The Helsingborg Specialist Animal Hospital, the first of its kind in Sweden, opened its doors in 1964. In the years since, the facility has grown to become an internationally recognised centre of excellence, as well as a teaching hospital that treats horses and small animals, and which pioneers new treatments.
Its 110 employees, vets and nurses supported by administrative staff, see 27,000 patients a year. “If you work here, you get a top education because of the high standards,” says hospital manager Louise Blomqvist. With a successful time at Helsingborg on your CV, she adds, “You can get a job anywhere.”
But that’s not the only thing that’s special about Helsingborg. As well as being a referral hospital, it’s also a place where pet owners can bring their animals directly for assessment and treatment. “We work with the feeling of a small clinic,” says Blomqvist, “and we have a personal relationship with both the patients and clients that makes me proud.”
“When you come to us you never need to go anywhere else.” Louise Blomqvist – Hospital Manager
This idea of a personal touch can only become more important over time. As in the rest of Europe, Swedes increasingly regard their pets as part of the family, and so they expect the best possible treatment when it’s needed. Many owners research online before they even bring their animals in for treatment, so they expect to be involved in decisions about care. Additionally, in a country where 90% of dogs have medical insurance, there’s huge scope for offering advanced treatments for all customers.
A WORLD LEADER
Even by Sweden’s high standards, the variety and sophistication of the specialist treatments offered at Helsingborg is exceptional. It’s also one of the very few animal hospitals in the world to offer haemodialysis for acute renal failure. “That is a treatment that we maybe do a couple of times a year,” says Blomqvist. “It’s a rather expensive device, but we can save lives.”
The hospital is able to offer this treatment because its status means it’s able to cooperate with a foundation, Foundation Svensk Djursjukvård, to get funding for equipment that may never pay for itself in purely financial terms. This equipment becomes a resource for international specialists and for use in training. “We have a very important role in Sweden and more widely in the Nordics,” says Blomqvist. “We are supposed to be, and we are, in the absolute forefront of Swedish veterinary medicine. We prioritise the education of our veterinarians in our budget and we do clinical research in the hospital with our own staff, so we are also contributing to new treatment methods.”
Another specialist treatment on offer at Helsingborg is balloon angioplasty to treat heart disease. There’s also a strong emphasis on oncology. It’s not possible to cure cancer in dogs and cats, says Blomqvist, but well-judged treatments can both prolong an animal’s life and give a better quality of life too. According to veterinarian Majbritt Larsen, this work can be hugely rewarding.
“We often hear from others, co-workers and friends that it is depressing and sad to work with cancer patients,” says Larsen. “But we think it is just the opposite! We meet owners who are extremely grateful, and beloved pets that get every chance possible. We shower our furry patients with love and treats and our owners with understanding, and we are supportive of their choices.”
The success of this approach is reflected in the continuing expansion of the hospital, which has added new facilities and buildings over the past two years, a confirmation of its vital role within the wider Swedish veterinary system. Working at the hospital is “intense”, but Blomqvist wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s fun. I’ve been here 20 years and we could have a reality show here – so many people and patients have passed through, and they all have different stories. It’s the best job ever, I think, because one day never looks like the other.”