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What is a veterinary specialist, and what do they do?

If your pet requires advanced diagnostics or treatment your primary care veterinarian may refer your pet to a Board Certified Veterinary Specialist. Specialist vets provide care for animals that goes beyond the scope of standard veterinary care. Today our Orange County vets explain what a veterinary specialist is and what they do. 

What's so special about a veterinary specialist?

Much like medical doctors who specialize in specific fields of human medicine, a veterinary specialist is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) who has completed additional training in a specific field of veterinary medicine. Becoming a Board Certified Veterinary Specialist requires extensive study in the area they are specializing in, then taking an examination to evaluate their knowledge skills in the chosen area of specialty. In the US there are 41 different areas of specialty recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association that a vet can work towards. Some vets even choose to specialize in more than one area.

How does a primary care vet become a Board Certified Veterinary Specialist?

Becoming a Board Certified Veterinary Specialist requires a great deal of study, hard work and time. Beyond the 6-8 years of education required to earn a veterinary degree, becoming a Board Certified Veterinary Specialist typically requires an additional internship, residency and clinical experience in the field before the certification exam can be taken. That can mean an extra 3 - 5 years of training!

Once these hard working professionals have met all of the requirements set by the governing specialist organization or college, and passed the qualifying exam in their advanced area of study, they become a Board Certified Veterinary Specialist in that field.

What does a Board Certified Veterinary Specialist do?

When your pet is in need of tests or treatments that are beyond the scope of your primary care veterinarian, or require specialized equipment, that's where a Board Certified Veterinary Specialist (specialist vet) comes in. A specialist vet will work closely with your primary care vet, other veterinary specialists, and pet parents to provide pets with the best possible care. 

Your primary care veterinarian may refer your pet to a specialist if they feel that advanced care would be beneficial for your animal.

What kinds of Board Certified Veterinary Specialists are there?

There are 41 different specialty fields in veterinary medicine. Below are just a few examples of veterinary specialists and what they do:

  • Veterinary internal medicine specialists are skilled at diagnosing and treating diseases of the immune, cardiovascular, pulmonary, urinary, gastrointestinal, and endocrine systems. 
  • Radiology veterinary specialists have extensive training in the use of imaging technology and procedures that can see inside of the animal's body such as x-ray, ultrasound, CT, MRI, and more.
  • Dentistry specialists diagnosis and treatment of dental, oral, and maxillofacial diseases in animals. 
  • Emergency and critical care specialists work in emergency rooms and intensive care units to provide urgent care for critically ill animals.
  • Veterinary specialists who qualify in the field of surgery will further specialize in sub-categories such as small animal, large animal, orthopedics, soft tissue, or neurology.
  • Veterinary Oncologists diagnose and treat animals with cancer.
  • A Board Certified Veterinary Ophthalmologist specializes in conditions and diseases that effect the eyes.
  • Specialists of veterinary rehabilitation are the physiotherapists of the animal world, helping pets to get back to normal functioning following and accident or illness.
  • Veterinary practitioners are veterinary specialists with advanced training in the care of specific animal species such as exotic companion mammals (rabbits, ferrets, mice and hedgehogs), birds, reptiles, horses and more.

How can I get specialist care for my pet?

Many specialists only accept new clients that have been referred to them, however there are some Veterinary Specialists who do not require a referral. If you'd like your pet to be examined by a specialist vet call the animal hospital to inquire whether you need a referral in order to make an appointment for your animal, or speak to your veterinarian about a referral for your pet.

Board Certified Internal Medicine Specialists at VMSG Orange County

At Veterinary Medical And Surgical Group–OC (VMSG-OC), our Board Certified Veterinary Internal Medicine Specialist offers specialized care for sick pets that are referred to us by their regular veterinarians. 

Board Certified Critical Care Specialists at VMSG Orange County

Our Intensive Care Unit at VMSG Orange County offers the services of a Board Certified Critical Care Specialist and veterinarians specially trained in emergency medicine. We provide 24/7 urgent care, emergency diagnostics and urgent surgical intervention for pets in need.

If your pet requires advanced care, speak to your vet about a referral for your cat or dog to be seen by our Board Certified Internal Medicine Specialist. If your pet is experiencing a veterinary emergency in the Orange County area, visit our emergency animal hospital. Our critical care team are available 24/7 to provide urgent care for dogs and cats.

New Patients Welcome

Veterinary Medical And Surgical Group–OC (VMSG-OC) accepts new clients to our specialty services and 24/7 emergency services.

Contact Us

Contact (949) 201-4100