While routine care can be provided by your primary vet, some other health situations are more complex and require the help of veterinarians with specific training. In this blog, our La Mesa vets talk about the purpose of veterinary specialists, the different types, and how to choose the right board-certified vet specialist for your pet's needs.

What is a board-certified veterinarian?

Similar to medical doctors who specialize in specific fields of human medicine, a veterinary specialist is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) who has finished additional education and 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 and 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 decide to become specialized in more than one field.

Can a primary vet become board-certified?

It takes a lot of studying, hard work, and time to become a Board Certified Veterinary Specialist. Going past the required 6 - 8 years to obtain a veterinary degree, becoming a Board Certified Veterinary Specialist generally requires another internship, residency, and clinical experience in the field before being able to take the certification exam. This could mean another 3 - 5 years of training!

After these hard-working veterinarians have met all of the requirements established by the governing specialist organization or college, and passed the qualifying exam in their advanced area of study, they are officially Board Certified Veterinary Specialists in that field.

How can a board-certified veterinary specialist help?

Your pet will need a board Certified Veterinary Specialist (specialist vet) when they require tests, treatments, or equipment that is beyond the capabilities of your primary care vet. A specialist vet will work closely with you, your primary care vet and other veterinary specialists to make sure your cat or dog receives the best care possible.

Your primary care veterinarian could refer your pet to a specialist if they believe your animal could benefit from advanced treatment and care.

What are the different types of board-certified veterinary specialists?

There are 41 different specialty fields in veterinary medicine. Here we share some examples of veterinary specialists and what they do:

  • Internal medicine specialists are skilled at diagnosing and treating diseases of the immune, cardiovascular, pulmonary, urinary, gastrointestinal, and endocrine systems.
  • Radiology veterinary specialists have vast training in the use of imaging technology and procedures that can see inside a pet's body such as X-ray, ultrasound, CT, and more.
  • Dentistry specialists diagnose and treat 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.
  • Board-certified veterinary surgeons, such as orthopedic surgeons in La Mesa, are qualified in the field of surgery.
  • Veterinary Oncologists diagnose and treat animals with cancer.
  • A Board Certified Veterinary Ophthalmologist specializes in conditions and diseases that affect the eyes.
  • Specialists of veterinary rehabilitation are the physiotherapists of the animal world, helping pets to get back to normal functioning following an 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 you find a board-certified specialist?

Many specialists only accept new clients that have been referred to them. If you would like your cat or dog to be examined by a specialist for a service we do not offer, call the specialist you require to see if you need a referral, or ask our team about getting a referral for your four-legged friend.

Specialty Services at Rancho Village Veterinary Hospital

Some of the areas of veterinary care where we offer advanced care include:

Veterinary Dermatology

There are a variety of chronic and inflammatory skin conditions that can affect dogs and cats, but some are more common than others. These include allergies, bacterial infections, fungal infections, chronic scratching, skin parasites, and hair loss. At Rancho Village Veterinary Hospital, we offer dermatology services to help treat dogs suffering from these conditions as a team, working to help them get healthy and feel better.

Veterinary Oncology

La Mesa is committed to providing world-class oncology care to our patients and the people who love them following a cancer diagnosis. We work closely with oncology specialists and prioritize transparency through open discussions with our clients.

After reviewing your pet’s medical history and diagnosis we will sit down with you and your pet to discuss the disease, staging (additional diagnostics), treatment options, and prognosis.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you would like to learn about the services and team at Rancho Village Veterinary Hospital, please contact our veterinary team at La Mesa today.