Veterinary specialists focus their attention on a limited field of practice. This usually involves a major organ or body system. After 8 years of college and university, a veterinary specialist must also complete an internship and residency training. A board certified specialist passes a set of qualifying and certifying examinations.
Veterinary specialists have a greater knowledge of unusual, uncommon, or rare diseases.
Veterinary specialists typically have diagnostic equipment not regularly used in a general practice.
Some primary care veterinarians choose to focus on a limited field of practice without becoming board certified. They are highly skilled at providing excellent basic health care for pets. Through regular screening they often diagnose pets with chronic or serious medical issues. At this point, they rely on specialists to provide an advanced level of expert advice or care.
The most progressive and highest caliber of primary care veterinarian seeks assistance from specialists.
Your primary care veterinarian may recommend that your pet see a veterinary dental specialist to diagnose a complicated problem or receive special treatment related to general anesthesia.
You should request a referral for your pet when you:
- need equipment or services that are not provided by your primary veterinarian
- get an inconclusive diagnosis after standard testing by your primary veterinarian
- see an unresolved, worsening or unexpected change in your pet’s medical condition
- would like an informed, neutral second opinion of your pet’s condition
Veterinarians who wish to specialize in dentistry must fulfill requirements established by the American Veterinary Dental College. After graduation from veterinary school a veterinarian must complete an internship or equivalent private practice experience and at least two years in an officially recognized advanced training program. The final step to certification is passage of a rigorous examination given by other specialists.