To date, I’ve blogged about a variety of veterinary specialists. My hope is that you have a better sense of what they do and when your pet should be evaluated by an ophthalmologist, dermatologist, neurologist, oncologist, surgeon, cardiologist, and/or an internist.
Believe it or not, I’ve not yet exhausted the list in terms of types of veterinary specialists! Based on the variety of specialties, the veterinary profession is definitely keeping up with its human counterpart. Here are capsule summaries to bring you up to speed.
Veterinarians who specialize in nutrition spend years learning all about what constitutes an ideal diet for animals who are young, middle aged, or geriatric. They also know how diets should be altered for pets who are performance athletes, pregnant, nursing, underweight, overweight, or coping with a particular disease process (e.g. arthritis, kidney failure, liver disease, gastrointestinal disease, food allergies). I strongly encourage consultation with a veterinary nutritionist if you and your vet are uncertain if the diet you wish to feed is nutritionally balanced/complete for your pet. Consultation with a nutritionist is also important if your four-legged family members are eating your home. Simply combining meats and veggies does not constitute a balanced canine or feline diet. Ask your vet to recommend a nutrition expert and/or check out the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. By the way, nutrition consultations are often handled “remotely” so if you like, you can work with a nutritionist clear across the country.
Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation
This is one of the newest specialties established within the veterinary profession. I believe it is a wonderful and exciting addition! Think about a visit with such a specialist if your pet is in need of rehabilitation (physical therapy) following an injury or joint surgery (think cruciate ligament disease). Thinking of having your dog participate in an exertional sport such as flyball or agility? Talk with a sports medicine/rehab doc to learn what you can do proactively to protect your athlete’s musculoskeletal health (no anabolic steroid talk here!). Visit the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation to learn more about this specialty.
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs
Acupuncture and Chinese herb therapy are two of the oldest and most worthy treatment modalities for a variety of maladies. Veterinarians can achieve “certification” status in one or both via the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society and the Chi Institute. Consider acupuncture and/or Chinese herb therapy for your pet as an adjunct to conventional (western) therapy. If you prefer a more holistic or integrative approach to health care, you might want to work with someone who specializes in these eastern modalities right from the get-go.
Does your pet need to be anesthetized for a procedure, but you and even your veterinarian are nervous about doing so? Perhaps your ancient kitty requires removal of a horribly infected tooth, or your dog with heart disease requires surgical repair of a broken leg. Board certified veterinary anesthesiologists are the most qualified individuals to be at the helm of the anesthesia machine. They are adept at choosing the most suitable drug protocols and will have access to the latest and greatest bells and whistles for monitoring anesthesia. Veterinary anesthesiologists are reliably found at veterinary teaching hospitals which means this is where your pet’s procedure will need to be performed. Well worth the hassle if it means your pet is more likely to survive anesthesia. To learn more about this specialty, pay a visit to the American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists.
Is your kitty hell-bent on urinating in the middle of your bed? Does your dog suffer from extreme separation anxiety? Consider consultation with a board certified veterinary behaviorist who will have a number of tried and true tricks to put your pet’s behavior back on track and restore your sanity. Additionally, if behavior modification medications are part of the solution, he or she will be able to prescribe them. To find a behavior specialist in your neck of the woods visit the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.
Root canals, crowns, and orthodonture for pets? You betcha! Under the care of a dental specialist, the same procedures used to restore and properly align our teeth can be applied to our pets. The American Veterinary Dental College website will help you find a board certified veterinary dentist in your community.
Now that you know more, would you consider using the services of a veterinary specialist, should the need arise?
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.