FACT: Veterinary Medicine is now very similar to human medicine, offering many advanced veterinary treatment options that didn’t exist even a decade ago.
FACT: Veterinary Specialists have had a minimum of four years of advanced education in specialties such as surgery, internal medicine, oncology (cancer), and radiology, to name a few. Specialists are an extension of your regular veterinarian; they work closely together to diagnose and treat complex medical conditions.
FACT: Pets are often referred to specialists based on the complexity of the medical condition. Anything from fracture repair to diabetes can potentially be referred.
Traci Delos, hospital administrator at Cascade Veterinary Referral Center, offers tips for navigating the world of specialty care.
FIND THE RIGHT SPECIALIST
It’s all about the fit. Look for the same things you would when seeking medical care for yourself or a loved one. Consider everything from your experience with the receptionist answering the phone to the feeling you get walking in the door, and ask yourself:
• Did they take the time to answer all of your questions?
• Did the building feel welcoming?
• Did your pet seem comfortable with the medical staff and the Doctor?
• Were you able to communicate easily with the Doctor, and did they take the time to explain your pet’s conditions in terms you could understand?
If any of these things do not feel right, empower yourself to seek out other treatment providers. Above all, your ability to effectively and comfortably communicate with your doctor is very important in getting the best possible care for your fur baby.
THE MORE YOU KNOW
Ask about the types of services offered, and the hospital’s technician-to-patient ratio. Larger hospitals can often offer more specialties and provide services such as emergency where smaller hospitals often have a lower technician-to-patient ratios so your pet receives more personal, individualized care.
Ask friends and family about their experiences with specialty medicine and hospitals. They can often provide great insight that may help you decide where to take your pet.
List your questions and concerns prior to your appointment, such as duration of symptoms and behavior. Being prepared can help reduce the stress of the experience and ensure you go home feeling satisfied with the care you and your pet received.
Be prepared to answer questions about your pet’s diet, travel history, and symptoms. Veterinary medicine is often like detective work: many things you may not think are important can greatly influence diagnosis and treatment.
Take along your pet’s medications in the original bottle and any supplements you may be giving. The specialist will have obtained all of your pet’s medical records prior to the appointment but having medications in hand allows the doctor to verify dosages and frequency.
Wrapup. After your pet’s final visit, a complete summary, including any blood work done, and treatment plans created, will be sent to your referring veterinarian. You too should have a discharge summary to refer to in the event questions arise. Specialists and their staff understand how stressful it can be when your pet is there, making it easy for you to forget key information. Going home with a summary in hand should make you feel comfortable in knowing what your pet needs at home.
“The human/animal bond has continued to grow and develop over the past few decades, alongside the advancements in veterinary medicine. Services that were often thought exclusive to human medicine, such as MRI, CT and ultrasound, are now common practice for our companion animals. The importance of being able to offer these services to diagnose and treat is easy to understand but the cost associated with these procedures often gives clients sticker shock. Be prepared. Now is the time to look into getting insurance for your fur-baby; once you’ve been referred it’s too late.” — Traci Delos
• Cascade Veterinary Referral Center — cascadevrc.com
Vanessa Salvia's love for animals began as a child, when stray kittens just seemed to follow her home (who thankfully, her family accommodated). She lives on a sheep farm outside of Eugene OR, surrounded by dogs, cats, horses, chickens and kids.