We want to make sure that pets are around as long as physically possible. We understand that pets are members of the family. But the bigger picture is that it’s not just about taking care of animals, but taking care of people.
Dr. Lisa Cieply, DVM, Medical Director of VCA Ark Animal Hospital (Chicago, IL)
People care very deeply about their pets—often more than fellow humans. Studies show that many are bothered more by animal suffering than the suffering of our own species. For example, Society and Animals (2017) found that participants had more empathy for human children, puppies, and fully-grown dogs than for humans adults.
Human affinity for our animal companions isn’t anything new. As a species, we have been practicing veterinary science in some form or another for 11,000 years. Egyptians understood the anatomy of animals, like dogs and cattle, and could recognize early warning signs of certain diseases. Today, veterinary clinics are equipped with the same technologies we use on humans, like radiography, laser therapy, lab testing with same-day results, and even physical therapy.
We’ve profiled some of the top animal hospitals in the Midwest region of the U.S. and had the chance to talk to a couple of industry vets (pun intended) about their practices. But before we get into it, let’s lay down the criteria we used when carefully selecting our top five veterinary clinics in the Midwest:
- Top-rated: We looked at each clinic’s average Google business rating out of five stars, as well as the number of times each facility had been rated/reviewed on Google’s review forum. All of the clinics listed have 50 or more reviews to ensure the average star-rating is based on a substantial sample size of customer reviews. (Please note that all ratings are current as of October 2019.)
- Most responsive: Another key element is a clinic’s responsiveness, which can be essential when trying to seek help for a sick pet in a time-sensitive situation. We made sure all the clinics listed have fast response rates based on customers’ experiences.
- Friendly/helpful staff: Taking your pet to the vet can be a stressful experience, so friendly, patient staff is a high priority for pet owners. The clinics we chose had glowing customer reviews in terms of demeanor and knowledge of the staff.
- Facility Attributes: Last but not least, technological capabilities and facility maintenance are also important factors that we took into account. The animal hospitals on this list have up-to-date technology and are kept well-maintained in terms of cleanliness.
So, if you live in the Midwest U.S. and are looking for a quality veterinary center to take your pet to, check out our list below to see the top clinics throughout the region.
VCA Ark Animal Hospital (Chicago, IL)
Rating: 4.5/5 stars – 134 Google reviews
VCA Ark Animal Hospital stands out among the numerous animal clinics in the Chicago metropolitan area for its stellar reviews, comprehensive list of services, and state-of-the-art facilities.
Dr. Lisa Cieply, DVM and medical director of the clinic, took the time to chat with us about her practice. She has now worked at VCA Ark for ten years, becoming the clinic’s medical director in 2016. She’s been passionate about taking care of animals since her youth, growing up in rural Illinois across from her best friend, whose father was a veterinarian and owned a pig farm.
“I got more and more involved with [taking care of] small animals, and at that time, large animals, and maintained a focus on math and science through high school and college,” she said. She received her undergraduate degree in animal science from the University of Illinois, then pursued her DVM from the UI College of Veterinary Medicine, obtaining her degree in 2006. “I had that drive and desire from a very young age and have never wanted to do anything else.”
Cieply is an active member of the veterinary community outside of her lead role at VCA, participating in the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association, the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association, and the American Veterinary Medical Association.
VCA’s philosophy simply boils down to the pet’s health. “That’s the priority. We want to make sure that pets are around as long as physically possible. We understand that pets are members of the family,” Cieply said. “But the bigger picture is that it’s not just about taking care of animals, but taking care of people.”
According to Cieply, the difference between adequacy and excellence, when it comes to the profession, comes down to the more subjective attributes. “If people understand and see the value of what we’re doing, that’s huge. You have to tell them the ‘why.’ It’s all about communication,” she said. “Our staff prides ourselves on being well-informed, helpful and knowledgeable. ”
Cieply and VCA’s philosophy of care is evident in the 134 reviews that patrons have left on Google, which describe her patience and willingness to take the time to explain concepts regarding pet health and the clinic’s services.
“I took my newly adopted cat for his first vet visit and both the staff tech and Dr. Cieply were great,” one reviewer wrote. “They were very patient, knowledgeable and took their time answering all my questions. Best first impression of any vet hospital I’ve been to in Chicago.”
While this clinic is already a top-notch operation, its team isn’t slowing down with improvements. Its staff is currently pursuing its certification in low stress handling training and is already fear free training certified. These programs teach veterinary professionals techniques that minimize animals’ stress levels to form positive associations with trips to the vet.
“It’s quality medicine, it’s not quantity,” Cieply said. “Our clients come in they see familiar faces. They know our staff by name. It’s a family here.”
So, if you live in the downtown Chicago area and want to become a part of the VCA family, give them a call for your veterinary care needs, or keep up with them on Facebook, where they regularly engage with the Chicago community.
Alta View Veterinary Clinic (Milwaukee, WI)
Rating: 4.8/5 stars – 122 Google reviews
Alta View Veterinary Clinic is the top choice if you live in the Milwaukee area and need a clinic that provides routine medical, surgical, and dental care without breaking the bank. Multiple reviewers mention that this clinic is willing to work with clients on price and provides helpful payment plans when needed—but don’t think that this clinic sacrifices care for reasonable rates. Patrons say this clinic’s staff goes above and beyond to be attentive to pets’ specific needs.
“Dr. Schneller and his staff are consummate professionals. He is by far the most caring, involved and best prepared veterinarian I’ve ever had the pleasure of dealing with,” wrote one reviewer. “You can see in his work and patience with animals just how much he actually cares.”
Another wrote about their experience putting down their pet at Alta View as the “best experience possible for an awful situation,” adding, “Just received the nicest handwritten card from the vet.”
That’s customer care at its finest.
Lewis Animal Hospital (Cincinnati, OH)
Rating: 4.8/5 stars – 278 Google reviews
Lewis Animal Hospital is a 20-minute drive north of downtown Cincinnati, but the extra couple of minutes in the car are well worth it. This clinic has been a landmark in Cincinnati for more than 100 years, building a reputation for friendliness and professionalism. Its detailed FAQ page, services pages, and online pharmacy all serve to make clients’ lives easier.
One reviewer said that they keep coming back to Lewis Animal Hospital because, “they’ve shown a sincere and deep level of compassion,” especially during their experience putting down their 16-year-old cat. “The whole staff went above and beyond. It wasn’t ‘business as usual’ or ‘give us your money and let’s hurry through this.’ It was exactly the opposite.”
Multiple patrons note that if you’re considering giving them a call, ask for Dr. Keller, who is described universally by reviewers as an especially attentive vet.
Dakota Hills Veterinary Clinic (Rapid City, SD)
Rating: 4.5/5 stars – 165 Google reviews
One reviewer describes Dakota Hills Veterinary as “the best, most professional vet facility in Rapid City.” This is quite the compliment as Rapid City is the most populous municipality on the east side of South Dakota, and the sentiment is reflected by more than 150 other patients that have sung the praises of this veterinary hospital.
The clinic was founded in 1947, at which time it was a “two-room cow camp,” mostly for the care of large animals. Now, Dakota Hills treats all kinds of pets, from reptiles to horses, and offers a comprehensive menu of treatments from diagnostic care to complex surgeries.
Kendra Hanks, a fixture at Dakota Hills, took the time to chat with us about what goes into running a top-ranking animal hospital. She has worked at the clinic for 22 years and now serves as both the clinic administrator and a veterinary technician. Her passion for animal care is rooted in her childhood growing up on a ranch where her family raised livestock. At Dakota Hills, she gets to live her passion for caring for animals and participate in the business side of running the clinic.
“Our motto is ‘We care.’ It’s simple, but we take it seriously,” Hanks said, which seems credible, since the latter half of the two-word motto is mentioned a whopping 55 times in customer testimony on Google.
“No two days are ever the same. There’s always something new or some new challenge,” she said. “And the profession has changed a lot since I first started. There’s a lot of new equipment and new techniques we’re using at the clinic,” she added.
Hanks mentioned some of the technologies that Dakota Hills has added to its services over the years, including ultrasonography, which is a cost-effective, low impact method of creating images of body structures from images of tissue and organs; laser therapy for post-surgical treatment; and most recently, exercise rehabilitation, which is used to help with mobility in older pets, recovery from surgical procedures, and prevention of surgery when possible. “That’s a new trend and something that’s helped a lot,” she said.
One reviewer described their experience with Dakota Hills while having a puppy-related emergency on a road trip: “The staff was so great, attentive, efficient and polite—on the phone, at the front desk, in the patient room, everything. The vet was concise, clear, had a diagnosis and confident advice. I have never spent so little time inside a clinic with an appointment. I left very happy. Our puppy is doing well!”
So, if you live in the Rapid City area or you happen to be passing through, make sure to give Dakota Hills a call for your veterinary needs.
Midwest Pet Refuge (Portland, IN)
Rating: 4.7/5 stars – 71 facebook reviews
Our final animal center of note is an honorable mention: the Midwest Pet Refuge located in Portland, Indiana. This organization is not a clinic, but an animal sanctuary rehoming unwanted pets in the east central Indiana area. “We are focused on helping animals in need, as well as educating the public on responsible pet ownership,” its website reads.
The organization was formed in 2013 to address a community need—the care of pets looking for homes. They incorporated in 2014 and the next year, officially became a non-profit with a full board of directors.
Between 2014 and 2018, Midwest Pet Refuge saved just shy of 500 animals and had a live release rate of 98 percent for the year of 2018. (The only time it euthanizes a healthy animal is after carefully screening its temperament and determining that the animal is likely to harm to people.)
The organization is clearly loved by the community, with countless reviews praising its efforts. “This organization is such a great group of people who truly wants the best for animals,” one reviewer stated. “It’s all about the animals…no politics! Great bunch of caring people” and “Five stars is not enough” are some of its most recent Facebook comments.
Midwest Pet Refuge relies on community support, volunteers, and donations to operate. You can donate to the organization here.