ELISE M. ATKINSON, CVT
Just like human medicine, veterinary medicine is always evolving. There is a broad range of advanced treatment options available to pets, and medical equipment is becoming more sophisticated. If your pet is facing a serious or complex health problem, your AAHA-accredited hospital’s team may refer you and your pet to a veterinary specialist for diagnoses or treatments that are not available at your regular hospital.
What Is a Veterinary Specialist?
After earning a doctorate in veterinary medicine (DVM or VMD), some veterinarians complete an additional four years of training in one area of medicine, such as dentistry, surgery, or oncology. After passing a rigorous final examination, they are board certified in that particular area.
Some specialists work in general practice, meaning at hospitals like your regular veterinary clinic. Others work out of specialty, or referral, hospitals that focus on one or more specific areas of veterinary medicine but usually don’t offer all the other services that your regular veterinarian provides.
But I Trust My Veterinarian
Your primary veterinarian will work closely with the specialist to give your pet the best possible care.
A collaborative approach and open communication help the specialist become familiar with your pet’s full medical history, as well as the anecdotal information that only you and your primary veterinarian may know.
As a team, your veterinarian, the specialist, and you will be able to provide the continuity of care your pet needs.
How Are AAHA-Accredited Referral Practices Different?
AAHA-accredited referral practices have been evaluated on practice methods, standards of patient care, and the quality of the facility and medical equipment. In order to maintain accredited status, the hospital must be evaluated regularly by the association’s trained consultants.
AAHA-accredited referral practices are required to have a board-certified veterinarian on staff for each specialty within the clinic. For example, a hospital accredited as a surgery referral and also an oncology referral, must have a board-certified surgeon and a board-certified oncologist on staff. Currently, approximately 225 veterinary referral practices are accredited by AAHA.
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recently began accrediting referral practices. Visit AAHA’s hospital locator for a list of these practices. AAHA recommends that pet owners always go to their veterinarian first and seek a referral from them.
This article originally appeared in PetsMatter Jan-Mar 09 - Volume 4 Issue 1, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2008 AAHA. Find out more.