The Sacramento Bee has a short Q+A about veterinary specialists … why they’re needed and how the relationship works with your pet’s regular veterinarian.
The question: My dog has had an ongoing problem with digesting his food. Working with my veterinarian, we tried a few different things, but now he wants me to take the dog to a specialist. I didn’t even know there were specialist vets. Are they really needed?
If you think about it, it’s pretty difficult for a single person to handle primary care, anesthesiology, dentistry, surgery and more for all kinds of pets. So, yes, veterinary specialists do exist, and their expertise can make a difference.
The relationship between your regular veterinarian and a specialist is pretty formalized. You are being sent for the specialist’s help, and then you, your veterinarian and the specialist will work together to resolve the issue.
Typically, a specialist does not continue care after the health crisis is over, but rather sends the client back to the referring veterinarian. For ongoing issues, however, it’s not uncommon for a pet to see two veterinarians over a long period.
For example, my 12-year-old retriever sees both our regular veterinarian for traditional care and a veterinary acupuncturist who helps Heather with her arthritis pain.
Both veterinarians are aware of the situation and consult each other to be sure Heather has the best quality of life as she ages. This is the third aging dog I’ve used both Western and Eastern veterinary medicine with, and the integrated approach has worked well in easing the decline.
Veterinary specialists fall into two general categories: those who specialize in a kind of medicine, such as surgery, and those who specialize in a particular species or a related group of species, such as birds.
Information on all traditional veterinary specialists can be found on the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Web site (www.avma.org) by clicking on the link to “Veterinary Specialty Organizations.” For alternative veterinary specialists, visit the site of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (www.ahvma.org).
– Gina Spadafori