Veterinary Care: Specialists

Your advanced care team


If your pet needs to see a specialist, you’re likely to hear it f irst from your primary care vet. Referrals are made the same way human primary care providers refer patients for care under a dermatologist, surgeon, cardiologist, or psychiatrist. Primary doctors and specialists work together to manage a patient’s care.

What is a veterinary specialist?

Specialists are veterinarians who finished vet school and continued on for another two or more years of focused study, becoming fully steeped in the latest research and treatment breakthroughs within their specialty. Veterinary specialties are as numerous as specialties in human medicine, including: urology, neurology, oncology, gastroenterology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, behavioral medicine, and more.

The American Veterinary Medical Association lists 21 distinct veterinary specialties, from anesthesia to zoological medicine. Each specialty has its own college, which is the authority that sets training and certification standards doctors must complete before earning board certification in a given specialty.

How to find a Specialist

The most common path to a specialist is a referral from your family veterinarian, but you can seek specialty care on your own. In that case, Raina Dey from the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association recommends looking for a board-certified specialist.

The referral

If your primary vet has referred you, s/he will share your pet’s medical records so the specialist is informed about your pet’s condition before your first appointment. Sometimes you’ll be asked to provide additional information. When referring yourself, the specialist’s office will need:

1.  Your pet’s medical history

2.  Reports from diagnostic work done related to your concern

3.  Copies of recent x-rays or other imagining

4.  Detailed explanation of current medications, diet, and lifestyle

5.  Completed questionnaires (provided and required by some hospitals)


Veterinarians by Specialty