Seeing a Veterinary Specialist: What You Need to Know

Shar Pei dog getting bandage after injury on his leg by a veterOn the human side of medicine, it is pretty standard to see doctors who are specialists in one area of medicine. You may have a general practitioner, a dentist, an ophthalmologist, and a dermatologist. You would also never expect your family doctor to do an emergency gall bladder surgery, nor would you expect the surgeon performing that procedure to also administer anesthesia.

In the past, general practice veterinarians had to cover many roles in pet health care including seeing small animals, farm animals and exotics. Today, veterinarians do function as a general practitioner, a dentist, an ophthalmologist, a dermatologist, a surgeon, an anesthesiologist, and more. And they often do all of these things in one day!

Sometimes, though, your family veterinarian may not be able to do it all. There are certain pet problems that may require more intense training, greater experience, special equipment, or certain facilities to diagnose and treat your pet’s condition. When this happens, your pet may benefit from seeing a veterinary specialist.

What Makes a Veterinarian a Specialist?

While becoming a veterinarian requires a considerable amount of education and training, not all veterinarians are specialists. A veterinary specialist is someone who has received intense training in one area of veterinary medicine, and usually limits his or her practice to this area of focus.

After completing a bachelor’s degree and a four-year veterinary degree, veterinary specialists must then complete a one year internship and then a residency program in their area of specialty, which is typically three to four years long. After completing their residency, veterinary specialists earn board certification by passing difficult examinations and publishing scientific articles in their area of specialty.

Only after all these steps are successfully completed can a veterinarian be called a veterinary specialist.  This means that veterinary specialists have an impressive amount of experience and knowledge about their area of concentration.

Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services is proud to have board certified veterinary specialists in the areas of:

How Do I Know When I Need a Veterinary Specialist?

While many pet owners are comfortable seeing their pet’s regular doctor, it can be a little intimidating to think about seeing a veterinary specialist. So how do you know when it is time to see a veterinary specialist? Most times, pets visit a specialist when:

  • You have an emergency situation – If your pet is seriously sick or injured, or if he or she needs help outside of normal business hours, seeing an emergency and critical care specialist may offer the best outcome.
  • You want another opinion – If your pet is not getting better despite treatment at your regular veterinarian, or if you have received a diagnosis that you are not sure about, seeking a specialist’s opinion can be quite helpful.
  • Your pet has a chronic condition – Pets who have chronic conditions such as cancer, kidney disease or endocrine imbalances often must be managed closely and may have benefit from the most modern treatment techniques with a veterinary specialist.
  • A referral has been recommended – Often the general practice veterinarian is the one who recommends a referral to see a specialist. Most veterinarians know the scope of their capabilities and will let pet owners know what the best option is for their pet.

Specialists are often key in the treatment and management of sick and injured animals. We work closely with your pet’s family doctor to ensure that your pet gets the best care possible. We are happy to be able to use our expertise and facilities to help when the family veterinarian can’t.