What is a Veterinary Specialist?

Veterinary specialists are doctors that have received intense additional training in their respective field. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) determined the precedent for specialty colleges in 1951. Most training programs (called residencies) are 2-3 years in length and require each candidate to meet specific training and caseload requirements, perform research and have their research published. A comprehensive examination is then required to attain board certification. Only those individuals who have completed a residency and successfully passed the certifying exam can use the term Board Certified. Those individuals become members of their respective College and are called “Diplomates”.

Why utilize a Veterinary Specialist?

As in human medicine, veterinary medical and surgical specialists are becoming a valuable resource in your pet’s medical team. Your general practice veterinarian has excellent training in veterinary medicine and acts as a family practice physician to your pet. Similar to human medicine, there may be times when your veterinarian would want assistance or suggest a referral to a specialist to better treat your pet. Specialists should be board certified by the appropriate agency and are available in ophthalmology, internal medicine, surgery, pathology, oncology, radiology, cardiology, dermatology and emergency/critical care. You should not be afraid to ask your general practice veterinarian for a referral to a specialist. Your veterinarian and the veterinary specialist will work together as a team to treat your best friend.

Why invest in a specialist?

The human/animal bond is stronger than ever, according to a survey from the American Animal Hospital Association. In that survey numerous questions were answered and some of the results are listed below:

  • 64%  expect a pet to come to their rescue if they were in distress
  • 93%  would risk their life for their pet
  • 67%  travel with their pet
  • 30%  say their pet is emotionally sensitive
  • 36%  say their pet enjoys watching television
  • 58%  visit their vets more than their own doctors
  • 53%  spend more on their pets now than three years ago

These results prove that the pet owning community feels their pet is more than just an animal, but an actual family member. Seeking the advice of a specialist in any of the fields not only strengthens the bond, but ensures the best possible medical treatment.