A 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 specialist’s expertise complements that of your veterinarian. You may be referred to a veterinary specialist if diagnosing or treating your pet’s health problem requires specialized equipment and/or expertise that your veterinarian does not have.
It’s critical that you, your veterinarian and the veterinary specialist communicate and work together to provide the best care for your pet.
Here’s a list of veterinary specialties recognized by the American Board of Veterinary Specialties, with very simple descriptions of what these specialists do. For more information about the specialties, click the link to go to the website of the specialty college responsible for ertifying veterinarians in that specialty:
- Anesthesia: veterinarians who focus on making sure animals feel less or no pain associated with veterinary procedures.
- Animal Welfare: veterinarians with specialized training and experience in animal welfare.
- Behavior: veterinarians with additional training in animal behavior.
- Dentistry: veterinarians who perform procedures on animals’ teeth.
- Dermatology: veterinarians who study diseases and conditions of the skin.
- Emergency and Critical Care: the “ER docs” and intensive care specialists.
- Internal Medicine, which includes specialties in:
- Cardioloy: the study of diseases and conditions of the heart and circulatory system.
- Neurology: the study of diseases of the brain, spinal cord and other parts of the nervous system.
- Oncology: the study of tumors and cancer.
- Laboratory Animal Medicine: veterinarians working in research or in practice, making sure that laboratory animal species (rabbits, rats, mice, etc.) receive proper care.
- Microbiology: veterinarians who study viruses, bacteria, fungi, etc.
- Nutrition: veterinarians working to make sure that animals’ diets meet their body’s needs for nutrients.
- Ophthalmology: veterinarians studying diseases and conditions of the eye.
- Pathology: veterinarians studying disease in animals.
- Pharmacology: veterinarians studying how medications/drugs affect animals.
- Preventive Medicine: veterinarians who study how diseases are spread and how they can be prevented.
- Radiology: veterinarians who focus on the study of x-ray, ultrasound, computed tomography (often called CAT scans), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and other imaging procedures that allow us to see “inside” an animal’s body.
- Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation: veterinarians who focus on returning animals to normal function after injury, lameness, illness or surgery.
- Surgery: veterinarians who specialize in performing surgery. A certified surgeon will be certified in either small animal surgery or large animal surgery. Within these groups, many surgeons will focus their work in one of these two subcategories but are not limited to them:
- Orthopedics: these surgeons focus on bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, etc. of the body’s skeletal system.
- Soft Tissue surgery: these surgeons focus more on the internal organs and non-bone tissues of the body.
- Theriogenology: veterinarians who specialize in animal reproduction.
- Toxicology: veterinarians who study the effects of poisons and other toxic products on the body (and how to treat animals affected by these toxins).
- Veterinary Practitioners: veterinarians in clinical practice who have additional training and expertise in certain animal species:
- Avian Practice (birds)
- Equine Practice (horses)
- Beef Cattle Practice (cattle raised for meat)
- Feline Practice(cats)
- Canine/Feline Practice (dogs and cats)
- Exotic Companion Mammal Practice (ferrets, rabbits, mice, rats and other small mammals often kept as pets)
- Food Animal Practice (cattle and pigs)
- Dairy Practice (cows that produce milk)
- Reptile and Amphibian Practice (snakes, lizards, salamanders, turtles, etc.)
- Swine Health Management (pigs)
PetFirst’s pet insurance plans covers veterinary specialists and reimburses the amount you selected for your plan. Other pet insurance companies reduce reimbursement amounts for specialists because they can be more expensive. PetFirst Pet Insurance also covers exam fees, which can be more expensive at a vet specialist’s office than your primary veterinarian.
Get a pet insurance quote for your dog or cat now and start saving on veterinary bills.