Veterinary Specialty Care

Jul 24, 2018

You may not realize it but your veterinarian has medical knowledge in so many different fields. As veterinarians, we have to be proficient in everything from dermatology to orthopedics to cardiology (and that’s just a few!). Occasionally your vet may talk to you about visiting a veterinary specialist. I am often met with surprise when I explain there is such thing as an ophthalmologist for dogs! A veterinary specialist is a doctor that has taken extra studies and performed a residency to become certified in a certain field of veterinary medicine. A typical veterinary specialist completes a year long internship and then a 3-4-year residency in this chosen field, after 4 years of general veterinary school and 4 years of undergraduate college! They have to perform novel research in the field and pass a board examination to qualify as specialist.

Why would your vet need you to visit a specialist? Sometimes based on the physical exam and diagnostic testing done by your general practitioner there may be advanced diagnostics or treatments that are recommended, and this is where a veterinary specialist can help. Here are some veterinary specialist fields and some of the things they do:

Oncologists:  An oncologist is a doctor that deals with cancers. Sometimes we refer patients after we have diagnosed a cancer for treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Ophthalmologists: Just like in people, an ophthalmologist deals with diseases of the eyes. We may refer pets to see the ophthalmologist for specialized surgeries or treatments of the eye.

Surgeons: Your vet can probably perform many surgeries on their own. However, sometimes for specialized orthopedic procedures like ACL surgery or luxating patella surgery your vet may refer you to a surgery specialist. Veterinary surgeons are also utilized for more rare procedures that require special training.

Internal Medicine: We sometimes refer patients to see an internal medicine specialist when advanced diagnostics need to be performed such as CT scans, endoscopy/colonoscopies or ultrasounds of the abdomen or heart (echocardiogram).

Dentistry:  As a general practitioner we can clean teeth, interpret dental radiographs, perform surgical extractions and diagnose and treat different oral diseases. A dental specialist can also perform root canals, restorations, advanced periodontics or even help with pet orthodontics!

These are just a few common veterinary specialties but there are so many more not limited to neurologists, anesthesiologists, behaviorists, radiologists and more! You may not have realized that your vet has to be trained in all these different fields of medicine. We are lucky to have the ability provide your pets with the highest level of advanced medical care.

Andrea Gilstrap, DVM