An excellent veterinarian is hard to come by. If you’re in or near Nice, however, you are blessed with the brilliant Dr. Maxime Albouy. And better yet, he serves the Anglophone community.
For Niçois pet owners, Clinique Chahuahua in the Port neighbourhood is one of those indispensable addresses that they are happy to cross town for when Fido or Fluffy have a medical problem. You know that your fur kid will be treated like royalty – a visit there is more like a trip to the day spa than to the vet. But even in such an international city like Nice, there are few English speaking vets, and foreign pet owners are often stumped where to turn in times of need. Well, it turns out that Dr. Maxime Albouy’s clinic is THE reference for them. The affable veterinarian is not only perfectly fluent in Woof and Meow, but also in English. But that’s not the only reason why people flock to him.
At Chahuahua (a clever word play between “chat”, the French word for cat, and “chihuahua”), there is a strong sense of things being done differently, with a holistic vision of the pet’s condition and a philosophy of enriching the bond between animal and owner. Dr. Albouy firmly believes that the well-being of animals is intrinsically linked to the bond they share with their owners, and that a collaborative connection between vet, pet, and human guarantees the best outcome.
This sense of thoughtful care for animals and owners envelops you as soon as you step through the front door. Both are greeted with great respect. Soothing dark blue and green colours throughout, an enormous bouquet of fresh flowers on the table in the waiting area, gentle music creating an ambiance of serenity, the friendly receptionist’s offer of a coffee or a glass of water, comfortable pet furniture distract from the stress of being at a vet’s office, and smartly scheduled appointments so that there is never more than one other patient waiting to be seen…tranquility reigns supreme, and everything is thoughtfully designed to provide comfort and reassurance. Dr. Albouy’s gentle, calm demeanor puts even scared animals at ease, and he takes plenty of time for each patient. And his commitment to delivering the best possible medical care is evident in his clinic’s state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment.
When Clinique Chahuahua opened five years ago, on September 3, 2018, it was the culmination to date in the career of Dr. Albouy, one that started out as a childhood dream. Maxime, as most of his clients call him, was born in Toulouse, Southwestern France, and grew up in a close-knit, broadminded family, with a sister close in age and parents who were a travel agent and a geography/history teacher. It may have been the family cat, or the wild animals in TV series like Daktari that kindled his love for critters… in any case, at age 5, young Maxime already decided he would become a veterinarian.
Frequent travels en famille awakened Maxime’s passion for other cultures and foreign languages. His first major trip alone took him to Canada and the U.S. where he spent several months. He instantly became hooked on the North-American easygoingness and openmindedness, and used the opportunity to perfect his English language skills.
When the time came to go to university, he put his childhood dream on rails and enrolled in the prestigious École Nationale Vétérinaire de Toulouse , from where he graduated in 2001.
First professional experiences included animal dentistry and surgery, both of which he loved, But an ensuing stint at a clinic specializing in ophthalmology left him less enthusiastic – that clinic was the antithesis of Dr. Albouy’s vision of how animals (and their humans) should be treated.
He decided it was time for a big break in every way, and accepted an offer from Carros-based Virbac, a vet pharma and nutrition company known for its innovative and prevention-centric approach. He would stay with the company for 13 years, and still has friendly ties.
At around age 40, midlife crisis knocked on the door, manifesting itself in a nagging sense that there was still something else out there left to do. And always the creator, Maxime knew what he had to do… set out to retrain as a veterinarian for internal medicine, with the goal to open his own practice. But not “just another” white-tiled, conveyor-belt practice – no, rather one where he could realize his vision of a harmonious and interactive relationship between vet and pet, which also includes the owner as integral part of the treatment.
He also envisaged a clinic built on the principle of collective intelligence, meaning building a team of vets with complementary skills and experience. “I did invest a lot in instruments and technology, but, as they say, you first need the musicians to play the instruments,” he muses.
With the support of Dr. Ludovic Siméon, a former classmate from the Toulouse vet school, Dr. Albouy finally transformed his dream into a street address: 9 ter, rue Emmanuel Philibert, just steps away from the port of Nice. Everything is thoughtfully laid out in a way that sick patients have a stress-free experience, including separate treatment rooms for cats and dogs. Attention to small details like putting a comfy blanket on the cold metal table shows true care and compassion. Even the sick ward is labeled “Hotel” rather than “Hospital”, subliminally messaging distraught owners not to worry as their beloved furball will get VIP service.
He may have worked for a vet pharma company but Dr. Albouy is not the biggest advocate of just prescribing medication “just because”. An excellent diagnostician, he sees the animal as a whole being, and privileges an approach of activating its natural capacity to heal whenever possible, ideally in concertation with specialists in other veterinarian fields. One of his secret weapons is Dr. Valérie Delavant, an animal osteopath who comes to the clinic upon appointment. Both doctors share a philosophy of tapping into gentle, natural treatment methods rather than bombarding an animal with chemical loads, and oftentimes the pet owner has his or her own share of work to do at home.
This holistic, nature-forward way, and collaborative approach is not for everyone; it often depends on the culture a client is used to. Many French clients, for example, prefer to leave treatments entirely to the veterinarian, whereas Anglosaxons love being involved in the process. One of Dr. Albouy’s international clients, for instance, often consults privately and complementarily with a trusted Canadian friend who happens to be a vet, and the Niçois doctor is humble enough to listen to comments, feedback, and suggestions, or to solicit advice from other, local specialists. In fact, this circles back to the triangular relationship vet – pet – owner that he favours. “Change starts with a team,” is his credo. And his goal is to build a clientèle that wants to take a hands-on part in the healthcare of their fur balls rather than just administer a pill.
A positive score of 4.9/5 of client opinions confirms that Chahuahua is on the right track. One of the clinic’s English clients we spoke to, Anne Morris, told us that when adopting her cat Pablito in 2021, she initially made an appointment with Dr. Albouy because his veterinary practice was local to her, but he has now become her permanent vet. “Dr. Albouy is an extremely kind and attentive vet who listens to the owner while also ensuring that the animal is in good health,” she says. She loves that Maxime spends time trying to find solutions to problems, such as advising her on some of the behavioral issues she had with Pablito at the beginning. “I think we are very fortunate to have him as our neighbourhood vet,” Anne adds.
The doctor also enjoys an excellent reputation among colleagues. His name came up in a recent chance conversation with Dr. Vincent Dattée, a veterinarian in the Var specialized in end-of-life care, who praised him as one of the most dedicated and caring animal health professionals in the field. To receive such unsolicited compliments from peers says a lot about a person and medical practitioner. And you just need to witness the adoring gazes of animals with their infallible sixth sense for who is a good person to know that this is true.
“I feel very fortunate to work in the field I am passionate about”, Maxime says. But if his two and four legged clients are happy with him, he is still working toward the fulfillment of one part of his vision, finding peers to share the clinic with, who are professionally and humanly a good fit. Veterinarians are hard to hire these days, and those who share his goals of strengthening the vet-human-animal triad are even rarer. Not everyone goes into the profession out of the sheer love for four-legged friends but because of the prestige it enjoys. Many young vets prefer the predictability of 9-5 careers in research to the long days in private practices, And others yet find the emotional toll hard to swallow that the profession brings with it. Dr. Albouy considers himself lucky to be able to count on the support of his wife and three daughters. And, presumably, also of Moustache, the family cat…
Asked what case has marked him particularly over these years, Maxime shares the story of his first patient, a pretty English bulldog with skin problems, and her owner Mirko. “It’s a complex situation to manage because the condition is hard to get a grip on. There is no cure for it, it has to be managed over time. After 5 years we are still very close. It’s hugely rewarding,” he says.
And there is Tony, the elderly rescue cat who after years on the street has a whole catalogue of chronic and acute illnesses, had to undergo two major surgeries within one year, and is an almost weekly visitor at the clinic. Treating him is a 1000-part puzzle where with every new condition, hundreds of other pieces have to be considered… a real head scratcher. “But no matter how much I have to prod and poke the poor little guy, he will always be stoic and poised. A true warrior who fights to live.” In fact, Tony is so relaxed at Dr. Albouy’s clinic, he simply falls asleep on the table.
Given his sense of service and dedication, you could think Dr. Albouy is one of those rare “old-fashioned” vets, a dying breed much like beloved family practitioners. But far from it – this is a thoroughly modern, visionary developer and creator who seeks to re-establish and nurture the bond between human and animal that so many have lost in this world but who also understands the economic responsibilities he has as a small business owner and employer. Making money just by scheduling unnecessary monthly repeat appointments is not compatible with his world view; he rather seeks to serve and provide value through healing and education. To this end he is also planning to become more active (again) on social media, to share tutorials and informative videos, and to invite people not to shy away from a participative approach to pet care, similar to what the Canadian vet-turned-internet-sensation Dr. Uri Burstyn has done in English over the years.
“I just want to thank Lady Luck that I get to work in a field that I am so passionate about”, Dr. Albouy says. Currently, he is only seeing cats and dogs, but if he finds a good professional and personal match, Clinique Chahuahua will of course also be open to exotic pets. But if Fluffy or Fida has a booboo, needs a vaccination, or is in line for the Big Snip (don’t forget to get the ID chip done at the same time!), or you need help with paperwork for international travel with a domestic animal, now you know where to go. The clinic is so well organized that you will get appointments on short notice and you won’t have long waits in the presence of a dozen other patients. And if you speak English with Dr. Maxime Albouy, you’ll be doing him a big favour, too, he loves it!
9, Ter Rue Emmanuel Philibert,
Tel: +33 (0)4 93 89 40 49
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 8.30 am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 7 pm / Saturday 8 am to 12 noon
Appointments: via Captainvet or by phone
Lead image © Natja Igney; all other photos as credited