g., horses, donkeys, mules) and food and fiber animals (e.g., cattle, sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas).
Equine ambulatory calls, for either regularly scheduled or emergency care, are generally made within a 40-mile radius of Columbia. Food and fiber animal ambulatory care usually occurs within a 50-mile radius. However, with prior arrangement and a surcharge for fuel costs, we are happy to provide food and fiber animal services at greater distances. Call 573-882-3513 (Equine Hospital) or 573-882-6857 (Food Animal Hospital) to learn if we can accommodate your on-farm needs.
You are welcome to schedule an appointment directly, but for specialty care it may be best to ask your veterinarian to contact us first to discuss which service best meets your animal’s needs.
Our Make an Appointment page provides information about scheduling appointments at each of our hospitals.
Most of our patients are referred to the VHC by their regular veterinarian. This means that the animal’s primary veterinarian recognizes that the VHC offers the expertise of specially trained veterinarians and the facilities and equipment needed to deal with complicated or unusual medical issues.
The referral process allows your animal’s regular veterinarian and the specialists at the VHC to work together to provide optimum care. In order to work as a team, communication is crucial, and it often begins even before the appointment is scheduled. Your regular veterinarian can call us to discuss your animal’s case and decide if a trip to the VHC is warranted, as well as which specialty is best equipped to deal with your animal’s issues. Your veterinarian will email or fax your animal’s medical records before your visit or send paper copies along with you. By having these records on hand, we can avoid repeating tests than have already been performed unless there is a valid need to do so.
Communication continues after your animal is seen at the VHC. We notify your veterinarian about our initial findings and plans. If your animal remains hospitalized, your veterinarian will be given regular updates on its progress. When it is time for your animal to go home, we typically call your veterinarian. In addition, we send copies of the same discharge instructions we provide to you. Within a few days after discharge, we send your veterinarian a detailed letter outlining the entire visit as well as plans for continued care.
This teamwork often continues well after your animal has returned home. We are glad to work with your veterinarian during your animal’s recovery and continued care, even for chronic diseases. Although some recheck examinations might need to be performed at the VHC, often your local veterinarian can examine your animal and discuss the results of those visits with our specialists.
Most of our faculty veterinarians have multiple roles and obligations within the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, including roles in teaching and research. This means that they may rotate “on clinics” and “off clinics.” You are welcome to request a specific veterinarian, but if that doctor is off clinical service, they are likely to be fully engaged in other roles. We will try to accommodate your requests whenever possible. Please know that even if you are seeing a different doctor than usual, we share access to computerized medical records with detailed notes regarding your animal’s history, prior test results and treatments.
During your appointment, the student will obtain a history of your pet’s condition and perform a physical examination. They will review your pet’s history and exam findings with the clinician, who will then re-examine your pet to confirm the findings before having a discussion with you about your options. Because of the many people collaborating on your case, including students, veterinary technicians and veterinarians, your appointment may take longer than you are accustomed to. However, one of our missions is to train tomorrow’s veterinarians, so we appreciate your patience and understanding.
Additionally, unlike other veterinary clinics, the majority of our services are specialty or emergency services. It can take time to fully assess your pet and provide any agreed-upon services. Feel free to ask your student and doctor how long they anticipate your appointment will take.
Hospitalization is possible for dogs and cats, horses, and food or fiber animal patients. This may be necessary either because hospitalization and intensive therapies are required, or when disease investigation takes longer than a single day. We do not offer routine boarding for healthy pets, but we may, on occasion, offer medical boarding for ill animals that require daily medical care.
Our prescription and over-the-counter products are available for VHC patients only. Our pharmacy can only fill prescriptions written by a VHC veterinarian.
More information can be found on our Pharmacy Services page.
It is our policy for medical records to be held in confidence, with the exception of communications with your animal’s regular veterinarian. You may request that we forgo such communications or that we release records to others, such as insurance companies. We will require written confirmation for such exceptions to our general policies.
The Veterinary Health Center is at the forefront of veterinary science, and an important part of what we do is to learn more about animal disease and how it is best treated. We may have ongoing clinical trials that offer investigational therapies that may be better than standard therapies. However, you will always be asked for written permission before your animal is included in any studies, and the study’s risks and benefits will be explained in detail. You may decline participation in any study with no penalty to you or your animal.
Payment is due at the time of service. For cases that cost more than $300, you will be asked to leave a 50 percent deposit, and the remainder will be due at discharge. If you are interested in financing, you can apply for credit with CareCredit.
CareCredit is the accepted financing option at the Veterinary Health Center. For more information or to apply for financing see links below.
- Columbia-Small Animal Cashiers
- Columbia-Small Animal After Hours
- Columbia-Large Animal Clinic
- Wentzville Clinic
For more information about our payment policies, visit our Client Billing page.
Clients with appointments at the Small Animal Hospital can park in the lot north of the Veterinary Health Center. Parking for clients visiting the Food Animal and Equine hospitals is located on the south side of the VHC.
Please do not park in the staff parking lot (marked AV16) to the west of the VHC as your vehicle may be ticketed and/or towed by the MU Police Department.
Visit our Lodging page for information on pet-friendly lodging options in Columbia.