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What is a Veterinary Specialist?

There is nothing scarier than knowing your pet doesn’t feel well; their inability to use words to communicate their exact symptoms, combined with their ability to oftentimes hide pain or illness can make it difficult to pin down exactly what is wrong. That’s when we rely on skilled veterinary professionals to determine a diagnosis and treatment plan.

As a pet owner at least once a year you take your pet to a general veterinary office or clinic which provides routine veterinary care. They work hard to provide yearly check-ups, vaccinations, flea and tick prevention, etc. So, what happens if your pet has an illness, injury, or other needs which require a more specialized approach, knowledge, or diagnostic equipment? Much like when you go to a primary care doctor and the necessary treatment falls outside of the scope of their practice, the next step would be to see a specialist (think cardiologists, dermatologists, etc.) This same idea applies within veterinary medicine. These skilled professionals with expertise in a certain area, are called veterinary specialists. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) shares that “a board-certified veterinary specialist's expertise complements that of your animal's primary care veterinarian. You may be referred to a board-certified veterinary specialist if diagnosing or treating your pet's health problem requires specialized equipment and/or expertise that your animal's primary care veterinarian does not have.”

According to the AVMA, “a board-certified veterinary specialist is a veterinarian who has completed additional training in a specific area of veterinary medicine and has passed an examination that evaluates their knowledge and skills in that specialty area.” The variety and number of specialties may surprise you, “currently, there are 22 AVMA-Recognized Veterinary Specialty Organizations™ or RVSOs comprising 41 distinct specialties…

With 41 specialties, you can only imagine the variety. Here are a handful from the list:

● Cardiology

● Dermatology

● Internal medicine

● Neurology

● Oncology (medical + radiation)

● Virology

● Immunology

● Bacteriology/Mycology

● Parasitology

● Surgery

● Nutrition

● Theriogenology

● Radiology

Was there a speciality on the list that surprised you? Or maybe you didn’t even know it existed? You can view the entire list of all 41 specialities by clicking here. Compassion Animal Project works directly with specialists every day; our organization facilitates grants to pet owners who require financial assistance to avoid economic euthanasia when faced with needing emergency/critical care and/or specialized medical care, and the specialists perform the life-saving care that’s needed for these pets. Be sure to follow along with us to see how this team effort keeps families together for longer by following our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tiktok.



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